Four Truths of a Withering Heart

In which Daniel publishes the speech he gave at Puget Sound’s first annual Suicide Prevention and Awareness Forum.



Once upon a time, there was a boy with small hands and a withering heart. A withering heart, you see, is not the same as a broken one – no, not at all. A broken heart is an ugly thing, cracked and torn and worn by the world, but it is the sort of heart whose empirical evidence acts in accordance with Newtonian physics – action and reaction, tragedy and heartbreak. A withering heart is a different beast. It will hide its suffering from the world, as piece by piece, it crumbles away, the everyday battles of degradation and disappointment wearing it down to dust. Its empirical evidence acts in accordance with the law of entropy.

All things follow entropy; the center cannot hold. The heart is a singularity of time divided by experience divided by memory, all to the power of the derivative of the heart’s singular, drumlike beating. And with each beat, a little more of the singularity is released, giving the finite amount of energy it contains away to the blood and bone and marrow and skin and wind and waves and world around it. The heart ripples out through time and space and loses itself as it goes. I wish, says the heart. I wish.

Wishing is a form of entropy too.

But this is not just a story of wishing. This is not just a story of empirical evidence or singularities or small hands or even of entropy – although all things are just stories of entropy at the end of the day, I suppose. This is a story of a boy, and the heart he did not wish to have. And in the beginning was the Word and the Word was a singularity that spoke amid darkness, “let there be light,” and so we can conclude through the transitive property that words are singularities are stories are light. And this is the magic of the Word and the words: light is precious in a world so dark.

The boy with the small hands and the heart he did not wish to have lived in a gray house with a bedroom with a window to the roof. The boy sometimes stood on the roof, and looked out across the ocean of suburban houses. The boy sat by the window, and stared out into the sky. The boy’s years raced toward entropy, and his space by the window became the Cartesian Coordinate (0,0,0) on the three-dimensional graph of his world. The boy’s heart raced toward entropy, and as it withered, it beat like a singularity. Let there be light. Let there be light.

Come close, my friends, and I shall give the four truths of a withering heart. Come close, and I shall give light amid darkness.


I know sorrow, and it is a scar on my heart the shape of love I cannot have. It is the sight of the first boy I ever liked, on a field by the playground, running to catch a frisbee in the sun. It is the sound of his voice calling my name. How lovely you are, I thought to myself. I love you. It is the weight of my heart as a nine-year old, lying in bed as I turn over the thought of him like a treasure in my hands. It is the horrible, sinking realization that I could never tell him, or else face the shame and anger and disappointment that would inevitably come. It is ten-year old me in the lunch line beside him, resisting the urge to hold his hand. It is seventeen-year-old me looking at him across a classroom like a remnant of a life I wish I’d never had.

I know sorrow, and it is the color of the night sky above Palo Alto at 3 in the morning. It is the whirring of bicycle wheels as fourteen-year-old me out across the small city, searching for something I cannot name. It is an ache inside my stomach that is part hunger and part growing pains and part terrible yearning for escape velocity from the solar system of my disappointment in myself. It is writing the same poem over and over again as the sun rises, saying to myself that this time would be the one, the key to me realizing why I could never be freed from the foolish body of a boy with small hands.

I know sorrow, and it is the train tracks that run halfway between my house and my high school. It is the wreaths of flowers left by my peers for classmates that have leapt in front of trains across my years in school. It is the footsteps in the mulch I have left as I have walked along the train tracks, asking myself if I have just enough strength to make the leap too. It is my footsteps on the pavement as I walk away from the tracks, deciding that I do not. It is the whimper of my sinking stone heart as I decide that I will never be strong.

If you hold sorrow heavy enough, it becomes your world.


I know anger, and it is a B- on a ninth grade algebra test that I could not will myself to study for. It is me brushing off the grade with a laugh and a shrug, saying that math was never my strong suit. It is the knowledge that I was living in a vicious cycle of self-loathing and disappointment, saying that I had never done anything special and so was not of importance, so that I never tried to do anything special, so that I never did anything special, so that I continued to feel I was of no importance, a serpent coiling to consume its own tail. It is the trembling fury that said There is something magnificent within you but you will never be able to let it out and you will die having never shown anyone anything magnificent.

