Saturday, August 7, 2010

Conor - Jake McNamara

On Thursday, July 29th, Jake McNamara died after being in a car accident. I knew who he was, I knew him vaguely through Zach Hose, a friend of mine from the jazz band at Springfield High. I also knew his sister, Hailey McNamara, through a play she had done at the Muni. Had events transpired slightly differently, his death probably wouldn't have affected me at all. I would have heard about it through someone, and I would have been temporarily solemn, and then moved on with my life. I wouldn't give it a thought until the next time someone mentioned it to me. It's not that I wouldn't have felt bad for the family. It's not that I wouldn't have understood that my friend Zach had lost a friend and Hailey had lost a brother. It just would have been a dim and fleeting comprehension of those facts. Had I just heard about it, I would have acknowledged the theoretical loss and tragedy and then forgotten it.

This is how things did occur: I was with a group of people that night, including Molly Mathewson and Hailey McNamara. As the nights activities came to a close everyone was ready to head their separate ways when Hailey got a call from her mother, saying that her brother, Jake, had been in a car accident and she needed to go to the hospital right away. Molly offered to drive Hailey's car and I offered to lead them both to the hospital in my car. I knew the situation was serious, but I didn't think he'd die. I never thought he'd die. The only reason I had for assuming he'd be fine was because nothing like this ever happened. Things like this don't occur. You hear about them happening but they never happen.

The three of us got to the emergency room and found Hailey's parents, who informed us that Jake hadn't made it. The parents had obviously just recently learned the news themselves, and now Hailey knew. I've never been around a death that was unexpected. The only death in my life has come after prolonged illness that allowed for us to all prepare ourselves for the inevitable. These people weren't given that kindness. Jake was gone and that's that. There was no negotiating, no last goodbyes. Hailey was in shock. The parents were more openly grieving. Meanwhile, people filed in and out of the ER who had nothing to do with Jake. Who didn't know that Jake had died, who hadn't known Jake in the first place. It's weird, but I was a little angry with them.

Molly accompanied Hailey on a short walk before Zach, Jake's friend, met us at the hospital. We joined up and together the four of us walked around the hospital grounds, trying to distract and entertain Hailey. After a few hours Hailey, Molly and I went back to my house, where Hailey could be around someplace without the constant reminders of her house or the hospital.
There, Molly and I just listened. Hailey didn't want to eat, drink, or sleep. She couldn't. She just wanted to talk to us. Molly and I didn't know Jake, so Hailey used us as a blank slate. She painted us a picture of her brother, a picture that would later be completed by the pictures and stories at his wake. Jake was an intelligent, funny, cool guy. He was someone I would've liked.

Hailey had her ups and downs, but it's important that I saw an up. It didn't last long, but it was hours after she had lost her only brother. I saw one tiny sign of optimism or acceptance. To be frank, there's nothing there to truly be optimistic about. I'd like to think Molly and I helped her. I really think we did. Molly has continued to help her in a way that amazes me. Molly and I didn't stay at the hospital after learning the news out of obligation. We wanted to help Hailey through her time of need. It wasn't convenient for me to stay up with Hailey that night, but it was an opportunity that presented itself to me. I was there, and it was the right thing to do. I'm sure most would've done the same had they been there. Molly isn't waiting for an invitation. She's helping however she can. She's been the best friend someone could ask for in this horrible situation, and Molly doesn't even see that.

Jake died over a week ago. To many of us, it is, in a way, an event that's no longer relevant to us. I'm not trying to be accusatory. I'm not point fingers at every idle person who isn't running to the McNamara's aid. We can't feel what they're feeling. What they're feeling is a pain that's personal to them. No matter how considerate or compassionate we are, we will move on. We can't feel what they're feeling because if we did, if we did have the ability to feel every death around us as if it were our brother or son, life would be damn near impossible. So don't feel guilty that life has gone on. Just try to hold onto that feeling of empathy, and be there for a friend in need. I've seen a lot of people in the past week being the friends I would want to have, given the circumstances. I'm proud of them.

