My 2014 Highlights

Man, what a year. This has probably been the most eventful and exciting year of my life. I feel that I’ve grown and accomplished so much in 2014, and what kind of person would I be if I didn’t boast about my experiences a little bit?

Here are some of my highlights of 2014, in mostly chronological order:

1) The snow day on campus, almost a year ago now. I had such a fun evening playing in it, and my dear friends in the tea house built a snow Iroh from Avatar the Last Airbender.iroh

2) Going to Emerald City ComicCon and meeting the creative geniuses who wrote my thesis primaries: E.K. Weaver (the artist of The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal), and Jeffrey Cranor, Joseph Fink, and Cecil Baldwin, the creators of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. 

IMG_2445 wtnv

3) On the subject of the thesis… I wrote a freaking thesis. It was a pretty incredible and exhausting experience, and I was very proud of the outcome.

4) My best friend Lexie’s visit to UPS in April. We blew off class and went to the Seattle Aquarium and the EMP… and ate too many doughnuts.

lexie 2lexie 1

4) My trip to the UK on University of Oregon’s Fantasy on the Fringe program. I had never travelled outside the United States before this year, and I was pretty terrified, but this program was an absolutely incredible first foray into international travel. I cannot describe what an incredible experience this was.

tintern tea ruinshogwarts hpiuk socks

5) The Race & Pedagogy National Conference in September, where I presented a paper and took part in a panel. I feel so lucky that I even got to attend that conference, let alone take part in it in any way.

6) Halloween… Well, I think this photo just about sums up my Halloween: the eye of drewbert

6) My mother and sister visiting me and seeing my holiday choir concert. We had a blast.

space needle amy

7) And, finally… I graduated college. I finished up all my classes, and I am officially done with the academics of undergrad. That’s kind of a big deal… and after a full twelve months of continuously being in school of some kind or another, it is a huge relief.

Wishing everyone the best in 2015!

Who Are You Again?

In which you and Daniel become acquainted, if it has not happened already.

Fun fact about me: Not only am I snappy dresser, but I also have a talent for color coordinating with my friends.

Fun fact about me: Not only am I snappy dresser, but I also have a talent for color coordinating with my friends.

To my dear reader,

If there is anything that I love, and love to collect, it’s get-to-know-you questions. Given my complete lack of shame, I frequently fire them en masse at someone that I have just met, hoping that at least one of the questions will spark real interest in them. Usually, I fail, but at least I get some entertaining anecdotes out of the person. Every once in a while, however, I succeed and the questions come in terribly handy.

A complaint I’ve begun to receive recently – especially from my fraternity brothers of Beta Theta Pi – is that I spend so much time asking others about themselves, they don’t get to know me. I beg to differ – I spend more than enough time talking about myself. I blog, after all. The university is paying me to talk about myself. While this is all I’ve ever wanted, I began to see their point and considered the fact that I don’t necessarily have answers to all these questions myself. I shall take this chilly afternoon on the last day of December to answer seven of my favorite questions – if not for your edification, than for my own.

1) Are you the favorite person of anyone?

I believe (and very much hope) that I am the favorite person of my best friend, and I am possibly the favorite person of the younger of my two older sisters.

2) You have a big event to get excited for. What song do you listen to?

Katy Perry’s “Birthday”, as its retro guitar riffs, suggestive lyrics and celebratory nature put me in such a good mood.

3) If you had an autobiography of your life up to this very moment, what would its title be and what would the cover look like?

It would be entitled “Mixed Bag”, and there is a specific reason for this. At the end of my sophomore year, I had a meeting with my advisor – who was also the teacher of a class that I had great difficulty in – over my junior year schedule. The exchange went as following:

HIM: Daniel, did you have a good year?

ME: Well, what do you mean?

HIM: I mean, in a nutshell, how was your year? Was it good or was it bad?

ME: Well, I suppose that it was… kind of a… mixed bag.

HIM: Well, no offense, but YOU’RE kind of a mixed bag!

