If Students Be the Food of Life, Lead On

Two down and one to go. My in-depth analysis of my college grading rubric is coming to a written close, and yet is still just blossoming into something more tangible and usable than written thoughts alone.

On Wednesday I discussed the features of a college’s basic profile–their location, their expenses, school colors, and a few other points. Yesterday I spoke about academics, math and Judaica, foreign languages and politics, as well as some things like student/faculty ratios and accelerated programs, and I got some great feedback, too.

Today, I’m talking about life. Student life in particular.

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A Walk to Remember (or Something Like It)

Thursday was a busy day. It’s hard to think of a day recently that wasn’t busy, but Thursday was busier than usual. I had my calculus class in the morning, then I had three hours tutoring math (and barely working on my own homework, but getting enough done to know I had a lot to do that evening), and then at noon, to the first Gay-Straight Alliance meeting of the semester. It went well. I wish it could have gone better, but nothing in life is perfect.

(And those things that feel perfect often have their own flaws beneath them.)

Then at two I headed over to be a part of an interview that my school was putting together for a presentation I was asked to be a part of. I went to the meeting place…but could not find them anywhere. (Later on I was told that there was a studio in the back of the room I was sent to, which explains why I didn’t see them initially.) So I sent a text message and waited. I looked out the windows at the new parking deck across campus, the one I’ve literally watched since it was grass and trees, then fenced-in mud, and now starting to look beautiful again, and waited.

After a few minutes, I decided I’d missed the event and went for a walk. I stepped outside into the cool air, took a deep breath of the freshness of spring waiting to happen, and then plugged in my earbuds and turned on my iPod.

Something special happens every time I do that.

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An End to Reflection

How fast time travels when we’re having fun, right?

So far most of the year has gone by in but two days of recollection–the ups and downs and loves lost and found and lost again, the trials and triumphs of dire courses and cross-country adventures, the happiness of new friends and the sorrow being away from friends inflicts every day. And yet, the year is not over.

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A Pause for Reflection

I began last year by looking at the last decade. This year I’d like to continue the tradition–but with a somewhat narrower scope. Throughout this last semester’s calculus class, my friends and I would frequently ask for a moment to pause for reflection, to look back at what we’d just done to make sure we understood it properly. Just the same, I’d like to take a few moments over the next couple of days to look back over the past year and see what I did well and also where I could improve.

There’s a saying that goes “two steps forward, three steps back” and usually it implies a success followed by a greater failure that sets us back further than we began. A moment ago, as I finished writing that last paragraph, I thought of saying that it’s good to begin something new by taking a look back (which reminded me of the saying aforementioned), and together these two thoughts, so parallel in structure, made me wonder: Is it really worth looking back? Isn’t looking back just the same as taking a step forward, to take two back?

I thought about it a moment longer (the thinking mind is truly a wondrous thing, and often works much faster than we give it credit for), and I decided–like my philosophy of no regret (which I think I tried explaining once but didn’t do it justice)–that even a step back can help us take a step forward. We’re never really back where we began, no matter how many times we find ourselves in the same situation; so long as we learn from where we’ve been, it can only help us get to where we’re going next.

So why not take a look back? If only to remember, it can do us no substantial harm.

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Half a Smile and Lots of Love

I worked SOAR yesterday. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but SOAR stands for Student Orientation and Registration. It’s usually pretty fun: I get to see my ambassador friends and usually a couple SGA friends, too, and it’s always fun to hang out with my computer lab buddies. (Isn’t it odd, perhaps, to associate my friends with how I know them? I personally find it natural–after all, I mold myself to the situation, and in some regards to that, to the people I meet in each of them.)

In any case, SOAR is structured. Very structured. At 11:30 we start to set up. By 12:15 we start checking people in: At the table before mine, they’re signed in and given a name tag and their program booklet. Then they move to me. “Good afternoon,” I say, “Welcome to SOAR.” And proceed to hand them a colored folder. I’m very particular with my folders: I arrange nine at a time, in three sets of three shell-shaped structures, laid out like a perfect salesman. I’m very careful to vary my colors, and to not leave any folder on the table too long. Sometimes this means shuffling things around. Other times it means using an entire shell before restocking. It’s formulaic. It’s just like I like it.

And then, when the table before me speeds up just a little, or someone slows down long enough while writing their name, two people come at me at once. “Good afternoon, welcome to SOAR,” I say to the first, handing them a folder while I turn to the second, “Good afternoon, welcome to SOAR.”

Then I realised something: Despite my smile, I wasn’t sincere.