I know anger, and it is the sympathetic voice of a teacher telling me that I was intrepid with sensitive topics, and that one day, I would grow out of that. It is my disbelief as I took in those words, and my confusion as I mulled them over for days. It is me laughingly telling others about the incident, making a joke of this moment when my courage was called childish. It is me thinking back on the moment years later, and realizing that the man in question had no right to my heart, and no right to my voice. It is me hearing the words “you’ll grow out of it” over and over again, chasing me like echoes in a house I can never escape.

I know anger, and it is my trembling hands as I hold thirty NyQuil pills, unable to put them down and unable to swallow. It is my buckling shadow as fifteen-year-old me full-body cries, resisting the urge to scream as I lay on the bathroom floor. It is the knowledge that this is the same place I have been one thousand times, trapped in a netherworld between living and dying, unable to poison myself and incapable of being a real boy. It is me steadying me small hands, angry that I am playing this same game with myself instead of sleeping or writing or drawing or dancing or kissing a boy or building a world. It is me calling myself a coward from trying to kill myself. It is me calling myself a coward for failing to do so.

If you bear anger dark enough, it becomes your world.


I know my heart, and it is a dappled shadow that dreamt of being a real boy. Most days I feel less than human – more like a space on a bookshelf, more like an echo across a desert, more like a flock of sparrows across a vast ocean, like a shattered light bulb, like the ruins of a cathedral where I once prayed to the God I wish I believed in. Most days I feel I am assembling my skin and my bones into something human, something real boy. Most days, I feel as if I have not succeeded.

I know my heart, and it is forgiveness like soft rains on an ocean of rooftops. I forgive my feet for not running fast enough. I forgive my hands for not reaching far enough. I forgive my mouth for not speaking loud enough. I forgive my arms for not stretching wide enough. I forgive my eyes for not seeing a way out of the darkness.

I forgive my family for not seeing my sorrow. I forgive my friends for not reaching me sooner. I forgive my teachers for turning away, I forgive my classmates for being so blind. I forgive every boy that has left a scar on my heart the shape of a love that I cannot have. I forgive every adult that has said I would not be enough. I forgive myself for believing them.

This is the magic of the Word and the words: what others call you, you shall become.

Become the Word, I said to myself.

This is the magic of the Word and the words: call yourself what you wish to become.

Become light, I said to myself.

I know my heart, and it is the sunlight falling on a boy sitting beside me on a school bench as I wait for my father to pick me up from my last day of high school. It is the sound of his small, scared voice, unexpectedly telling me that he is afraid that he is not loved, and has never been loved, and will never be loved. It is his bewildered face when I ask him why he is telling me this. It is the words he told me then: You’re the one people come to for hope.

It was with those words that I began to believe in a way out of the darkness. It was with those words that my withering heart paused and began, slowly to turn like a planet or a flower forward through time, onward, away.

If you have a heart wide enough, it becomes your world.


I know the story, because it is the same one I have told one thousand times before. It is the same one I will tell one thousand times again. I am a creature of habit, of this we can be sure. Time winds on and the years pile like scraps. Always the same equation, although the variables may change – a secretary rather than a dragon, a handsome boy rather than a supernova, the word “heartbreak” rather than “the omnipresent Law of Entropy.” All systems move towards chaos, no matter the system. All children move towards heartbreak, no matter the child.

Do not be sad; there have never been new stories. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was a singularity that spoke and amid darkness, “let there be light,” and the light of the singularity of the Word contained all things. I have no new stories to tell you. I merely have new ways to tell you. All things follow entropy, but not all things follow in the same way. Come close, my friends; light is precious in a world so dark.

I know the story, and I thought it would choose me. I thought that one day, a whirlwind would arrive, or a rabbit would come calling, or a giant would knock down my door, and then at that point the story would finally begin and I would not feel as if I am drowning at every moment of every day. I thought that I would be chosen as an ill-tempered and irascible child, or a curious and inquisitive boy, or a lion-hearted and chivalrous hero. I thought that that the story would begin, and take from me the heart I did not want.