Well played, advisor. After such a conversation, all I can see as the cover of my autobiography is a picture of me sitting in at an arbitrary table, an expression of amused exasperation on my face. I hold a brown paper bag with the words “MIXED BAG: The Daniel Wolfert Story” written on it with Sharpie.

4) Of all the compliments you’ve ever received, which would you consider your favorite and why?

This is a three way tie between the following compliments:

“I like your voice. You’re like Santa Claus mixed with those radio people.”

“Daniel is happy… but also angry. Angry happy.”

“I once described you as being the manifestation of the word ‘jolly’, because you’re like a jolly gay Santa Claus trapped in the body of Napoleon.”

5) If you were to become world famous for one thing, what would it be?

I would want to not only have written an epic, perspective-changing, intellectually stimulating fantasy series that was “Harry Potter” for a new generation, but ALSO record myself as the narrator of its audiobook, which is how the book would REALLY take off.

6) If you were a tea, which kind would you be and why?

I would be Hairy Crab Oolong, because I am rarely anyone’s first choice and I also frequently remind people of the woods and children’s fiction. Similar to Hairy Crab Oolong, I am not quite reminiscent of anything else and, like the flavor of oolong, I am difficult to match well with anything else. Oolong and I both are a little whimsical and a little strong and a little odd. And a little hairy.

7) What is your six word memoir?

“Silly disappointments strung together by hope.”

So now, dear reader, both you and I know these answers. Who knows – maybe they shall come in handy for future reference! Probably not, but just in case, you know them now and I have my answers ready should someone else ask such questions. Even if they don’t however, at least I had a chance to answer them for myself here. I don’t get paid to answer them in real life.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Do You Hate That Question?

In which Daniel begrudgingly converses with grown, working adults and steals some holiday treats.

Question

To my dear reader,

At a recent holiday party my parents dragged me to, I was cornered once again by a grown, working adult with some professional connection to music, intent on politely grilling me about my future plans. Do not mistake me; he was a nice man with lots of experience in musical theater, which was fitting given my interests. Nonetheless, it seemed the umpteenth time that I had to unpack the messy and vaguely formed goals I have for the future. Such plans hopefully include any and/or all of the following:

-WOOFing (Working on Organic Farms) in some cold, distant country such as Iceland, wherein I would work on a farm in exchange for room and board, while also exploring some of the local culture, folklore and musical practices

-Taking my Birthright Trip to Israel, wherein I would learn of the history of the Jewish people alongside a large group of other young Jews from around the world

-Becoming a professional narrator of children’s audiobooks

-Taking more cooking classes

-Becoming a park ranger

-Attending graduate school for music composition, with an emphasis in music theater

-Joining Peace Crops, AmeriCorps or Teach for America

-Becoming a proficient pianist

-Getting a masters in teaching, choral directing or composition

-Becoming a choral director

-Owning a very large dog

There is a pattern that opens such an exchange. It usually begins with a grown, working adult looking down at me (I am of rather small stature), asking, with benign interest, how involved I am in music. After I list my credentials most politely, they finally ask “What are your plans for after college”. There is a slight pause in which I either snort, laugh, grimace or perform a lovely combination of the above, and after which they always ask “Do you hate that question?”

The real answer is “not really”. Yes, there is a part of me that is irked at having to explain my extremely uncertain future over and over again, but I do not begrudge such grown, working adults for expressing (or feigning, at society’s bequest) interest in my future. I do begrudge them, however, for the statements about a career in music such as “Oh, that’s a hard business to get into”. To such statements, I respond with the following. Everything is hard.

All I seem to hear is that everyone has a college diploma these days, so they’re worthless, and that the economy is in ruins, so finding a job is hopeless, and global warming is going to destroy the Earth and soon the world will be a desert wasteland and I may as well give up and die right now. No matter what profession I chose, it would be hard. Life is hard.