I'm telling this story because it means something to me, and I think it might mean something to you, if you're reading this. If was my first experience with unexpected death, something we will all, inevitably, have to deal with. Right now the McNamara's are dealing with it. Jake was 18. He was my age. He was going off to college in a week or two. That's terrifying. After last week I think I've learned another lesson in understanding. I will try to be there for people who need me, whether that help be solicited or otherwise. I think that's important. It took a horrible accident to really drive this home, so I'll value this. I'll take it to heart.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hi, I love you, my name is Eliot.

You know the phrase "on the street"? Where you're attempting to reference a casual run-in between you and a total stranger? That phrase holds no ground in a literal setting. Because first off, when's the last time you were "on the street" to begin with? No one is ever just "on the street", unless they're in their automobile, probably with the windows closed so as to prevent others from hearing them sing like a fool. And shit, when you are on the street, how often do you talk to random people? If you see a guy doing something funny, you lean to your company (because if you walk on the street alone, let's face it, you're getting raped) and whisper about the funny man doing the funny thing. You don't tell the funny man you think he's funny, because, in turn, he might think you're weird and strange.

Do we realize that that's not how it used to be?

Communication is so vastly different than it was nine years ago. You had your two go-to options. The land line or AOL Instant Messenger IF YOU HAD IT. One was personal, the other was impersonal. You couldn't really convey exactly what you wanted to convey over AIM. So land line was often the wiser choice. Then in middle school, you all got cell phones (I had to wait until freshman year). Then it became all about being able to call anyone NO MATTER WHERE THEY WERE. That caused more social whorery than anything. You could now be out and about and still hear about the BETTER party that was happening somewhere ELSE. So you would go from place to place without having to check in with the parents from other people's house phones. Along that same time MySpace blew the world off it's feet. Now you could have a website to yourself explaining your interests and hobbies. Theoretically you could search for friends based on how much you liked their MySpace. Most of us didn't, but we did become even more blocked off from everyone else by strengthening the links enchaining our social circle. Then we realized what the hell text messaging was. That has become basically the norm for communication. THAT'S PATHETIC. With the text messaging era, the internet tide turned from MySpace to Facebook (sort of inexplicably, I guess FB was just less junior highy). And now we're left with Facebook and Text Messaging as how to communicate. You realize how devoid of personal interaction both of these mediums are?

I was walking around town the other day, "on the street" if you will, and I walked by a house that was so magnificently picturesque. The small yet expansive nature of the house combined with the blue shutters and classic architecture reminded me of the house from Up. Just the perfect little home. What made it picturesque was that the large front window had a couch up against it, with three cats sitting on it perfectly still. A powdery white older female sitting at the left end of the couch where she sat proudly looking off to something occurring to the right. A tiny kitten, striped in black and gray, laid across the middle of the couch looking up to the white cat, while another black and gray striped cat sat down on the right end of the couch, looking straight out the window. It sort of took my breath away. "I wish my house looked like that". The thing that kills me, is that a lady had parked her car out in front of the house (she was obviously the owner or at least a resident of the home) and she was bringing in some groceries she had just bought. I could have said "hi" or "your cats look pretty stoic right now on your couch like that" or "ma'am, I have been walking around for an hour now and your house is the coolest most picturesque thing I have seen. would you like some help with those bags?" And guess which one of those I said? NONE OF THE AFUCKINGBOVE. I said nothing. I looked at her, I smiled, and I walked past.

And the fact that you're probably thinking "what's wrong with that", THAT's WHAT's WRONG WITH THAT. Society nowadays interacts based on cheap glances and nervous smiles. In an unavoidable and horrifically awkward scenario in which you HAVE to say something to someone, it's usually a pre-rendered line with no substance whatsoever. "How's it going?", awkward combinations of the words "hey" and "hi", (this one's my favorite due to it's laughable awkwardness. did he just say Hey and then change it to Hi? What a bitch. I wish Conor was here.) "what's up", "hey how're ya doin?". False concern. What we mean is "occupy yourself with this question while you get the fuck out of my sight". Thankfully usually a nod and half a smile will do the trick. But if worse comes to worse, you know the champion maneuver. If the heat and tension of the moment blares down on you hotter than this globally warmed sun, you know how to dismantle the tension and make everything naive again. Whip out the phone and check the texts you know you don't have. We all do it. And it's so fucking sad.

