Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chapter 23, Verse 1: Party Like it's Twenty-Zero-Nine

May I clarify something Space Travelers? When Prince so famously sang the iconic "party like it's 1999" he set a really high bar for festivities in the closing days of the last millennium. I mean, don't get me wrong, I did some great things in 99, but I think 2002 ended up being the year I give the bouquet to.

I don't know what adventures Twenty-zero-nine has in wait for me, but here's best wishes to big ones. Currently, I'm working on trips to Chicago, England, and a river adventure down the Mississippi River. Other projects include another blog (to be revealed in the future) and learning guitar so that come summer, I can sit in my apartment's window and play into the alley.

I can't say I have any new year's resolutions. I had so many things I wanted to work on that I recognized last year, so I didn't wait for 2009.

We put such a high premium on new year resolutions as if they have a greater chance of fruition or mean more than any other self motivated change made on any other date. By this logic a resolution made on leap year would be even more special and guaranteed to be successful. Something similar happens on birthdays. We take one day to celebrate the lives of those we care for when we could be celebrating each other's lives any day (or every day for that matter).

Well, here's to 2009 anyways I suppose. May it be better than 2008, let it be worse than 2010. Let me be better now, but never my best (I'll always need something to be working toward right?). Here's to new love, new friends, brothers, sisters, and the first time I write the date and forget to write "09."

Here's to adventure.
Here's to Space Travelers.
Here's to heroes both sung and unsung.

Here we go.

Ice your heads and I hope all Space Travelers had a great night. End transmission.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

LOST Chapter 18, Verse 10: What's in a Name?

As I leave 2008 behind Space Travelers, I leave behind the era that was college. After 7 years in my undergraduate, I find myself now here in Northern Virginia. I shed my skin, and a new me is present.

countdown: (post grad) 3 days 15 hours 15 minutes

MEMORY 10: What's in a name?

When I was young I didn't know my proper name. Not at least until I was 15. The circumstances of this revolve around my parents having a spelling discrepancy on my birth certificate and my social security card.

One read: Alias Seichi Tagami
The other: Alai Seiichi Tagami

The day that I went to get my driver's learner permit, I saw my birth certificate for the first time. I immediately notices the spelling of my names. Needless to say, that evening, I had words with my parents...

I decided on a hybrid of those two names: Alias Seiichi Tagami

I went by this for years. But mostly, my friends and family just called me "Seich" for short.

When I first arrived at my school, I decided to change my name. Or at least change the name I go by. I had some weird fixation on the idea that my identity was bound to my name and that Seiichi was someone who let others walk on him, and that I needed to reinvent myself.

The first attempt at a new identity was to take my first name Alias, and shorten it to just "Ali." I didn't work. I just couldn't do it naturally. It was too forced. I was simply trying too hard to do the whole reinvention thing.

One of my early college friends I met had a really hard time pronouncing my name. I told her that "Seiichi" is just like "Say Chi". So she just started calling me Chi. I liked it. I kept it.

What I didn't realize then, that is so clear to me now, was that my desire to be somebody new was not something I needed to try so hard for. It was inevitable. The acquisition of a new name was just ironic.

I was named by my Great Grandfather Ikeda. He came from Japan at the turn of the 20th century at the tender age of 16. His ship came into the San Fransisco Bay on April 18th 1906, the day of the great quake. I like to joke that as the fog cleared and he saw a city in flames that he quickly pulled out his brochure and began to complain. The ship would be leave the bay. It landed and My grandfather began to farm in the Salinas Valley.

His family grew and he eventually even bought land. It was a great success for an immigrant.

He gave me my middle name; the primary name I would go by. The name means "Sincerest first born."

Sei - Sincerity
Ichi - 1 (yes, like the number.)

Number names are not uncommon in Asian cultures, and usually symbolize some statue in the family. For me, it was that I am the bearer of name. Only I can carry on the family name, and culture.

(I imagine your wondering how I plan to tie this back into college. I would too. I'm trying to figure it out. Be patient with me. I know where I'm going... I think)

My first name Alias/Alai was a creation by my parents from the word "ally." This was largely due to the fact that racial tension between my families was ended when I was born. My birth granted both sides of my family the perspective needed to come to terms. Hence, I was the bridge; the "ally." I guess they didn't like the spelling or something... Wither way that's the etymology behind those two.