Despite all this irritation I have with the attitudes that grown, working adults have toward my plans, I still don’t really mind the question. The reason for that is that, unlike most of my peers, I am actually very excited for the future. Yes, I am EXCITED about the prospect of having to work hard and pay rent and be a real adult. I am excited to own a house and paint it a horrible shade of green and realize my awful mistake and have to paint it twice more before I get the shade right. I am excited about working on a farm and waking up sore and groggy before the sun has fully risen to assist a wizened Nordic man harvest leeks in late spring. I am excited to adopt an enormous puppy and take it on a seemingly endless hike through the Appalachian mountain range, during which I shall tell every memory I can possibly remember and sing every song I possibly know to that poor, exhausted animal.

I firmly believe that am lucky enough to be excited about future because I have seen my best-laid plans fail a sufficient number of times, and seen things work out one way or another a sufficient number of times, to know that I’ll just make it work. I may not get what I want from my messy plans for the future, but no matter how I plan them, they will inevitably fall apart and be a disaster. They will also inevitably be – in the most messy, exhausting and unexpected way – perfect.

So, grown, working adults, I say this to you: I have no fear. I’m an adult. I DO WHAT I WANT. And after I was done with that conversation, I decided that I was done with that party, and that my future was to steal as many cookies as I could fit in my pockets before sneaking out the door to watch the TV show “Supernatural” with my sister at home. That plan worked out – how hard could the rest of them really be?

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Ke$ha, with a Dollar Sign

In which Daniel teaches you to speak a little Dinosaur.

Ke$ha_Warrior

To my dear reader,

In the last week of classes of the Fall 2014 semester, I decided that, since my choir class had been canceled for the day, I would sit in on the student presentations in the music history class “Music in the Twentieth Century”. This class, intended for non-music majors, was a sort of little brother of the music major history class I was taking, “Music Since 1914”, and I was curious about the presentations of the friends I knew taking the class. I was also curious, however, about the views that on-music majors held on the place, significance and purpose of music. Amid the mass of desks, the fifteen student presenters each paired with one non-presenter and sat down to give their one-on-one presentation, changing partners every ten minutes.

The prompt of the presentation was to answer the question “What is good music?” (in the light of all they’d learned about music perspectives and recent history), and I was mightily impressed by the first two presenters.  The first, who was a good friend of mine, gave an eloquent presentation on why the Beatles demonstrated good music by means of pushing boundaries while communicating effectively with their audience. The second, who I had not met before, gave a concise but effective presentation on how electronic music, by means of recognizing and utilizing past music to create music of the future, exemplified good music through innovation. The third presenter, however, gave me pause.

The premise of his argument was that true music serves some sort of purpose, and that there are three categories of music. The first is music that simply fulfills its function, giving the example of Ke$ha, whose music seemed to him solely for the purpose of dancing. The second is music that fulfills its function and creates a feeling in the listener, giving the example of a rock song I hadn’t heard of, which for him brought back nostalgic memories. The third is music that fulfills its function, creates a feeling in its listener, and makes the listener think, giving the example fo a rap song I hadn’t heard which compelled him to sympathize with the poor and consider their plight. Given my boundless love for Ke$ha, I suppose we got off on the wrong foot from the get-go. Yet considering my feelings for Ke$ha and his argument together as objectively as I could, I couldn’t help but find his argument unconvincing. Let me explain:

Category One: Yes, Ke$ha’s music serves its economic purpose of being dance music. This music is sold with the intent of being primarily danced to, and so it is written, arranged, produced and recorded with the intention of creating a consumer good that consumers will desire and subsequently consume. People want dance music, Ke$ha and her collaborators create it, people buy it. Effective indeed.

Category Two: While for this presenter, Ke$ha’s music was cold plastic, my experiences with Ke$ha’s music made me feel differently. I associate Ke$ha primarily with my best friend, with whom I spend an enormous amount of time bonding over self-indulgent pop music. What with the positive associations I have with my best friend, the number of times we’ve had Ke$ha dance parties in my friend’s car, the letters we’ve written to one another quoting Ke$ha, and the general hilarity of the self-empowerment that Ke$ha bestows, I cannot help but smile when I hear her. This is not to say that everyone (or really anyone else) will feel the hope and power and joy that I feel listening to Ke$ha, but rather that feelings are subjective.