I know the story and I have made a choice. I thought it would choose me. but no one is chosen. Not ever. Not really. To change from a reader of your own story to an author is a story all its own. Do not blame me for struggling. Beginning is always the hardest part. But this is the magic of the Word and the words: when I saw that there was no one left to choose me, I chose myself.

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was a singularity that spoke and amid darkness, “let there be light.” All things follow entropy; all things will change. Even stories. Even human hearts.


Once upon a time, I chose to gather my stories in my small a hands and spin a life, a light, a world out of them. Fractured, yes, heartbroken and mournful and elegant and clumsy and brilliant and wondrous and mine. For in the beginning was the Word and the Word is me, and this day is the singularity, and these words are the light, and this moment is the beginning…

…For if you tell a story big enough, it becomes your world, and this is only the beginning of mine.

Food Independence

This past Martin Luther King Jr’s Day at the beginning of the semester I volunteered at HUG-Hilltop Urban Gardens Food Soverignty project with my Theta sisters. We got to hear the vision of Dean, who wanted to create a community-based and independent system of creating a space to grow food, tend to the plants and share food ideas with everyone pitching in what they can: recipes, gardening time, land plots in front of their houses, etc.

That was especially meaningful for me as a student worker in our Dining & Conference Services on campus and for the fact I do not have a meal plan and have been shopping, planning and cooking my own meals (mostly!).

Memory Box 2016

I’ve kept journals on and off for most of my life, but somewhere around the beginning of college I wanted a way to physically save memories. Words were helpful in preserving the way I felt at a particular moment, but I wanted something palpable. In the pre-college flurry, in the middle of hunting for different organizational supplies (because this year was going to be different, everything would have a place at last), I developed an idea. I purchased a few small plastic boxes and labeled them with the year. Throughout the course of the year, I would fill a box with scraps of paper, pieces of memories.

It worked. Better than I thought it would, if we’re being completely honest. The box from  is tucked away at home, the 2015 box is a mess of memories, and the 2016 box from this semester is nearly overflowing. Here are some of the things inside:

PostSecret was founded by Frank Warren in 2005, wherein people mail their secrets to him anonymously via a homemade post card. I went to the show with two of my best friends and we all literally laughed and cried as actors read off some of the secrets and online community responses to the secrets. After intermission, the actors read off secrets written by audience members. My favorite was: “My husband and I had sex on my boss’s desk, while she was away on vacation. I just made eye contact with her in the audience.” All of the secrets can be found online at:

Every year around Valentine’s Day, flowers can be purchased in the sub as a fundraiser for one of the sororities. This year, Nathan sent me one. The card reads: “You’re a good friend… I guess…” TRUE FRIENDSHIP GOALS.


Every semester Ubiquitous They puts on a comedy show. I rushed from one event to the show this semester and wasn’t the least bit disappointed. There was one specific sketch that has stuck with me: A TV host announces to an excited girl that they’ve found her mother who has been lost at sea. She begins jumping up and down as a crew of people carry out her dead mother’s body. On my left, tears were leaking out of Thomas’s eyes as he laughed. On my right, Banji had one hand covering his mouth in a frozen state of shock.

Here is a list of everything else in the box:

