the greatest thing you’ll ever learn…

Questions and uncertainty about life after Gonzaga is the most beautiful gift I could give myself.

I can’t even explain to you all how many times I’ve been asked, “So, what are your plans for next year?” Every time an adult aged 40 years or older finds out that I am in my last year of university. A slight jolt of fear runs through me as my mind whispers to me, “I don’t know yet!” But then I compose myself and go on to tell, with much gusto, of the internship I’m currently interviewing for, all of the industries I’d like to see myself in, the kind of work I’d eventually like to do.

As I walk away from conversations like those, I feel the strange ache of falsity. Indeed, I do want to work in the arts somehow and I am interviewing for a great internship and I do want to work with passion in my future, but somehow spilling it all out like a rehearsed pitch to strangers and family members alike makes it seem like less of my own desires that I am fervently blabbing on about and more what I believe these people want to hear me say I want in my future, my job, my life.

While I eventually do want to reach all of the points that I speak about to those who ask me just what I plan on doing after I am released into this big, bright world, I find myself holding back from the ultimate truth. I want to tell them that I don’t have it all figured out just yet and that I’m okay with this and that, yes I’d like to land a big job with a big company one day, right now I’d just like to travel and write and explore and learn.

But as soon as this slips out, as soon as I shrug my shoulders and say, “I think I’ll just hop around Europe for a bit,” the smiles seem to slip and the eyes seem to widen and their next answer is usually sugary sweet and accompanied by a big smile, “Well, isn’t that nice?” And then they slink away, not daring to be seen with the second semester senior who hasn’t quite got their life squared away.

I’ve gotten used to this and, while it hasn’t made me rethink what I’m planning on doing, it does make me wonder about all the paths that lay in front of me as February ushers in March, who welcomes April, whose rainy climate begs on May to come and save us all. As I set down my last pen on my last final that first week of May, the one road that I’ve been steadily rolling down comes to a head with another. This other road has fancy adverts and withered postings and alluring offers that all plead with us to choose that one or this one or those ones. The risks and benefits are never fully drawn out and one has to choose their road based on the influences that life has breathed down their necks: you’ve got to travel and see the world while you’re young, while you can, while there’s nothing else in your way! Or This economy’s tough, you need to get a good job, pay off your loans, start saving up, be responsible. Or Just listen to yourself and decide what you really want to do, what do you want to be?

Each path, each decision carries with it the weight of every voice that has ever told you how you should choose your own future and what that decision means. From our parents to our professors to our culture to our peers, it is incredibly easy to forget that we ourselves have the most important voice when it comes to our futures. Advice from others is calming and invaluable at times, but in the end it is I who gets to buy that ticket, live that life, find that truth. As I look ahead to my life after Gonzaga, I see my future lined with big question marks, big dreams and fantastical ideas. To me, that is the most beautiful thing I could ever hope to see.

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To London: a ballad of love and doubt

I had never believed in love at first sight. But in 2009, I went to London. And it reinforced these beliefs. My time there as a mere sophomore in high school was rotten in my eyes – the weather was blisteringly hot, our location was less than ideal and I was more focused on what I was missing out on at home rather than was I could have been experiencing in London.

Always the believer in second chances, I revisited the idea of London as the greatest city in the world a bit later on in 2012. While this trip included milder conditions, a more posh locale and less worries about the folks back home, the city still failed to wow me like I had been promised to be wowed – where was the glamorous dirt and grime, the tenuous balance of beauty and grotesque, the old and new twisting together to form one unique city?

Then I came here for a third time. This is when I fell in love. This is when I was here long enough to spot all of the beauty and all of the terrible in one walk to work. When I could sort out the best and the worst and choose to focus on the best, relying on the worst to make the best appear better. This is where I dove deep into a city that was begging to be tapped into. Where friends and arts and culture waited for me to get beyond the sightseeing and spectacle gazing and oohing and ahhing and to delve deeply into the joys that come from late buses and rainy walks and delayed Tube lines.

And now I’m back for a fourth time.

I am here on business, taking a weeklong break from school to learn through meetings and dealings and interactions rather than through PowerPoint slides and hour-long lectures.

I’ll admit, I was a bit wary to be coming back to this place that gave me so much my last time. I learned quite a lot here and I was almost scared that I would return to find a city that was just that – a city. A place that held so much magic because of who I was with and what I was doing, not because of what it actually was in and of itself.

Luckily, I was wrong.