So here I was at college looking for a new identity, a new purpose, a new creed. I think then that it is interesting my new identity was to become a community builder, mentor and student advocate. Interesting because there in the name was the "sincere friend."

I chose my Mentor in my job as an Resident Assistant. We are very close. She challenged me to make a legacy. Every year, at the closing banquet she would close with...

"Live, love, leave a legacy."

I slowly began to understand what a legacy really was. I was not people remembering what your name was, and what you did. It was instead making long lasting changes around you that went beyond your time.

In my weekly lunches with my Mentor, she told me that she was proud of the legacy I had left at the school. I asked her what she thought my legacy was, and she said that her department would fail without the students leading each other. She thanked me for staying involved, and explained how many students I had introduced to student advocacy. She thanked me for being passionate about what I did. She acknowledged the struggle I had through college, and told me that I had I not chosen to engage face first many of those challenges I that I would not have grown into the man I was.

I arrived at graduation an hour before the ceremony. I looked around at the sea of graduates. We were handed a card with our name on it. We were supposed to write out the pronunciation of our name.

Oh brother.

I wrote: Aa-lie-us Say-ee-chee Taa-gaa-mee

I knew it would get butchered. I knew this because of every class and every teacher I have ever had in my entire academic life. I held my card and thought about that fact. That on the first day of every class, I had to speak up and say more than just "here."

As I walked up to the stage, I handed the speaker the card. There was a long pause... then a awkward attempt at my name, then a apologetic shrug. I shrugged back and made my way across the stage. As I shook the hand of the Chancellor, he said "close enough?"

I replied "It's not my name that should be remembered."

I don't believe that because my Great Grandfather gave me my name that I fulfilled any sort of duty, or calling. I don't believe that my name defines me at all. I am proud to be defined by my actions.

No longer addressed by the same name, no longer clothed in the uniform of my youth, I am starting a new life for myself. However you know me...


...I hope you know me.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

LOST Chapter 18, Verse 9: Hero no Maru

There is something a bit recursive about this memory Space Travelers. This memory is about the trip which inspired this blog to even exist in the first place. Like some trips, we now end back up where we began.

countdown: 8 hours 44 minutes

MEMORY #9: Hero no Maru

In my second year in college I began becoming more professionally oriented. I began to care about having a career and I started working on my resume. I remember how my environment made me feel like having an internship was important. More than than important, it felt like it was necessary.

I felt weird that I didn't have a summer internship. I decided to work harder in my junior year.

I began early by attending some programs put on by the career center at my campus. They made it seem easy. The entire thing was odd because in the engineering community, we are constantly being told this line about how important we are and how jobs come to us. To me it was all odd and I didn't really realize what was happening to me.

By second semester I had not had an interview and I was becoming very depressed. I had really applied myself and been extremely disciplined. So by April, it was obvious I would not have an internship.

I needed something to feel that void. So I left. I just got into my car, and I drove. My road trip in total was 7,000 miles over two months. There is something very liberating about being on your own. I had lots of time to think. Heal.

I was in San Diego. A friend had invited me to a birthday party. I didn't really know anybody. I remember being approached by some very...


Californian people. Californian youth at least. Out of high school, but still younger than me. Beautiful people. Nicely tan. They seemed interested in me. I was a new person in their circle, so I stood out. I was dressed a lot nicer than normal that night. I could almost blend in.

They were very interested in what I did. Not in Engineering though, just about how much money I would make. They very very certain that I belonged on the west coast, and that I'd need to find a job out there. I said how much I liked the area and mentioned that I had family in the area. However I followed that with how I liked some companies for the projects they worked on. When I told then the cites I'd be in they seemed to turn their nose up at the thought of living in the midwest.

a "fly-over" state

I replied, "Yeah I guess our job is to just make the food. I guess I'm out of place."

I thanked my friend for inviting me, and left. As I left, I was still disgusted by these superficial plastic materialist people.

Then I remembered how I had become so obsessed with some job goal. A goal I didn't even set for myself. It was set for me. I did want a job, but for the experience, the skills. The casualty of this obsession was that I became sadly aware of two truths.

1) I didn't have a single goal in my like that didn't have something to do a with a career.

2) I had stopped doing the things I loved to become a professional.