  • My ticket and program from RENT, which was the student theater production this semester.
  • A sticker for Crosscurrents. It is watercolored blue and apparently Crosscurrents was founded in 1958?
  • A Valentine’s day card from my grandparents.
  • A list of “Things I Know” that was originally made as a reference point to spring off of for poetry. The list claims such things as: “the Ferris Wheel was designed for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair” and “my first word was ‘hi.’”
  • A tie-dye postcard advertising WORD STOCK 2016, which put on by the English department on the 25th of April.
  • Sketches from a workshop put on by Krista Franklin, a visual poet. She had everyone dig through magazines and lead us to create our own visual poetry. It was interesting and a lot of fun, particularly because I haven’t made a collage since I was in elementary school.
  • A piece from one of those magazines, that I thought was interesting. Underlined is a quote from one of the people being interviewed: “Gift. For not drowning.” Not sure why it sprung out at me, but it did.
  • My notes from the Jonestown Survivor speaker. It was an amazing presentation and I have so much sympathy for the amount of long-term trauma being in Jonestown caused.
  • A letter from Maddy, that claims: “You are a wonderful person, and I think everything becomes better when you are around. Even at 9:30 in the morning.” Apparently, Emily compared the letter I got from Maddy to the letter she got — which began: “Dear fartface.”
  • My wristband from the dance put on by Beta, with my name spelled Telena.
  • Bits of curly ribbon that were tied onto the fruit basket Emily got for her birthday. We sat out on Todd Field, soaking up the sun and eating strawberries.
  • Adam Lewis’s name tag from Career Fair. Not sure why I have it, tbh.
  • An exercise from the Suicide Prevention and Awareness workshop that was put on this semester. We were tasked with originally writing down twenty-four words that described our life. That was slowly broken down, so we were left with one word. Mine? Laughter.
  • The bag tag that I got over spring break, when I went down to Vancouver to visit Maddy and meet up with Emily.
  • My wristband from the first time I went to the Museum of Glass.
  • A poster advertising Crosscurrents.
  • Notes made by Banji, from back when we were coming up with theoretical short film plot lines.
  • My receipt from January, when I bought some of my textbooks at the bookstore. Grand total from this one trip? $469.97.
  • Notes someone from my poetry class took on one of my poems. A sestina, titled “Generalized,” that I wasn’t sure how I felt about, but everyone else seemed to love.
  • A card from the Office of Finance given to me for Student Appreciation Week.
  • A letter from my best friend that took me way to long to respond to.
  • The program from Underground Sound’s 2016 Spring Concert, which was amazing.


Disclaimer: This post does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the other What We Do bloggers, the University of Puget Sound or any of it’s representatives.

Puget Sound claims to be an open and accepting campus.

But is it really?

Yes, the school is constantly working to be as inclusive as humanly possible for people of all races, genders, sexual orientations and many other identifiers. And I genuinely respect that. I’ve never seen the effort that the school puts into inclusion in any other sort of institution. I can’t deny how admirable it is to strive to include and accept everyone.

But I can’t help but see some hypocrisy and feel a bit of cynicism.

I work for Student Programs in ASUPS. We are responsible for bringing performers onto campus for everyone to enjoy. Well, the programmers do, I just do sound and lights for said performers.

Anyway, hanging in our office is a framed poster from the 80s or 90s of a lecture in the Fieldhouse from James Watt. James Watt served as Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan. He is infamous for being one of Reagan’s most controversial secretaries. An extreme conservative, Watt was described as “anti-environmentalist” and infamously banned The Beach Boys from playing a concert at the National Mall because they “attracted the wrong element.”

"The Courage to Be Conservative"

“The Courage to Be Conservative”

So why do I bring this poster up? While I may not know how the event went (I mean a riot could’ve broke out and the school had to remodel the Fieldhouse, I dunno), but the fact that Watt came here says a lot. An extreme conservative came to probably one of the most liberal colleges on the West Coast.

Someone like that coming to UPS would not fly today. There’d probably be a protest….there’d definitely be a protest. The protesters might try to (and probably would) bar people from entering the venue. In general, the response would not be good.


Because he has a different ideology? Because Watt doesn’t support what you support? Because he has a different opinion?

So what am I trying to get at? It’s hypocritical that the Puget Sound community brands itself as open and accepting. Most opinions that don’t follow the majority’s are crushed.

Google defines “Liberal” as “open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values” and “Conservative” as “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.” Is Puget Sound a liberal arts college? Or is it a conservative arts college?

I am not a conservative. I consider myself liberal. But a friend of mine got to ranting and raving recently about this topic and it just stuck. The idea bounced around in my head constantly. I had to get it out, I had to write about it. I’m sorry if I offended anyone.

Senior Studio


I’m one of those panicking art major seniors. (Which means I’ve basically been living in the studio, along with my fellow majors.) But all is well! The projects are coming along nicely, and everything is falling into place. The senior show is fast approaching, with the reception on April 27th (including food curated by yours truly and fellow senior Rachel Kalman). The PR committee put together this fab poster to advertise the show, featuring all the art seniors!944868_10207511964231130_4182966983552573722_n

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Spring 2016 Sketch

As my final semester as a Puget Sound student comes to a close, I thought I’d post about one of my favorite things I participated in as an undergrad: Ubiquitous They Sketch Comedy. This group is my family away from family. Every semester, we put on a comedy show written, directed, and acted by students. Tech week is terrible, being in Rausch’s tiny theater 6 to midnight every day… but in reality I love every minute. Getting to spend so much time with such genuinely good and funny people has defined my Puget Sound experience.