Category Three: Being cold plastic to the presenter, Ke$ha’s music is intended to make people dance and to be sold to consumers, with no intellectualism being part of the final product. But what makes him think and what makes me think are different. What with the associations with my best friend, listening to Ke$ha makes me think of that friend and all the complexities of our relationship. Moreover, Ke$ha makes me consider the complexities and injustice of gender roles. By this, I mean that when people think of Ke$ha, they think “slut”, in the sort of tone implying shame and insult.  Why? Because society says that a woman displaying sexuality is inappropriate and shameful, while a man – such as Pitbull – displaying sexuality with such lyrics as “face down, booty up, that’s the way we like to what” (from the song “Timber”, coincidentally featuring Ke$ha) is acceptable. Disregarding the social boundaries impressed upon her as a woman, Ke$ha still wants you to “pull over and spread ‘em, let {her} see what you’re packing inside of that denim” (from the song “Gold Trans Am”). She does not ask permission for being a human being with sexuality.

Ultimately, the fault I saw with this argument was that what makes one person think and feel is completely different from what makes another person think and feel. With something as subjective as music, almost all aspects of preference are enculturated, meaning that what’s happened in our lives and who we are around leads us to prefer some things over others. Nothing in music is good or bad. It simply is, and maybe you like it or maybe you don’t. Many cultures use mictrotunings that, to American ears, sound like instruments are broken, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just different from what American ears know. But don’t take my word for it – let this interview with Ke$ha convince you:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssS903nxVe4

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

2015: The Year of Adulthood. (Well, let’s hope.)

2014 was a huge year for me (there’s probably another blog post about that to come), and I’m pretty sure 2015 is going to be even huger. This coming semester will be my last few months hanging around UPS, and after that… well, right now I honestly don’t know what I’m doing. Taking my first few steps into post-college adult life, hopefully. Which is, as you would imagine, both incredibly exciting and extremely terrifying.

So I’ve already got a few new year’s resolutions in mind for 2015, which will hopefully get a big year off to a good start:

  1. Try more things you’ve never done before. Even if it’s just once. Life is short, and it would be a terrible shame to miss out on something that might end up being awesome and life-changing.
  2. Keep in better contact with people you’re far away from. We’re blessed to live in an era when staying in contact is so easy. Make more phone calls, send more texts, snapchats, wall posts, whatever. (Sending snail mail isn’t a bad idea either, especially for someone’s birthday or another special occasion.)
  3. Apply to more jobs, even if it seems like you don’t fit all the qualifications. You never know, it could turn out to be perfect, and just the kind of experience/challenge that will benefit you later on.
  4. Be more of an adult. For me right now, that means staying on top of the little things I’m usually too lazy to do: doing laundry more often, taking vitamins more often, staying caught up on the news, getting my car’s oil changed before it’s overdue, etc.
  5. Be more openminded. Terrible things are happening in the world right now… actually, terrible things are pretty much always happening, but people are starting to talk about it more and more. To avoid making things even worse, it’s important to enter heavy conversations with two things in mind: A) It’s very likely that someone in this conversation knows more about the situation than you do. And, B) It’s very likely that someone in this conversation has little to no knowledge about the situation at all, and their views are likely a product of the corruption in our society. Jumping down their throat about it probably will not help. Educating them with kindness probably will.

I’d be interested in hearing my fellow (b)loggers’ resolutions, if anybody has any blog posts left to cram into the semester, like me 😉 Happy New Year, everybody!

The Best Seasoning

In which Daniel embarks upon a most unexpected spelunking adventure and eats some delicious crackers.

To my dear reader,

PSO – the Puget Sound Outdoors club – had, since my freshman year of college, been an organization that I continually meant to get involved with and that I continually failed to dedicate any time to. “Next semester,” I told myself over and over again. “After this coming break, I will sign up for a trip, or an event, or a hike or bike ride. Yes, I will do it next time, next time I swear.” Yet next time never seemed to arrive, and four of my eight semesters passed without embarking upon a trip.