I spent the second half of my trip just soaking in the beauty of the Pacific northwest. As I drove back east, I remember sleeping on the side of the road in Montana, only to wake up to the most majestic sunrise. It was just for me.

No cars.
No people.

I think the sunset gets all the glory, but sometimes a sunrise can be breathtaking.

It's honestly a shame I'm not a morning person, and it's too common that if I see the sunrise, I'm stuck i a building.

Now I make new goals for myself. I let myself wander. I dream again of new adventures.

Being professional is the just a hobby now. My real occupation is being spectacular.

When I wrote this, I guess I didn't know how true the part about the hobby was. The spectacular part is still a work in progress though.

Friday, December 26, 2008

LOST Chapter 18, Verse 8: Late Nights

Konnichiwa Supesu no hitotachi! Ikeyo ne?

countdown: 1 day 6 hours 28 minutes

MEMORY #8: Late nights

I've had many late nights in my college career. However, too few due to late night liaisons. No. Instead I have spent a many nights up late compiling computer code while posting on forums such as A2K and my community blog. I've probably had more sit down meals at restaurants at 3:00 AM than I have had during the hours of civilized society.

However some nights, I'm not awake for any real reason. I sit, and wait. Wait for something amazing to happen. I will wander outside and listen to the silence. No cars, no people. I hope to be the only person to see or experience something special. It rarely happens, but that's fine. If it happened every time, it wouldn't be special.

When the birds start singing, I know it's bedtime. For the sake of pride, I often dive under the covers if I sense a sunrise coming.

Does it really matter what burns the midnight oil?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

LOST Chapter 18, Verse 7: Losing the Fight Against the Tank

Dear Space Travelers, I had an epiphany today. I can submit all these LOST post right now and have them timed to post at a certain time. This means that I can actually work ahead on the schedule. I'm not the most punctual person in the world, so the notion of being early with posts is kind of an alien one.

So here's the deal, I'm going to post up the last four LOST chapters and set them to post over the next few days. I decided I want to be finished with this part before New Years. I think I should do something special for that. Until then, here's another in the graduation series.

countdown: 3 days 9 hours 8 minutes

MEMORY #7: Losing the Fight Against the Tank

Through high school I was a tobacco educator in a student led program. We would go to local elementary schools and present to 5th graders about the dangers of smoking. In addition to that we would field question about middle school and high school in general. It was something I was very passionate about.

During my two years at my community college, I felt like something was missing, and that desire to get involved is probably what encouraged me to become so active on my university upon arrival.

I put on programming at our school which was need based, and much of what I did was related to wellness education. Later, I joined a group on campus which was specifically designed to address student needs in wellness education.

We were the campus source for said programming. This was more than just an organization though. We were paid for our work and were expected to stay updated on related topics.

We stayed informed because often we would have to field questions related to delicate topics. Examples included unplanned pregnancy, new medications like Gardisil, date rape, and depression (or other mental health related topics).

One of the specific service we provided was related to many of the campus greek houses. Many houses must complete some sort of educational programming to keep their charter. While some houses are enthusiastic about various programming, others seem to try and scrape by with doing just the minimum.

The day of my memory, was in the fall a few weeks before "Greek Week." Greek Week is for those unaware a week of programming put on campus to build community and display spirit for the various fraternities and sororities. It is custom to build a float. For some houses, this is a bigger deal than homecoming or any other large campus event.

The house that shall remain nameless requested that we present to their house on the topics of alcohol and safer sex. We arrived early, as we always did, and waited to be greeted by someone from the house. Nobody came. We decided to simply wait on the porch until we were addressed. We could not set up because we didn't know where we would be presenting.

As we sat on the porch we looked at their float. It was a large wooden tank built with moderate skill. It's paint was a 30 minute spray-paint job of olive green, black, and brown meant to resemble camouflage.

Then we noticed it. In bold yellow letters on the back read the phrase:

"Porch Monkey's for Life."

It was alarming. Being that we still had not been greeted, it was already awkward. Add to that the fact that I was the only non-black member of the group (other than my friend AJ, he was Indian, and a woman Christina). I could tell the other presenters were uncomfortable about going into the house to present, and other's were just upset.

After a considerable amount of time we were finally greeted by the VP of the house. He directed us to the dining hall and told us where we would be presenting.