BUT ENOUGH WITH THE CHEESE. Let’s get to the funny stuff. Here’s a look at my final sketch show with UT Sketch Comedy — UT Presents: I ate a nickle!

The fantastic poster advertising the show, designed by senior and sketch mom Michelle Leatherby

The fantastic poster advertising the show, designed by senior and sketch mom Michelle Leatherby

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The Traveling Bug

Are bugs good? Well I think there’s a whole lot of agree to disagree about it, and I’d say the same goes for the traveling bug. This weekend I went to the National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference in Cleveland, OH and allow me to share with you, it’s not a popular travel option and involves multiple stops and layovers. There are no direct flights from SEA-TAC to CLE so we had our pick of Chicago, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas. Now for those of you with a pretty good idea about American geography, you’ll know that some of these layover locations are nowhere near Cleveland, in the wrong direction or completely past Cleveland, yes but those were the options available. This also opened up a variety of airlines to fly because none was superior and all flew all over the place.

Luckily, or unuluckily  so for us a desire to attend the Friday evening keynote speaker meant leaving Tacoma at 4AM to get to our 6:30AM flight and we would arrive in Cleveland at 3:30PM. We decided to fly through Chicago Midway (not O’Hare) and quickly discovered there was more to learn! From Seattle to Chicago we switched time zones and from Chicago to Cleveland we switched another again! We were now in Eastern time, 3 hours ahead of the Pacific Time we were familiar with. Flying messes with your brain, honestly I didn’t know how long we were in the air, how far we were traveling, where we were, what was personal space and how do you occupy oneself squeezed into a prone uncomfortable chair for multiple hours? It made for an interesting day of flying, enhanced more so by it was my first time flying Southwest and across the midwest!

As a Hawaii gal, I’ve only ever really flown Hawaiian Airlines and been in a flying culture very similar to hawaii with welcome smiles, guava juice to drink and meals during mealtimes, but other airlines are not like Hawaiian Air. We flew Southwest this time. First, southwest- you’d think then that this airline would fly to the southern and western-most state of America aka hawaii, but it doesn’t. That doesn’t make that much sense to me. Anyway what surprised me is that Southwest’s fight costs INCLUDE two free checked bags (which we didn’t need only going away for the weekend but that’s a major perk I think!) and no fees to change flights! Beyond that Southwest doesn’t assign seats or charge you for where and what kind of seat you want, instead you buy your ticket and the time you check in determines where you are in line to boarding the plane to select your seat! That was novel to me! And there are no guarantees maybe everyone wants a middle seat, or there’s a big group that wants to sit together in the back or so many babies, or that you may even be able to sit with your group if you checked in at different times.

Overall it was an interesting travel experience, even more so flying back to the PNW and feeling three hours ahead but today’s a Monday so no rest for me, it’s another school day!


An Open Letter to Pat McCrory

In which the foolish actions of a pompous snollygoster incur Daniel’s insatiable wrath.


To Republican and current North Carolina governor Pat McCrory,

When my family moved from the highly liberal city of Palo Alto, CA, to the less liberal city of Raleigh, NC, I was immensely pleased to find that North Carolina felt more like to home to me than Palo Alto did in many ways. I loved the long stretches of road, the small flurries of snow in January and the spacious spread-out of the city.

I have found, however, that I seemed to have reached an emotion impasse with the fine state of North Carolina. This impasse is because of House Bill 2 – your recent so-called “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act,” which forbids transgender people from using the bathrooms of the gender with which they identify because they are “perverts,” alongside reversing the right to pass nondiscrimination legislation to the state government, and some cute little wage cuts you snuck in there. This impasse is because I am, most certainly, most indubitably, most egregiously, homosexual. I do, in fact, like dick.