Why can't we stand to talk to people that we don't know? Everyone we don't know isn't a rapist or drug addict, guys. Personal connection used to be normality. You couldn't get by on social circles because they weren't reinforced like they are through Facebook and the Contacts list. Getting someone's number is so much more of a dumbed down experience than it was ten years ago. Now it's just "Can I have this? Thanks." It used to be a process. Do I really want this person calling for me in front of my whole family? Is it worth the conversation that may be really weird and bad? We're so obsessed with knowing people before we meet them. In the days of yesteryear you took a chance, and that was that.

Some say communication is leaps and bounds "ahead" of where it was ten years ago. I think just the opposite. We've found a way to make communication less personal and more of an activity. My favorite example, Tina Pham has nearly 2,500 Facebook friends. You know what's remarkable about her profile? Nothing. She lists nearly no interests. Her interest is knowing who people are. And I like Tina, I think she's pretty cool. But I don't think she realizes that she doesn't really know what those people are like. And they don't really know what she's like. All they know is that Facebook is fun and having 2,500 friends must make you feel pretty damn good about yourself. Give me my top five best friends and I wouldn't trade her. Not if you threw the world in as a side bonus.

I like seeing who people really are. Not how they craft their social perception. I don't give a shit about your Facebook page. I want to know, if you and I were together, would we have a good time? Usually the answer is yes. People are so intricate and amazing in so many ways. They, first off, all have flaws. They all have likes and dislikes. Everyone thinks they're the main character of this story of life. They have so many responsibilities and emotions and goals and tendencies and wonderful characteristics that separate them from the other six billion people glued to this ball of dirt and water that we call earth.

That shit's pretty hard to convey through emoticons.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

When I was in middle school I used to go to the Easily Amused Improv Comedy shows whenever they had them. This was mostly because I had a big ol' crushy crush on Dane the Mane Gaydos, but also because i thought they were pretty fun. Fast forward to freshman year and I'm slowly of friends with none other than the troupe's youngest member; Conor O'Brien. Conor badgered me to audition for the troupe and eventually I decided it sounded like a pretty cool gig. Soon I was the newest member of the troupe but I was no where near to feeling comfortable in that position.

Every week at practice I was surrounded by gods. These were all kids two or three years older than me who had bigger personalities than anyone I had ever hung out with. They told hilarious stories, had adventures that I wouldn't for years and all had the ability to command the attention of an entire room. Needless to say O felt pretty inferior. Of course with time I got more used to being around these people and became more comfortable putting myself out there in front of them, but I never quite felt in.

One by one these gods left. Each year more would graduate until finally this year I looked around and realized i was the second oldest member of the troupe. I was now a part of the elite and there were kids younger than me who probably didn't feel quite up to the level of my age group. No here's my question, are we the gods? This goes for pretty much everything I was a part of Senior year. Soccer, city tournament, improv and just being a person at school. Had my friends and I become the people I had worshipped? My reaction is to say no,k to say that I still don't measure up to those people and never will but I'm not sure. Perspective changes everything.

Two days ago was actually my very last improv practice, and sort of my very last thing of high school. Improv was the last thing I was a part of that felt like a "high school activity", and now it's over. Like really over. I'm not saying I'm crushed about it but it is pretty weird.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Nick - Changing The World, Ect.

"You're going into music/journalism/math? That's pretty cool. That sounds like a fun career. Me? I'm just going into pre-med this year. Biology major. I want to be an optometrist, or maybe an ophthalmologist. Yeah. Oh, eyes. That means eye doctor. Yeah, well, I think it'll be pretty cool." - Me, every time the subject of careers comes up.

At first I wanted to be a singer in a band and make video games. And then I grew up and realized those are not real careers. And then I spent a long time not knowing what I wanted to do. What I really wanted to do was change the world; leave a lasting mark that will benefit everybody. I thought about being a politician, but it's just too hard to get into politics as a viable career. I thought about music, but I just don't feel that I'm dedicated enough to have music as anything other than a hobby. I thought about biochemistry as a way to develop new technology to change the world, but I can't see myself doing that for the rest of my life. Theater is also an interesting option, but it's another thing I just can't see myself doing for life; it's difficult to get to a good place in theater. I know it doesn't sound like the optimal way to change the world, but I've finally decided that my plan, for right now, is to be an eye doctor.