We began the presentation with a crash course on condoms. We received boos from the crowd, and the girls in the group were whistled at or received cat calls. I was new to the team so I was in a support role at this presentation, but I found myself becoming more and more angry.

Later, we had volunteers from the house come forward and attempt many simple tasks while wearing special goggles. The goggles distort the user's vision in a way that the brain sometimes becomes confused and the user can loose balance. The main idea here being that the wearer is in a simulated loss of motor skills, much like if they were drunk.

Long story short, the volunteers were encouraged by the audience at large to be disruptive and rude.

By time it was over, I couldn't leave fast enough. Once outside, I felt like I could breathe easy knowing that not every other word I heard would be the word "fag."

I was upset. I told my supervisor. I told her that if she had to sign off on anything saying that they had completed the training to not sign it. I was insistent that they learn something.

I posted later a note on my facebook page describing like this my experience. the note raised a lot of controversy. I was called in by my supervisor and told I would lose my job if I didn't take it down. She had been bombarded with phone calls all day from the executive board of the fraternity in question. They like to use words like "alumni" and "powerful." My fellow educators sided with me and were appauled when they learned of our supervisor's ultimatum. I argued with her, but ultimately felt that I loved my job too much. I folded. I felt I had to pick my battles.

because of my note, I attracted a lot of heat and the entirety of the house began addressing me very aggressively. I learned that word of the tank with the "porch monkey" on the back of it had made it's way to their fraternity's national office, and that they didn't like the heat.

I was unapologetic, and after being forced to take the note down, I felt like the gloves were off. I found myself in public debate over the appropriateness of having such a thing on display.

Their defense was that their house had a large porch and that they had some time ago began calling themselves "porch monkeys." I distinctly remember them aggressively telling me how the house has "a black guy."

I tried to reason with them.
I tried to reason with my supervisor, but she signed off on their training.
I almost lost my job.

Sometime later, I learned that several years ago the same house had performed a skit in black face make-up at a Greek week event.

This is my story of defeat. I lost. I sometimes wish that I had not taken down the note, and just quit the job.

Some changes require more than just one person, I hope my former supervisor has the same regret that she didn't support me when the heat came down.

Oh and I guess I should mention it's Christmas or something... I'll begin by noting that I'm working tonight, so wherever you are, don't'cha come a complain'n to me, o-kay?

If I could be anywhere on Christmas doing anything, I think I'd be snowed in somewhere just looking out the window. I would not be trying to figure out a solution to the situation. I would simply be, and by "be", I mean it in the Beatles "Let it be" kind of way. I imagine myself with close friends, my cat(s) (from back in Missouri), and I'd just drift in and out of consciousness all day while listening to the music. The Kink's "Waterloo Sunset", Elliott Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louie Armstrong come to mind. I'd watch the cats play with the balled up wrapping paper and drink peppermint tea.

Perhaps in 2009 Space Travelers.

Monday, December 22, 2008

LOST Chapter 18, Verse 6: Perhaps I'll Fly Too

This is a particularly personal one Space Travelers. However, as a bonus, this one comes with some video! I become more and more aware as I post these about how much I'm sharing here on this blog. I don't regret it, I'm just conscious of it. This place, my little corner of the interwebs is kind of my intellectual garden. I choose the arrangements of the flowers, and sometimes people wander through and look around. When they do, I wonder if they've been to better gardens, or if they want to rearrange my plants. I guess all I can do is keep planting and hope over time this garden flourishes.

countdown: 4 days 8 hours 23 minutes

MEMORY#6: Perhaps I'll Fly Too

Today was something beautiful. Today was the day my plane flew. College isn't always defined by the nights of drinks with friends, the lack or abundance of sex, or the struggle you encounter.

No. Sometimes it's the feeling that we have when you set out to do something and you do it. You don't always know what you are getting into. You don't always know what is to come. Sometimes it it just better to participate rather than anticipate.

I'm going to share with you what words may not be able to convey.

My plane in flight...

This was a beautiful moment for me. The video was taken by my friend. I took video too, but my video is horrible. The reason being that I couldn't take my eyes off of the plane and I left my arms fall to my side as I was paralyzed in amazement.

I saw in that plane myself. I think I might have seen the future in it too. It's hard to explain.

Engineering is hard, and in more than one occurrence, I've questioned myself. There have been times when amidst the smartest people in the world, I felt intimidated. There have been many times I just didn't feel smart enough or good enough to be here.

