Monday, March 30, 2009

And So It Ends

I didn't expect to win tonight. In fact, I guaranteed that we would lose. But, you know, it still hurts when your team falls, especially after having accomplished so much, after having worked so hard under a coach who has taken charge of the development of so much more than skills on the court. Both teams and both coaches had a great run this year, and it's heartbreaking to witness such losses because you know that these players and coaches deserve it. When it ends, it all seems so unfair: Players will graduate without having achieved that national title, and fans will long remark about the season that could have been. You wonder how such a thing could happen to people who care so much--people who have passion for more than just the game. They've paid their dues, as they say, so it is only right that they should have won.
But that's hardly ever the case. Think about it. This story is the story of all but a single team, and it is a story that is retold with various little twists every spring. There is always heartache, and many will recount the missed opportunities and the glory that seemed within a fingertip's reach.
Am I trying to make a point with this? I think I am, though I'm rather tired, and it is three in the morning. You may think you deserve something because of what you have done or endured. You may think that getting anything less than what you want is unfair, maybe cruel. But as I recall, you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.
We all wanted to win, obviously. But is that what we needed? Losing gives a player the opportunity to look at his mistakes with an eye toward improvement, while winning often leads a player to view his mistakes largely as occurrences of chance. The lessons learned through losing are far more numerous and far more valuable than those learned through winning. When we lose, we learn that we are not perfect. We learn one of the most difficult lesson's life has to teach: that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, even if you give it the absolute best that you have ever or will ever be able to, you will fail. We learn that life isn't a fairy tale and that sometimes the knight in shining armor never does come; sometimes the princess remains in slumber for eternity.
Well, I did say "sometimes". When something doesn't happen sometimes, it follows that sometimes, it does. That's another great lesson to be learned, but it doesn't come from losing once or twice. It comes from a legacy of losing and the desire to put an end to that legacy--perhaps the desire to create a new legacy. Personally, I think this lesson is even harder to learn. Truly learning this lesson involves knowing all of the aforementioned--knowing that failure may be all that's out there for you, knowing that your dreams may never come true, knowing that your life may never be what you or anyone else expected it to be. This lesson involves knowing all of this shit...and going forward anyway.
Perseverance is one of those traits that's becoming obsolete these days, and that scares the hell out of me. I see this kind of thing all the time, not only in the world of academics, where students are steered away from fields that involve subjects with which they struggle, even if these students have true passion for said subjects, but I see this also with parents who discourage their small children from participating in sports in which they do not excel. Sometimes people forget that not everyone is a superstar. Not everyone can be, not everyone should be, and not everyone wants to be. Sometimes people just want to be and do. It's not always about winning. It's not always about being the best. But it is always about the fact that you love doing it.
For the second night in a row, I've written something that just took on a life of its own. I didn't intend to get into some of my comments as deeply as it seems I have, but I'm quite alright with letting my thoughts flow freely. That's how we really learn things anyway. If I tried to restrict myself in what is supposed to be a safe place for me to spew mental vomit all over without having to worry about cleaning it up, I would be defeating the purpose of even having this place.

I wanted to say more about what happened to me this weekend--about how I was completely shafted in some ways and about revealing myself to even more people, some of whom reacted rather negatively. But I'm here now, and those things don't really matter. I didn't get what I wanted, which wasn't fair in any way, and I do not relinquish my original stance or give any ground whatsoever to the opposing party, but I did get exactly what I needed out of this trip and out of that game. So sometimes you lose, and maybe the only thing you learn is how to deal with losing.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

