Apples and Honey and Homework and Death

The beginning of this week brought the beginning of a new year: Rosh HaShanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, began on Monday. I had in mind a few thoughts I wanted to share, and every intention of doing so on Tuesday.

Then on a Monday a student at NC State completed suicide, and on Tuesday I had homework, and on Tuesday night I fought to finish my homework due Wednesday.

So in the midst of all these things, I never even realized I hadn’t welcomed the new year on my blog, and being on campus, in classes, the most I had been able to do to celebrate this occasion was share some apples and honey with others in the community. On Monday, a fellow math student had shared challah in the graduate lounge. That had made my day.

The truth is, death is a great occasion to think about life, and a new year is a great occasion to think about what we’re doing with our lives. So, naturally, I did.

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Closet Confidential

Have you ever heard a joke that’s great until the punchline, and then it falls apart?

I feel opposite that: I know where I’m headed, but not how to get there–not even where to start. You see, I just spent a week in San Francisco, and seeing what the world could look like–what a more inclusive and queer-friendly world can look like–has made me realize a world where sexual orientation doesn’t matter can exist. But after seeing such high levels of inclusion, coming home feels a lot like walking back into the closet.

It’s not as funny as a joke, is it? But it does have a better punchline.

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Get SMART

The year is 2014 and the day is one. I’ve spent the last few days looking back and looking forward, and I think I’ve got a handle on what I’m planning this year–but all that can wait.

I was perusing Facebook last night (so productive, I know) and reading people’s New Year resolutions, and I just couldn’t help myself: I was shaking my head in disappointment. I gave up on “resolutions” years ago when I realized the word itself implies fixing what’s broken as opposed to reaching new levels of personal growth, but even overlooking that, I found people’s plans for 2014 lack the kind of focus that’s obtainable.

Yes, yes, I’m happy you “want to be the best you can be and have a great year,” but what the hell does that mean?

Hopefully I can help you find out.

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Thirteen Things I Learned in 2013 (Part 2)

Yesterday I began sharing the thirteen things I learned in 2013–a look at thankfulness, thinking, and things, with the great revelation that things don’t matter. Today I pick up the narrative once more for the next five lessons on our syllabus.

If you missed Part 1, find it here.

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Category Reformation

If you’re a sidebar solicitor, you might have noticed recently the “Realms of Wonders” category list has begun to change–“Essays” is slowly vanishing (but not quite slowly enough) while new categories like “Poverty” and “Equality” have popped up. This, I’m afraid, is but a small echo of what’s to come–tidings of the new face of the Writingwolf that I simply cannot keep secret until the forthcoming reveal.

Where do you belong?

Category confusion strikes again!

However, instead of trying to subtly ignore these obvious alterations, I thought I’d take a moment to peer into the future (and look deeper into myself) and try to answer an important question that’s begun to bother me: Why are tags and categories all that important after all?

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Gears in the Machine

The gears ground to a halt when life pulled the technician away. Without a fix to the problem, no one cared to locate the cause. The machine sat in silence as the walls around it rotted away. Rain drenched the cogs and wheels, lightning struck its highest parts. Floods swilled the silt around it until it was encased in sediment somewhere deep beneath the ocean where no one cared any longer.

The search for a sunken ship uncovered the machine and scientists and media rapists tried to figure out what it was for. Specialists came in to dissect it, clean the parts, and reassemble it. They got it working again, headline news in twenty countries, broadcast worldwide the next day, but even with it running, no one knew what it could do.

The gears were spinning. Spinning all they could. But what did it do?

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Vehicles of Change

I began interning with NCPIRG in November and just days ago I joined the steering committee for the Resolve to Fight Poverty Annual Conference. I joined during our New Voters Project with the hope of helping out where needed, especially with our sustainability projects.

Life surprised us with a reshuffling, and to keep working with our campus coordinator, we pulled together behind the No Hunger, No Homelessness action kit–which was great. We raised a fair amount of money for Feeding America through the National Hunger Clean-Up, and now many of us are coordinating a national conference. That’s not something most people can brag about–not that I’m bragging.

Not only this, my NCPIRG family is just that–family–and I want to keep working with them and helping our group to grow and make a difference, on campus, in our community, and in our entire country. Which is all good and great, mind you, except that since I joined the group, I’ve been struggling to answer a pretty important question:

Why do I care?

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Fire and Fuel

My greatest vision has always been a world without discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. This hope brought me to discover my own potential for leadership, and this compulsion has enabled me to push myself further from my comfort zones and make the greatest impact than anything else.

In part it’s probably obvious why I care (indeed it would be a greater mystery if I didn’t care), but in the spirit of the week–my vision quest–it seems only fitting to dig deeper.

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Production Lines

We all know the saying that we are each greater than the sum of our parts, but I like to expand this by saying I am greater than the product of the factors in my life. It’s funny because of the mathematical parallelism between sums and products, but it also changes the focus from the internal to the external.

When I think of the parts that make me up, I think of the roles I fill and the things I am. I’m a writer, a brother, a friend, a leader. I was homeschooled, graduated from a community college, and now I’m attending an awesome university. But when taken together, I am greater than any one of these things.

When I think of the factors that have brought me here, I think of the outside forces that have shaped me: My parents are divorced, I’ve grown up depending on government assistance, and I’ve only been able to make it through school because of the challenges I’ve overcome. Yet I am greater than each of these things, and I am greater than merely taking them all together.

It’s hard to say which came first–the outside challenges or the changes inside–but all of these elements have brought me here and made me who I am, and because of the extraordinary opportunities I’ve been given, I’ve finally realized where I want to go in life.

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