It's not that being a doctor sounds like the most fun thing ever, because it doesn't. It's just that it sounds like something I think I can be good at. I've really been interested in being an eye doctor ever since my eye doctor mentioned to me what an easy career at is. At first I was just considering it as a novelty, a sort of a loophole: get paid like a doctor without having to do any emergency work or high-stakes surgery. But the more I got to thinking about it, I realized that I do have an interest in being an eye doctor and it's something that I really want to do. So while my career isn't nearly as cool as yours is going to be, I feel like it has a lot of perks in its own way.

First is the money. If find a better way to change the world later in life and need finances, more schooling, or what-have-you to do it, I'm going to be financially secure enough to do that. Most important to me is that this is something I can be good at. I wouldn't have any problem being an eye doctor for the rest of my life, and it's something I can always improve in. There's always more you can do in a career like this. I could get an eye doctor job at a better place, I could start my own eye clinic, I could work in research developing new technologies. It's a career with endless opportunities.

Another thing that played a strong part in my decision is that I can change my mind pretty much at any time. If I get to medical school and decide I want to be an anesthesiologist instead, no problem; I've taken all the right courses already, I just have to adjust my prospective classes and I'm good to go. If I decide during undergrad that I want to go into biochemistry or another research science, no problem; I've already taken all the chemistry, biology and calculus that I need to get me there.

I'm happy to say that even though I'm keeping my options as open as possible, I'm pretty happy with the career decisions I've made so far. I feel like I can start working toward being an eye doctor, and either I will really like it and keep going for it, or I'll find something I like better and move in a different direction.

I'm confident that I can find a way to change the world somewhere on this path I've laid out for myself.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Easy Going

--Robert Langellier

I'm not a great leaver, but I've noticed I'm pretty good at it sometimes. I walked away from my life's passion of baseball without a glance backwards. I buried with ease a decade of dedication and love and hard work. Being freed from Sacred Heart-Griffin and the Catholic Church was the closest thing to being saved I've ever felt. There are tons of people and memories there that I promise I'll never forget or regret, but I'd be lying if I said the sun wasn't shining brighter than normal the afternoon I left the commons for the last time.

And now I'm leaving Springfield for college, which also feels easy. Endless opportunities are right within my grasp, and most of the time I can drown out my nostalgia and fear pretty easily with visions of the potential of what's to come. But that's not a mindset you can keep for every hour of every day. Try as I might to live in the big picture, the bittersweet reality still slips through the cracks most days, and I end up wishing I could have time to relive my great memories or unravel all my little what-could-have-beens.

This summer has been (easily) the best I've had in 18 years. I've found little bits of happiness from every imaginable medium of places, experiences, and relationships. This summer has been twice as long as any summer before it, and I've had twice the fun in every hour of it. And that gives me all the more love for all the people I've met and made connections with. And that makes me all the more upset that in 2 and a half weeks, all of that love is getting cut off, god knows what percent of it forever. Even as I know new ones will take place, I know a lot of inevitable adventures and misadventures will never happen. In a lot of people I can already see our friendships faltering, which carries a lot of doubt about the future of them. A lot of people I want to know forever and still contact when I'm 50, and I know this will be true with maybe 3 of them, if I'm lucky. I've learned lately that the recent future will take just as much as it gives. Sometimes I get choked up and I want to cry. I'm desperate to cling on to what I've got, yet I'm equally desperate to move on and become who I'm going to be.

Some things you don't leave, but you're forced from. Relationships, great adventures, and ages in life come and go, seemingly from beyond anyone's locus of control. Those things suck to leave, to the point where nostalgia feels almost like a physical scar. And then I come up with the best of excuses: "Fuck her; I never did anything wrong," "It's all a part of life," and "Some things are unattainable - I can't expect more than the expected." That's when I realize that I've thrown away my fair share of potential relationships, or that I'm the one who put my toys in bins to make room for work uniforms and school textbooks. I'm the one who mailed in my college applications. I'm not staying here; I'm sacrificing everything I'm familiar with, and it's worth it to chase whatever dreams I can hold on to without actually growing up. I know everyone's being dealt pretty much the same hand as me, but I'm still really scared, and I often find myself feeling more like a teenager than I ever have before.