An Hour Behind

I've crossed a great deal of the country this year for the sake of school spirit, numerous times having trudged up the hill to the loading dock of the Petersen Events Center in the middle of the night, sometimes to be crammed into that bus for 10 hours or more, other times to enjoy a 30 minute ride to the airport where a chartered plane, free food, and in-flight movies await. The buses, noisome and designed to deprive one of any hope of sleep, and the planes, big and intimidating, having the power to make you feel that way too--these things are indescribable to outsiders.
I've learned a lot about myself on the trips that I've taken this year, and although that sounds far too common to mean anything, I encourage you to think about how many thoughts are thought when one has prospect for nothing but 10 hours of road or 5 hours of sky. Spans of time like that allow you to think in the way that makes you forget what song just played through your headphones or that you were even listening to music in the first place.
Of course, not all the travel is silent. Stories are told, jokes are made, and tension builds more than occasionally, as so many explosive personalities are bound to conflict with one another when contained.
And when half the miles have finished accumulating, we become middlemen in our own lives, looking back on the ridiculous past, trying to decide if the events gone by should make us laugh or make us cry. Or maybe we look to the travels ahead, trying to decide how best to avoid the tears of the past, even though we know that they're coming anyway. We know we have to get back on that bus or that plane, no matter what happens today or what happened yesterday. And the best way to make these subsequent hours of transit worth enduring is to fill the present to the brim with memorable experiences, whose tales can be told and retold without loss of splendor or spontaneity.
So I'm sitting on this couch on the second floor of the Sheraton Hotel in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, thinking over my adventures of the past few nights, and I call them adventures, even though I may not have ventured very far. Indeed, most nights involved the dice game, rows of people lined up, facing each other across an ironing board placed between the beds, and a flat screen TV set to ESPN and angled just right so that all could witness the glory that is March Madness. And I'm pretty sure that my initial assumption was correct: Oklahoma sucks. But if I had to be in this wretched pit of desolation that God has somehow forgotten, this is exactly the set of circumstances I'd choose. No matter what happens tonight, I'll get on that plane knowing that in some small way, I'll never be the same. I'll look down on the ever-shrinking ground of this God-forsaken hellhole knowing that I've collected a few more stories that'll get me by when I feel like I've got no more stories left to gain, and I'll look down and smile at this suckfest of a city knowing that I experienced all of this with and for the University of Pittsburgh. Hail to Pitt, for You have given me more than that for which I asked and more than I could have imagined, and these gifts shall endure far longer than I.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


We've medicated the antisocial. Now they're more annoying.
We've medicated the outspoken. Hyperactivity? Now sedated.
Bringing the left to the right,
The right to the wrong.
Curves becoming straight lines,
the straitjacket of the human mind.
vertical means the depth is gone--no area underneath
just the surface
But maybe if you squint and cock your head to the side
or cover an eye,
you can distort it back to normal


Excuse me, sir. Oh...
Is it inherently bad to be a man?
Not according to society.
Is it inherently bad to be a woman?
Not according to women.
So it's good to be a man only if
you're a man
Some sort of oxymoron or maybe paradox, I mean
they all have an "X"

Don't Want to Lose This One

I don't know what to call this yet, but it's going to be a song of some sort. I have it written on a random piece of notebook paper, and I feel that this is a much safer place to keep it.

Last night I watched guitar strings just to see the way they move
And tonight I find I'm doing the same as I'm sitting next to you
We were on a quest to find a place we could call home
And ended up learning that home was wherever we had to go
It took three hours of my life to travel all these years with you
With Coheed and Cambria and big colored circles in the sky
Sleep seemed it would never come, just too good to be alive
Everything is happy, life is good, cold, purple, fuck
These are the answers that we've found
I can't believe it's different now that we've come around
I didn't want to come back
Because for just a little bit
I didn't have to try
I didn't have to chase
Now is the stuff that gets erased

I remember staring at the screen and texting all my friends
Who kept wondering if I'd make it home and where the hell I'd been
My brand new pants are fraying from my travels with you
It seems every time we take a trip I find something new
We found summer in the late-winter Pittsburgh sky
With a full moon above our heads and the inability to lie
I finally knew how it felt to say exactly what I meant
Because for just a little bit
I didn't have to try
I didn't have to chase
Now is the stuff that gets erased

Somehow you were me in an orange hoodie
From several years ago
And I was the voice inside your head
And we both knew what song was coming next
And we didn't have to try
We didn't have to chase
Now is the stuff that gets erased

Friday, March 20, 2009

Poetry and Shit: I do it sometimes, too.

I walked out of the library carrying a posture proud of the weight it defied. I found myself in that space between the doors to the warm and the doors to the cold.
It's funny what a pair of pants can do--how a few fewer folds of fabric frame you.
I approached the door, and for the first time in about a week, a boy in the cold put himself on hold and held it open for me.
So in these curvy jeans, they make a girl of me, even if that's not what I myself see.

But what happens when I trade them, swap them out for something baggy, to show the world the rest of me? Would they make a boy of me
And would they still hold the door
because it's the right thing to do, when someone's behind you.
Since the answer is no, I can only assume
That they've made me invisible.