You see, I am this plane or it is what I should be. I put in more lonely nights in the lab designing and building it. When you look at the plane from the outside, you can't see all the mistakes; all the repairs. If the plane could speak before takeoff, would it have told be that it too didn't feel like it was good enough to fly?

But the plane can't talk, it can only trust that I gave it everything it needed to fly. So when the pilot throttled up, and my teammate released it from rest, I didn't breathe. I couldn't breathe because I lacked the confidence that I had given it enough.

At first it just rolled along. Then it gained a great deal of speed. It takes one second for a plane to leave the ground, and once in the air, you forget it was ever on its wheels.

My plane was confident.
My plane teared through the sky.
My plane took my breath away.

All of that, and it was still the same plane. It had all the breaks and mends; the last minute design changes and repairs. It was like me. I'm not perfect. I've got breaks and repairs to.

With graduation, I'm on my own runway. Perhaps I'll fly too.

Perhaps I'll fly too.

Thanks as always for reading Space Travelers. Peace to all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

LOST Chapter 18, Verse 5: The Virginia Tech Shootings

As promised Space Travelers, another installment from the graduation series. This one in particular is of a sensitive nature. Since moving out to the DC area, I've met lots of alumni of Virginia Tech. So I guess this one goes out to you.

countdown: 5 days 6 hours 30 minutes

MEMORY #5: The Virginia Tech Shooting.

Last year, a terrible event took place at Virginia Tech. A student armed with a gun(s) went into a residence hall and then into a academic building an killed several students and injuring others.

My school, Missouri University of Science & Technology offers many parallels to that of VA Tech. In fact in my department, over half of the professors attended VA tech for their undergraduate, graduate or both. My department is not unique in this way. Our two schools for whatever reason, share a certain bond.

In fact no more than 2 months prior to the shooting a lesser known event took place at my university. A student had made a campus threat of bombs and that he had anthrax. In this case, the individual was simply depressed and attempting to make enough violent claims to provoke a suicide-by-cop. The authorities were able to detain him without anyone getting hurt. In the end, all of his claims were false.

The day after the VA tech shootings, there was a campus vigil held out on the lawn. Student gathered, and there were speakers.

A speaker from the counseling center spoke about the importance of mental health and briefly told the students about the services they offered for those students facing severe depression.

The Student Body President spoke about coming together as a community.

The Chancellor talked about how the University always has our safety in mind. He offered us confidence in our school's security protocols. He was very official.

Nothing that these individuals said moved me in the slightest. I felt the entire thing was a show for the students; a way to pro-actively address the hysteria factor.

However, there was one last speaker. A teacher from the civil engineering department. A man that was in no way extraordinary in his presence or title. The only conclusion as to why he was chosen to speak was that he like many faculty had attended Virgina Tech. He had additionally taught there at one point in his career.

When he began to speak, I noticed how he kind of stumbled with his words. He wasn't a confident man, nor did it seem that his public speaking skills were the greatest.

Something grabbed my attentions though. Unlike, the first speakers, this man was not reading from cards. Certainly, he was struggling, but I found the patience needed to focus on him. As I began to pay more attention, I could see him searching for the words he needed to say. It was as if I could literally feel his frustration. I could tell he had something to say, and I could tell it was important.

After some time he found the words, and when he did, he speach smoothed out and his face became determined.

He frankly said that both the incident at our school, and VA tech involved international students, and that many people would use these incidents to make it harder for our international students to come here and study.

It was at first an odd direction for the vigil. I like others were confused.

He continued. He reminded us about the contributions the international community has made to our school and the nation. That they, like us, were here for an education and had found several ways to contribute.

What he said next I will never forget.

"In my life as an engineer, through my good work, and through my research, I have saved more lives than any man can take in one day."

Those words shook me to my core and I sat there on the lawn in tears. I felt in that second for the first time what my duty was as an engineer. I understood why it was so hard for him to find the words, and I understood why he had taken the time to speak in advocacy for our international students.

As a side note, I should explain that in that particular year I had become increasingly aware of the military applications of what I learned. This had been a heavy thought on my mind. I felt conflicted between my passion and the industry it was embedded in.

After hearing that man's words, I've been able to resolve my conflicts. I now feel like a part of the engineering community at large and have a sense of obligation to better the world through science.