But the day came that, in the weeks preceding Thanksgiving break, PSO was found in the student union building, tabling for a three day autumnal camping trip, complete with an breakfast, lunch and a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner. “But this will occur the weekend before break,” I thought glumly. “I have so much work to do that weekend.” And then I reconsidered that thought. Yes, I had work, but would the world end if I missed it? No. Would it really matter in the long run if, rather than doing my assigned reading for English 212, I went camping? Good Lord, no. And as I signed up for the trip, next time finally arrived.

Needless to say, the universe would not let me succeed so easily. Only days before the trip, a great storm front began to approach the Puget Sound, threatening our camping trip with thunder and lightning. Arriving on the doorstep of PSO’s house, I was informed that the camping trip had been canceled due to the imminent weather. In place of it, a day hike through the caves of Mount Saint Helens was being planned, to be concluded with a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner at a PSO leader’s residence. “You don’t have to go to the hike if you don’t want to,” the student leaders of PSO said. “We understand if you would rather have gone on the camping trip and don’t want to go on this trip instead with the weather.”

“Ha!” I laughed. “A little inclement weather and change in scheduling cannot deter me!” I borrowed some hiking boots and prepared for our morning departure.

Something my mother used to say is that hunger makes the best seasoning. By this she meant that being hungry makes everything taste better than it would while you were satiated. I suppose that this is partly due to the increased metabolism that exercise gives. But I had not been as reminded of this fact as I was the day of this PSO trip.

The caves of Mount Saint Helens were dark, yes, and wet too. But I had forgotten how strenuous the act of moving through a cave was. Moving ten feet might mean more clambering, scrambling, crawling and wriggling than I had certainly done in the past four semesters. After four hours of such spelunking, I and the other PSO members ascended from the exit of the tunnel to the brilliantly lit forest above to feast on our lunch.

PSO ascending from the depths of the lava tubes.

PSO ascending from the depths of the lava tubes.

To be specific, we were to feast upon Bickeys. For those of you not familiar, Bickeys are a strange type of cracker meant as a high-calorie train upon which condiments such as cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa and peanut butter can travel into your mouth They are, essentially, camping lunchables. Admittedly, I had long since come to despise lunchables, and under normal circumstances, I might have turned down the Bickeys in favor of granola or fruit. But after four hours of clambering, scrambling, crawling and wriggling, I was ready to eat anything.

The breakfast oatmeal that PSO had given us in the morning and the amazing pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner we prepared and ate at our student leaders’ residence were both remarkable meals. Sharing such meals with students that I was getting to know for the first time was a new and wonderful experience. But in all my life, I cannot remember biting into something and finding it more satisfying than that moment when I bit into my first Bickey, covered in cream cheese and cheddar cheese. No, it was no food of the gods, but was in many ways, better – food earned after finally achieving my goal of joining a PSO trip, traveled great distance for through the dripping darkness, and seasoned with my truly formidable hunger.

The pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving meal that awaited us at the end of the trip.

The pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving meal that awaited us at the end of the trip.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Keep Up with the Class, Please

In which Daniel revels in the fruits of his labor.

To my dear reader,

The universe, being old and full of mysteries, is prone to speak obscurely and tell you its secrets in the most confusing manner. The following story, in four parts, is an example of such an occurrence:

I.

At our final meeting of the Spring 2014 semester, my a cappella group Underground Sound was debriefing over the semester – my first as a co-director alongside my friend Lisa Hawkins. With me and Lisa in the front of the classroom and the other members sitting in desks, we had spent the past half hour trading ideas and feedback on the ways that Lisa and I had run the group (in a successful, albeit crazed and panicked, manner). There was a momentary lull in the conversation, and as I stared out of the windows of the classroom into the dark campus outside, I had a sudden thought.

“When I first became a co-director,” I said, “I didn’t anticipate enjoying it all that much. I thought I would just do it to get the job done. Looking back on it now, though…” I struggled to assemble the right words. “Looking back now, I realize that doing this – teaching and coaching and helping you all grow – that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life”.