So boxers or panties? Binder or bra? Hip-huggers
or "Dylan's jeans"?
Turn heads in heels and a dress?
Girl today. Gone tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I went on a quest of body and mind this weekend. I'm not sure that I can be more specific than that, but you get the idea. On this quest, which I never would have believed could happen had I not experienced it myself, we traversed and conversed for what seemed like an eternity. Indeed, it seemed that this quest was my entire life all wrapped up into three hours of nothing but the present. It was a quest for identity and a place to call home. I saw the world as more real than I ever have, and for just a little bit, I didn't have to try. I could speak like a normal human being, even if some of the things that came out of my mouth made intermittently encountered strangers question my sanity and sobriety. But it's not like that doesn't happen all the time anyway. But I wasn't questioning myself, and I didn't have to think about every little thing. Everything was there, and everything was happy. In fact, I don't think I could have forced myself to think. The experience was freeing, and I'm willing to say that it changed my life, even if that change is as simple as having gained a new way of looking at things--a new interpretation on seemingly one-sided aspects of life that have been extant longer than mankind has had the ability to record them and reflect upon them. I call that simple? Well, I guess I'm not so sure about that anymore.
So where did we go?
The day started with my waking up to any empty bed and to the prospect of a seemingly empty day. When I told her that I wanted to go on an adventure, I never expected it to be the kind of adventure aforementioned. I thought we were just going shopping. We visited an old armchair on the Cathedral lawn before departing. After a rather financially decimating excursion to the Waterfront, we ventured home and decided that the trip just couldn't stop with that.
And it started with music and a few friends who knew the way. Then we found our own way as we began our quest, coming out of the basement and into a silent night, one of those Pittsburgh nights that denies its identity, the students having abandoned it for warmer, less stressful destinations, if only for a week of self-deluding relaxation.
We made contact with several companions along the way, completing the side quests as we knew we must. And just as in the great epics of yesteryear, we protagonists had no choice but to go forward, leaving these companions behind; for, in the end, each has his own quest to be faced in solitude. Even the two of us, as we eventually learned in the wee hours of the morning, must face our separate quest when the time comes. But tonight was the night upon which these two quests of ours just happened to overlap, and so we journeyed on into the night, into the desolation that is South Oakland in the midst of Spring Break.
We ended up on the front porch of a place that I've never hesitated to call home. It's been a while since I've had a place like that--a place that resonates with security, a place that truly speaks to my inner turmoil and calms the maelstrom in my soul.
And then there was the chair, still sitting there on the lawn. She went back the next day to find it gone.
So what answers did we find? Well, I think we found out pretty quickly that, maybe just for one night, home was wherever we needed to go next, even if that meant we needed to go absolutely nowhere. We obtained confirmation that the journey is way more important than the destination because, if you think about it, we really didn't end up anywhere, except right back where we started. But like I said, it's all about distance, not displacement. And perhaps the most ambiguous answer collected that evening...cold.purple.fuck
I remember lying in bed, just talking, as the hours ticked away and sleep failed to grace us with its presence, which we desired ever increasingly as the sun began to rise. I was finally able to confront some of my deepest fears, and the fact that I could communicate effectively for the first time in my life made the tears more welcome than any others that have fallen from my eyes. It's true that my life will never be the glamorous life, and I'll never have the Hollywood doc kind of thing going on. And much of what I do will go unnoticed and unappreciated, at least in the way that I think it should be. And I may disappoint all those people who have told me that I should have been the one to change the world. But there are other things that I'll get out of life that are way more important to me. I would trade that feeling of fame for the feeling of having saved a life--maybe a life no one else thought was worth saving. I'd trade a lot of things just to have that kind of meaning in my life, and that's the real reason I've decided on this career. And I don't think I've ever really been able to answer that question before. I don't think I've ever known why or how this could be so important to me. And now that I reflect upon this and all the other experiences of questioning and being so scared that I'm going to make the wrong decision, I finally get why it's right for me. I finally get that this is the future for which my entire life has been preparing me, and I know that I can and will do my job to the best of my ability--and to the best of everything else. And maybe I've known something more all along: It's not about the science at all.
"You'll never be great. But you will excel at doing ordinary things."
I never thought I'd be okay with that, and maybe I'm still not quite ready to accept it. But I'm beginning to realize how much more there is to life than being the best at something, or at least being recognized as the best. I'm beginning to realize that the ordinary things are what people need more than anything because anyone can live life without being great. Few people ever get to be great, and I think a lot of the people that we consider great fall short of that label more often than not. And maybe I'm so worried about this because of all the pressure that's been placed upon me to be great because everyone thinks that I'm the kind of person who can change the world for some reason. And maybe I will change the world, but I'm now understanding that I can do that in ways that aren't that great. I mean, no one really changes the world anyway. You can change the way you perceive the world and experience it, but it's always going to be the same world with the same problems. And if I can change the way I look at the world in one night, who's to say I can't do that for other people, even if those people never realize it until long after I am gone. And maybe I'll end up changing the world for myself.