If I do my job well, you'll never know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

LOST Chapter 18, Verse 4: Home Away From House

Space Travelers, Space Travelers! I hope you've been enjoying the updates with the LOST chapters from my graduation. Nothing wrong with a little walk down Nostalgia Lane right? Well continuing the stretch, here goes.

Countdown: 6 days 15 hour 58 minutes.

MEMORY #4: Home away from House

This memory may by somewhat unique to me, and not really representative of the college experience, but I feel that it some way it is a story which others may be able to relate to in some capacity.

In the winter of 2006, Missouri was hit really hard with two severe ice storms. In my college town, the ice was intense, but we did not lose power at any time. In my hometown of Springfield, however, the ice brought down many trees. It was declared a disaster area, and some parts of the town were without power in the cold for several weeks.

A casualty of the storm, was that I lost my home. The house I lived in my entire life, was a small house in an older neighborhood shaded in trees. Many of those trees were branded with bald spat where the local children would climb them, and scuff their bark with their sneakers.

I found out from my father that the house had been hit hard in the storm and that the roof/ceiling above my room had been destroyed along with the roof/ceiling above other parts of the house.

By time I had made it home, my father had relocated, and I was able to walk into the house. Without the power, the food in the refrigerator had spoiled and the smell had moved through the house. In addition to that the broken roof had let lots of water in the house. With the moisture, came mold and in many places the floor had become warped.

I salvaged some things from the house that my father had missed in his collections. What I picked up could barely fill a shoe box.

I left my house, and I realized I would never return to it. In the back yard was the plots where I had buried family pets. I would never be able to return to see them again. This may seem odd, but when growing up, my family duty was to take care of the animals. It was a special connection I had to the house.

I was greeted by friends when I returned. While my house was gone, I still had a home.

I don't believe many will experience this kind of thing. However I do think that many can relate to the feeling that the place where they grew up was no longer their home.

It's weird.

Also, I have three new videos complete! It's my election night adventure with Space Travelers Maia and Catherine into DC. I finished it a while ago, but I ran into problems uploading it to You Tube. The video was too long so I had to go back and edit the vLog into 3 parts. I'll be posting them here soon, but if you don't want to wait, just go to my You Tube Page (click the link in the sidebar -->) and watch them now.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

LOST Chapter 18, Verse 3: Not a Head of Lettuce

As promised my loyal compatriots and statesmen and stateswomen, a short tale of college past of yours truly. This story Space Travelers is one less eloquent but honest.

Countdown: 8 days 5 hours 55 minutes

MEMORY #3: Not a Head of Lettuce

So it had been a dry spell for me. I was (am) a young horny male and quite unapologetic about that fact. For whatever reason things had taken a weird turn and odd new symptoms were appearing.

It's hard to describe, but imagine a cat in heat rolling around making a fuss. That was me, except male and homo-sapian.

It was serious. I was out of control. I felt like the walls were closing in, and madness was making it's siege at my castle gate.

So much in fact, that in the night in question, I was trying as hard as I could to figure out how to fix it. It was in those hours of insanity that my mind made a very poor conclusion.

"I'll just go out and get laid."

It FELT (emphasis mine) brilliant, and it took no time for me to spring up out of my chair. However, reality gave chase, and somewhere between putting my jacket on and the door I realized...

"It's not like getting a head of lettuce."

There I stood with my jacket half on too ashamed and confused about what to do. I stood there just waiting; looking for anyway I could forget how stupid the idea was.

I eventually retired to my desk in defeat.

In my many years in college, I had few chances to be really promiscuous. I met a wonderful girl my second year and we were together for 3 years. Had I not met her, who knows what bedtime adventures I would have had.

Hardly a story, but sex seems to be a large part of college.

Friday, December 12, 2008

LOST Chapter 18, Verse 2: The Palace

Continuing in my graduation series, here is the second installment of my favorite college Space Traveler memories.

Countdown: 9days, 15hours, 10minutes until graduation.

MEMORY #2: The Palace

I was a resident assistant for a few years while in college. I'm sure many memories to come will perhaps also have to do with that fact. The second memory is the community I lived in my second year.

I was originally supposed to live in a new building on campus, but when China bought up all the steal back in 2004, the construction stopped and the campus had to find an alternative location to place all the displaced students. Some RAs and their communities were put into a hotel for the first semester. I on the other hand was put into a off campus location for the entire year.