The good people of Underground Sound, Spring 2014.

The good people of Underground Sound, Spring 2014.

II.

An hour before our performance at the Fall 2014 A Cappella Extravaganza, Underground Sound had gathered in a small classroom beside the door to the concert hall. As we awaited the end of the performance preceding ours, Lisa and I attempted – unsuccessfully – to corral the group into one space. It seemed impossible, however, to ensure the presence of all thirteen of us in one location, and every time one person was accounted for, another seemed to vanish. Sighing, I turned to one of our new members, a small and reserved sophomore named Marisa Christensen who, alongside her quiet nature, had a glorious voice and an unprecedented level of dedication.

“Come on folks,” I muttered partly to her and partly to myself. “Get on top of your lives.” I rolled my eyes at the other members as they scrambled in and out of the room. “Well,” I grimaced at her, repeating something I’d said to her on multiple occasions, “At least YOU’RE keeping up with the class”.

The good people of Underground Sound, Fall 2014.

The good people of Underground Sound, Fall 2014.

III.

In the wake of our final Fall 2014 performance at the school’s holiday celebration Mistletoast, Underground Sound had gathered at the house of my co-director, Lisa Hawkins, for a Secret Santa.  We had gone around the circle and I was the last of the group to receive my gift.  Holding up the white bag stuffed with red tissue, I read aloud the clue on the side: “From someone that’s always keeping up with the class”. I turned to Marisa Christensen – who was sitting on the couch beside me and had also, coincidentally, been the first to open her Secret Santa gift from me. “You?” I cried in delight, and she burst into laughter as I swooped down to hug her. I reached into the red tissue to pull out this:

1219142015~2

If you are observant, you may notice something odd about this Christmas ornament: a portion of the apple is missing. Despite what one might think, this was not part of the ornament’s original design. This is a characteristic of the ornament because, after placing the ornament on the arm of the couch, I reached into the bag to pull out my second gift – a box of scrumptious holiday teas – and in my frenzied delight, knocked the ornament to the ground. “Oh my goodness,” I moaned to Marisa, “You got me such a sweet gift and I IMMEDIATELY broke it like an idiot. I am so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Marisa laughed, waving the apology aside.

“Oh!” Lisa Hawkins exclaimed as she examined the now imperfect gift. “I thought it was intentional designed like that – as if a bite had been taken out of it”.

“You know what?” I said, taking the ornament back and examining it with resignation, “I’m going to take it as a symbol from the universe of the imperfect beauty of teaching. Sound like a plan, Marisa?”

Grinning, she replied “Sounds like a plan.”

IV.

On my last day on campus for the Fall 2014 term, I was part way through packing in preparation for winter break, and was admiring Marisa’s gifts to me once. “Best not to take the ornament home with me,” I thought to myself, “Lest I break it once more”. Smiling at the sweetness of the gift, I traced a finger along the words “Number One Teacher” before looking at the attached tag for the first time. It was not until that moment that I saw this:

 1219142022a~2

Well played, universe. Well played.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

The holidays

While I was scouring the internet for procrastination entertainment, during finals and let’s face it all throughout the semester, I consistently turned to watching the Ellen Show videos. Hosted by outstanding comedian Ellen DeGeneres this show has silly games, she interviews the stars of Hollywood and of real life and it has a lot of dancing everyday. Ellen’s enthusiasm and realness shines through the screen and her desire to share the goodness and understanding with each other always gets me. Honestly, if I’m tearing up in Harned in the midst of studying, it’s probably because I watched one of Ellen’s heartfelt videos. And while studying for my last exam on Thursday I watched a video that really out the holidays into perspective. The holiday spirit is the time for good food in the company of our family and friends, it’s all about the giving spirit. But watching this video about Jacqui Saldana on the Ellen show (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH3pnH70vTs) made me realize the holidays can be the happiest or the saddest times of the year. Jacqui writes on her blog, www.babyboybakery.com, initially to share the stories of life with her newborn son Ryan, but continued to write about the heartwrenching pain and struggle of continuing to live after Ryan’s passing at the tender age of 3 years old. I can’t possible imagine how much pain she must be in and the strength of her family to push through and be able to laugh and share in the company of the rest of the Ellen show.