And I never thought I'd say that I'm okay with being a brilliant and successful nobody.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Spring Break

My break officially began with the completion of my Physics homework on Friday night, around 11 pm, though my mind seemed to have wandered off several days prior. The entire week meant nothing in itself; it only had meaning in that it preceded one of the most intense, exciting, and emotionally fulfilling sporting events I have ever experienced: UCONN versus Pitt. Even when my arms seemed as if they were going to fall off--even when I repeatedly smashed my knuckle on the rim of the bass drum, causing myself ridiculous physical pain each time--I kept going with more force than I thought I had remaining. Two of our alumni drummers were present, but they did not interfere or even ask to play. They knew that this time had been ours--that this game and the energy we supplied to the team and the fans could not and should not have been taken from us. Experiences like this weekend's epic basketball game are what make drumming for an audience so fulfilling. These kinds of experiences capture the desire that is the essence of performance. And now it's tournament time, and I absolutely cannot wait.

I remember talking about meaning with someone the other day, and since Ive been bogged down with physical illness for the past few days, I decided to rummage through my writings from freshman year.
April 21, 2007:
"Meaning. I talked about meaning before. The meaning of life could be anything. It could be exceedingly complicated or childishly simple--perhaps so simple that there is no meaning whatsoever. If there is meaning to my life, I wonder what that is. Things are much simpler when you believe that there is no inherent purpose to any individual's life. But Occam's Razor is a scientific principle; people don't like accepting the no-meaning theory because they think it conflicts with their religious views. I don't think it does, though.
Perhaps God didn't create us with specific plans for the respective meanings our lives were to take on. Perhaps he created us so that we would determine it ourselves--make meaning for our lives based upon our actions. In that case, meaning is whatever we want it to be. It seems similar to the process of cell differentiation: We are born with all the options in the world open to us. We can be anything or do anything we want. There are infinite possibilities in life and therefore infinite possibilities for meaning. But things happen in our lives that restrict who we are by restricting what we experience. We are limited in what we can become. That's like determination in the biological sense--we haven't become what we are going to be yet, but it is obvious that we will never be certain things, and meaning becomes more limited.
But if meaning isn't just fate, then none of this makes any sense, though it is pretty poetic and fun to think about. Meaning can be anything. We can create meaning just by wanting to. Things are meaningless unless you attribute meaning to them. I can find meaning in a cleverly wrought phrase in a book, but other people can dismiss it as just another sentence in the crowd. I can find meaning in seeing a blue Camaro because it reminds me of my brother; it forms a connection between past and present. I can find meaning in getting good grades because it reaffirms my intelligence. My grades mean something to me, but they don't inherently contain meaning since there are many people out there that don't give a damn if they fail.
Meaning, in my opinion, is completely arbitrary. This is not the same as saying there is no meaning, period. It is saying that meaning does exist--only if we want it to. If we believe that life has meaning, we create that meaning by living up to standards and morals based on the fact that there is meaning. If we believe that life has no meaning, then we've got to get by on something else. It's a lot more difficult to operate on the latter assumption.
I choose to give my life meaning But I don't believe that I was "born to be" anything or that God had a specific plan for me when I was born. God knows everything. He knows the choices I will make because He knows me, not because there is no choice involved. "

That was written sometime around finals week at about 3 in the morning. I was obvioulsy just rambling at points, trying to avoid studying, so I repeat myself a few times, but I think the message is still pretty clear.

I feel like I have a lot more to say on the matter and on many other matters, but I'm kind of dizzy. At least there's good basketball on TV.