It would become "The Palace." Originally abbreviated as "TP" for "Tenth and Pine," the corner it was on.

It was the second floor of a building in downtown that had been renovated to accommodate extended stay visitors to the area. Below it was a salvation army thrift store. For any college student, living above a thrift store meant an endless supply of vintage clothing and an immediate excuse for putting off laundry another day.

$8 to wash my clothes, or $2 to buy a suit that only my grandfather would wear. The choice was often obvious. We proudly would parade around campus as the most fashionably challenged, but were strangely confident in our uniqueness.

I lived there from August 2004-May 2005, so I was there during the election and I got to see the dynamics of young academics trying out their ideas with each other. I saw them come together to form a very tight knit group.

In January, I was stuck in traffic on I-44 on my way to St. Louis when I received a phone call from my supervisor. She informed me that one of my residents had died. he had died on his way home to St. Louis, and it was at that time I realized that the traffic I was in was the result of his accident. With no real way to exit the highway, all I could do was inch forward in the stop and go traffic, and after some 20 minutes, I was able to see the wreckage. As I drove by I cried and was overwhelmed with sorrow. It would be the closest thing I would get to a "goodbye."

I was sad that day not because I lost a good friend, but because I realized that I had become caught up in the excitement of The Palace and had supported those who were really into the community while perhaps not giving more back to those who were more introverted. You see, I didn't know Ryan that well, and I had not really taken advantage of the opportunities I had been given to know him.

I had not even been that great of a RA to him. He would come by and complain about noise, and I would rarely act on it because the noise was being made by my most active residents; the ones who endorsed my idea of community there.

I was troubled with guilt, and when I returned the next day, I gathered all of the community together and told them what had happened. the guilt I experienced for not being better, was shared amongst the group as many felt similar feelings.

After a few solemn days, Ryan's parents came to collect his belongings. they left his couch and TV because they said that the idea of making room in their house for these items would be too painful. The day after that, a letter appeared on the wall. It was written by Andrew, one of Ryan's roommates. It was an honest and forward letter about who Ryan was for those who didn't have the chance.

For me this letter let me forgive myself in many ways because what I was punishing myself for at the time was that I had not taken interest with him like I had the others until it was too late.

The community came together in a new way after that, and to this day have found ways to live together.

In fact, in May, when I move, I will be living with two of them in Northern Virginia.

Our life in that building was full of many unique things, and I know that I can never look at a Salvation Army Store the same again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

LOST Chapter 18, Verse 1: The Yardstick Man

Dear Space Travelers, I'm hard up for new ideas at the moment, but I shouldn't let that stop me. I have left other bits of my across the blogosphere. I decided I'd fetch some writing I did prior to graduation and beam it across the universe. There are 10 in the set, so I'll try and post one every other day until I've put them all up.

In 10 days 7 hours I will graduate from college. As I count down each day, I thought I'd share a memory from college with you each day until graduation. I will try to give you my 10 most significant.

MEMORY #1: The Yardstick Man

I arrived at my college as a transfer student with two years already under my belt at a local community college. I walked in to greet who I thought would be a student advocate, my first Advisor. Instead I met Dr. Fannin. I remember how he rejected the math credits I earned at CC and how he made me retake a year of math. I pleaded with him to reconsider. He looked me in the eye and told me the following words.

"Every school gives their student a yard stick in which they can use to reach out to their goals. Your Community College, [name omitted], gave you a 2ft yard stick."

He proceeded to tell me how I would not be successful at this school.

I remember the rage a felt at his smug arrogant look. I felt my nails dig into my palms. I remember the betrayal I felt. I had never met an academic professional who so directly displayed such blatant elitism.

I went to the store that night and bought a yardstick. I hung it in my room by my desk that first year to remind myself of the goals I set for myself and how I would not let a petty old man stomp on my dream. the next day, I filled out the necessary paperwork to get a new Adviser, and met a nice man with a lot of knowledge about my department.

I still have the yard stick, and on next Friday (the day before grad) I plan to go to the store buy him a yard stick. Cut a foot off of it. Then take it to his office where I will proceed to tell him what I think of his yard stick. I worked hard and exceeded my own expectations, I want him to know he was wrong. I'll look him in the face and tell him to "never tell another student that again."

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