As college students and even adults, we often take for granted the good fortune we have with our health, family, and the opportunity to study at such an amazing school. We are all so blessed to be able to live each day knowing our parents are supporting our dreams to have a bright future after college, and the friends we surround ourselves with, lift us up and make each day a pleasure. And I hope we all recognize this love and comfort during the holidays, that there are people who may be feeling the emptiness of their lost ones even more and we should continue to envelop them in our love and being grateful for all that we have. With that in mind, I wish everyone the best of holidays~

 

“Be kind to one another” -Ellen DeGeneres

Parting Glances

There’s nothing unusual about this.

Forks clink against ceramic plates. We’re upstairs, taking up only half of the circular table we’re sitting at. I look to see what everyone’s got. A’s eating a burrito, as am I. B’s eating chicken strips and onion rings, and C has a sandwich. For a moment, we lose ourselves in our food; then we lose ourselves in conversation.

We run through our list of conversation topics, turning toward games and television and keeping away from school. We start to imagine the different paths our lives could have taken.

“Guys, imagine if we didn’t end up living together. Where would we be?”

We all shrug.

“Life would be so much better if we didn’t live together.”

“What if we didn’t become friends?”

“Again, life would be so much better.” We laugh. We banter.

“What if we all chose to go to our second-pick school?”

There is a silence, filled only by the sound of forks on plates. Why did we choose Puget Sound? It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves before.

“About that.”

We stop eating. There’s also a look in his eyes—an apology.

“I’ve decided to transfer out. There’s nothing unusual about this.”

He’s right.

But then something unusual happens.

The room becomes quieter. An emptiness is present that was not here before. There is a sense of loss, of an amputation. We are three missing one. We are one less than whole.

He’s leaving. It’s not unusual. But despite how happy we are for him—that he’ll get to go back home—there’s no helping the sense of emptiness that has suddenly befallen us.

 

This week, I have been stranded with my friends at a Sonics in a car with a shot battery at midnight; I have hurt my back trying to learn how to juggle; I have hurt my brain trying to juggle finishing essays with studying for finals. And now it’s done.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll wake up and take a shuttle to the airport. B will do the same in the afternoon. We’ll lock our doors and walk out the suite, wonder if A is home yet.

Frost forms on my window.

C locks the door and boards a plane.

Here comes the hard part.

Finals Drag On

During the time of finals there is no feeling of Christmas in the air at all. All the students are going through their piles of notes, stack of note cards, reviewing powerpoints and, or editing and re-editing their papers. There’s so much grasping our immediate attention we don’t have time to think about Christmas, family, our holiday shopping or the generally merry cheer. And that makes me sad to think about, that our exams have taken over so much, ask so much of us that we are anxious students this past reading period and finals week. There’s an imperceptible feeling of dampened all-night studying and general anxiety cloaked over campus as we pass the mid-week of Finals. Some of my friends didn’t start their finals until today! While some of my friends are already completely down and ready to get into the holiday spirit now.

I don’t recall my high school finals to be this studious or heavy feeling at all but I guess that’s the thing about college. In high school our grades only mattered to get into college if that and now, these grades determine our future- if we go to grad school, if we pass this class into the next upper level class or internship and job opportunities after college. The real world is out there and we can feel it watching us this finals week. And that’s the truth of it, some of my senior friends are graduating at the end of this week, and that’s crazy to think as well. Finals is the end of another semester, another chapter to our life, one more step closer to graduation and the real world. While i’m having all these mildly deep thoughts I’m going to get back to studying. But my one motivator to get through one more day? The fact I get to go home on Friday, that I will soon be back to the humid, warm, sunny blue skies of beautiful Hawaii and in the warm  embrace of my family of friends!

A hui ho until the end of finals!