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Thankful Friday

Yesterday. I had class all day and homework in between. Plus the first Gay-Straight Alliance meeting of the semester and paperwork and Project Runway and math tutoring. Felt like I was stretched thin and rolled up, spread out, and stepped on by the end of the day. I was thankful for a lot of things–being able to get some homework done, doing well in class, having a great GSA meeting–but none of those things stood out as an exceptional reason to be thankful. I’m always thankful when I can get homework done. I’m always thankful when class goes well. I’m always thankful for the success of the GSA.

But merely being thankful isn’t the point of finding a hundred things to be thankful for.

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For Just Us

I had a whole post planned out…and then I got caught up in TV and header designs and talking with friends and forgot all about it. But that’s no reason not be thankful–in fact, TVs and headers and friends are all great things to be thankful for (and I’m thankful that I’ve got the opportunity to spend my time in such ways, when I know many in this world sadly do not), but it’s something else I’d like to be thankful for today. Something that seems affects the GLBT community, but also affects all of us.

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C is for Courage

It’s come to my knowledge there’s only one human emotion from which all others are born and construed: Fear. It makes sense with sufficient thought, of which I’ll try to abridge adequately here: Sadness is but an amassing of worries and anger is the fight side of flight or fight–the fear response. And happiness? Simply the momentary alleviation of fear.

It’s all best illustrated through relationships, especially those of the romantic kind. When John cheats on Cindy and she’s furious with him–she’s only afraid she’s not good enough, that he’ll leave her and she’ll be alone. When Carl missed Joe while he’s at work, Carl’s only worrying what might happen if Joe doesn’t come back, if something terrible happens along the way. And when all of them are comfortable and happy in bed, their fears are for the moment set aside and they feel intimately content.

And if fear is the root of all human emotions, courage is its only cure: Merrian-Webster defines courage as the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty,” citing it’s ultimate origins in the Latin “cor,” meaning heart. So when we’re afraid and drowning in our fear, our only anchor is truly to take heart and swim to the surface.

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A is for Action

A is also for “after midnight” and “at the sink,” where I find I always do my best thinking. Something about being up late and tired, when the thought-restrictive parts of the brain begin to fall asleep, and doing manual, repetitive motion, known to relieve stress, just brings out all my inspiration. Einstein might have taken naps for his sudden bursts of ingenuity. I just do the dishes.

At the NCCC Student Leadership Institute earlier this month (check the Further Reading page to learn more), I often found myself feeling a bit left out when most of the other attendants were presidents of their colleges’ SGA’s, or Student Government Associations. I’d chuckle a bit to mask my vexation and say I’ve got the same letters, just in a different order: I’m president of my college’s GSA, that is, our Gay-Straight Alliance.

Thinking then, it seemed rather small in comparison. SGA’s help the entire student body, advocating for them and helping the school in lots of ways I don’t even know about. But the GSA? It only helps the GLBT community and our allies, while hopefully helping the entire student body to become more accepting of everyone else.

Tonight however, after midnight, at the sink, I began to see things a little differently. It started with a conversation my family had with my brother over Skype. It began casually enough: Happy father’s day! Then, as the hour went on, it moved onto his wedding plans and what he and his fiancee want to have. I focused more intently on Design Star then and tried not to be bitter.

I’m bitter easily. Weddings and children are wonderful–they truly are!–but for me, it’s all bittersweet. I can’t have children, and in most states, I can’t even adopt. And in all states but five and D.C., I definitely cannot get married. Does any of this make me less happy for my nieces or my brother? Of course not! But all this happiness remains tempered by the fact that everything they have–everything that right now they take for granted as basic rights–are still denied to me. By biology, by law, by popular opinion.

I can’t change biology (that’s a fact I came to terms with years ago) and nor would I want to. But I can, with enough effort and determination, change both law and popular opinion. And that’s when it struck me: SGA’s might help an entire student body, but GSA’s can help entire categories of people that are presently denied the basic rights that others take for granted.

Action. Every reaction begins with an action. Every change is itself a reaction to some stimulus that acts as catalyst for that change. So far, the GSA has been lax. So far, this has been mostly my own doing. As president, I’ve had the ambition, but not the skills necessary to turn that ambition into action. Because of the SLI, that’s no longer the case. Now I know how to take this ambition and turn it into motivation that I can share with my group to propel all of us into action.

We can make a change. All we have to do is take action.

I’ve got a mind overflowing with ideas for the GSA, and I hope that my group continues to support my being president so that I can lead us through all of these ideas–and the many ideas and changes that I know my group will bring to the table–so that I can continue to have this honor until it’s my turn to graduate. I want to tackle head on issues like HIV/AIDS, adoption, marriage, DADT, discrimination, and the myriad other areas where gays and lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered men and women are held as second-class, as less then or something else. We’re all equal. That’s the end I’m fighting for.

And this fight begins with one simple word: Action.

And my challenge is to take that word and make it more than just a word.

My challenge is to take that word and make it something wonderful.