Moreover, although I am not transgender, the bill is absolute bullshit and is completely unacceptable. Perhaps this might help: compare biological sex to ethnicity and gender identity to culture. I am born of an Eastern European father and a Filipino mother. That being said, culturally, I am absolutely American, and I do not readily identify with the cultures of my ancestors. What you are born as doesn’t shape who you are – the expectations of others and yourself do.

More pragmatically, why do you care so much about the genitalia of people in the bathroom near you? If you’re taking a good look, you’re the pervert.

I am standing beside Laverne Cox, Graig Meyer, Bruce Springsteen, and the entire LGBTQ community and its allies. I am standing beside the part of the U.S. constitution that separates church and state, therefore literally invalidating every single law that oppresses people because some Christian is getting in a tizzy. You can take the church and go fuck yourself with it. And if I return to Raleigh in five weeks, and find this bill still in place, you will incur my wrath in earnest.

This is an open letter because I want the world to see this, and I want the world to see you seeing this. So go on and respond. Call my bluff. I dare you.


With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert


Been reading, lately, in object-oriented ontology. Sort of a new interest of mine. Introduced to it in class. Nothing overly difficult, though certainly nothing easy. Not a philosophy major. Need to remember that.

Been listening, lately, to ‘80s soft rock. Bread, Chicago. Also, the Eagles. RIP Glenn Frey. 

Also, Five for Fighting’s The Battle for Everything.

Been watching YouTube videos about abstract algebra. Of the “for Dummies” variety. Know very little about it. Didn’t take math higher than trig. But intrigued by the concept. Thanks, Karen Tei Yamashita. 

Sun. Sunburnt. Problems with tanning exacerbated. Lack of sunglasses = problem.

Been researching graduate programs for English. Anxious, in both senses of the word. 

More showers lately. Likely due to increased humidity. More showers of shorter duration. Not sure if singing getting on nerves of housemates. Will not ask.

Despite the rise in temperature, still sleeping with socks on. Sleeping well.

Bee Gees playing now. Need new earphones.

General sense of calm, despite the busy-ness. 

Supported friend in annual Luau. Miss home, of course. May or may not go home soon. Awaiting news.

The news is always slow.

Silly Banquet

Yesterday I did three things. I lazed around outside with my friends. I got my first sunburn of the year. And I attended the farewell Honors Program banquet. The theme of the banquet was “Scientists Being Silly.” The guest speaker, Professor Kristin Johnson, opened with a picture of Einstein sticking his tongue out and ended with a YouTube Video of scientists in white lab coats dancing to the tune of “gonna rock this club like its dynamite.” Personally, I love silly things. I’m a fan of Monty Python, I like making bad puns, and I own a pair of slippers with bears on them so every time I put them on I have bear/bare feet. See what I told you about the bad puns? In honor of that speech, I’d like to list all the silly things we did that evening and say why they were awesome.

  1. Played with fortune telling fish. The people who set up the event were nice enough to give us each a fortune telling fish. You put the little plastic fish in the palm of your hand and depending on how it moved it would tell your fortune. E.g. a moving head equaled jealousy and a moving tail equaled indifference. I got “curls up entirely,” which meant passionate. I’m just glad I didn’t get motionless or “dead one.” Seeing as I’m only twenty-two, that would have been a really crappy fortune.


  1. Gave out silly gifts. The event had a variety of door-prizes including the cutest little green stuffed animal blob—I think it may have been a molecule. We also got mugs with the “University of Puget Sound Honors Program” written on them. They had electric candles at the bottom covered in glittery party plastic. I think I may have accidentally drunk some of the glitter this morning with my tea. Whoops.


  1. Told a silly story. Silly stories are the best. When I was really little, my dad used to tell me and my sister “Harry Potter stories,” spinoffs of the Harry Potter series only with way more bathroom humor. I enjoyed those stories and I enjoyed the one at the Honors Program banquet. The Honors Program banquet story takes the post college aspirations of the senior class and weaves them together into a single narrative—in this case the search for the spiritual meaning of the kidney. One of the best lines that night was, “To know for sure we’d need more kidneys to continue our research. I’m not at liberty to say where we’re getting them.”


So that was the silly stuff we did at the banquet. I enjoyed every moment of it. So get out there and be silly. Stick your tongue out. Drink glitter in your tea. Make a bad pun.