The moment I stepped off of the plane and walked the long and tiring walk to customs, I couldn’t wipe this goofy grin off of my face because I could feel it in my swollen feet all the way up to my ruffled hair – the feeling that this city is as electric as I had known it to be since the very first time I saw London for what it was, the beautiful mixture of old and new, of grime and splendour. So as soon as I reached the hotel, I dumped my stuff into my room, took a quick shower and immediately hopped back onto the London streets and explored my new surroundings.

Red double-deckers rushed by, small cars honked incessantly at each other and at pedestrians, dogs pulled at the leases of their wary owners, struggling to juggle their pets and their lattes. I couldn’t help but smile as I waited to cross the road and cars whirled by, refusing to stop for the lone pedestrian, when to think that at school, cars would come to a quick halt to accommodate the harried student on their way to class.

I don’t know why, but I loved the whooshing of the cars speeding by, ignorant to my waiting for a clear path. It made me feel like a distinct part of the city, not stopping or slowing anything down, a part of something whole, like partners working together in a synchronised dance that welcomed anybody ready to curtsey and bow as directed to keep the music flowing.

While I am only here for five days before I jet off to Frankfurt, I need only the fervent and passionate melody that I hear as I walk the streets of London to reinforce the tale that I sing back to the city – adding to the music, adding to the story.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spokane Mind

On the role of fate, chance and choice in life and how to go from there

On Saturday, I watched Run Lola Run. On Sunday, I watched the Super Bowl. Together, they helped me understand the supposed workings of this world – of the role that chance, fate and determination play in the living of one’s life.

The German film Run Lola Run (Tykwer 1998) begins by comparing the living of life to playing a game and asks the question, “Is life a series of determined fateful encounters or can one use one’s free will to carve out their own path?” As we focus on this question, the film opens on Lola, who has twenty minutes to find one hundred thousand marks for her small-time criminal boyfriend, Manni. Three times, Lola is able to relive a failed attempt to retrieve the money. In each scenario, as Lola bumps into people in her rushed twenty minutes, we are given insight into these people’s lives – each future different as Lola encounters them at a slightly different time and place. Some people, however, seem to be destined to live out their initial fate no matter how differently Lola encounters them. The film’s answer to its initial question is that life is a rather complicated combination of fate, chance and choice.

This was my second time watching the film – a frenzied action film that makes it impossible to be doing anything else except to closely watch the movie to see how large of an effect microscopic temporal changes can have on the characters’ lives. Also it’s a German film, so you have to check out the subtitles to keep up. As the credits began to roll, I thought about the philosophy that the movie purported: that life is really a toss up between fate and free will, some outcomes can be avoided, while others cannot. All in all, a film where the main character is able to hop backwards in time and change her own and others’ lives makes for a message that is a bit hard to fully wrap my head around as I exit the filmmaker’s world and re-enter the real world. I went to sleep still pondering the meaning of the movie and all of its implications – for, if some things are irrevocably fated, how should one know when to stop fighting this fate and focus on the things that can be changed?

After a rather philosophical night, I awoke Sunday morning ready to eat some Velveeta cheese dip, analyse the famous Super Bowl advertisements and watch some guys bump into each other and throw a (hopefully properly inflated) ball. After a couple hours, a few chipfulls of cheese dip and an oddly depressing Nationwide commercial, the Seahawks were primed to win the Super Bowl. A call, a throw, a tenth of a second and an ill-placed player brought that outcome crashing to the ground. And in the hands of a Patriot, no less.

Though those couple hours after the game were filled with what-ifs and why-thats, after my emotions subsided, I began to realise that nothing quite illustrated the points of Run Lola Run like the football game that we had just watched. A perfect, if not disappointing, mix of fate, chance and choice was at the root of it all. Sure, it’s all orchestrated and strategy plays into the game, but in the end, why did that Patriot run one way and not the other? Why was the call made to pass and not to hand off? Why did that ball go exactly there when, were it thrown a tenth of a second earlier or later, it would have been a decidedly different outcome?

Herein lies the point of the film, which football helped me to understand (this makes sense, as the beginning of the film draws parallels to life and game). Life, as a large empty skeleton, happens as it should, as it is fated to. Life’s occurrences, the bits that add substance to the skeletal structure, are co-created by chance and choice – things happen and we are faced with a choice about how to push onward. As Lola got three chances to rewrite her story, so are we given multiple opportunities to push toward the outcome we desire.

Life may be the larger skeleton of it all, but it is us who are given the opportunity to decide what to do with such a large and empty space.