Tag Archives: adventure

Operation Free the Flamingos! (Part 2/2)

October 16th, 2015. The “Operation Free the Flamingos” launch date was quickly approaching and preparations were needed to ensure the success of this mission. I would not falter in the face of danger, I would not let the dreams of my loyal companions die, and I would not accept defeat. I called all the people that I thought could sway victory on my side. Only the chosen few – fleet-footed, natural instincts, and rebellious hearts – could ally themselves to the cause. The stakes were high, but the reward outweighed the risk. But not everyone could muster my overly enthusiastic fantasies of flamingo freedom. Opposition to my cause arose. And the damages from flamingo property loss were not the issue. The problem was that people didn’t want to steal from the Alumni Association. I hadn’t considered the fact that I was actually stealing from anyone. In my mind it was a harmless prank, embodying the ideals of the original prankster. The Father of the Flamingos. But I had to wonder… Would I really be honoring his legacy? I had to consider that if I was going to eradicate the flamingo population.

I continued to call people and think about the implications of my actions. And I had to accept the criticisms. Maybe stealing a flamingo was not as glorious as I thought it would be… The WFAA was doing this fundraiser for the university. And with the recent budget cuts, we have a large gap to fill if we want to continue to uphold our reputation for excellence. I could not rob from the organization that funds our school. The organization that funds my scholarship. I had a dilemma. Because I still needed a flamingo. But if I still needed a flamingo, I would have to try a new approach.

Over the past year, I built a rapport with the Alumni Association. And I would use that network to overtly plead for my primary objective. I was resolute in will, determined to ask even the smallest connection to help me with my outlandish request. The emails flew to and fro, scattering their information to computers all over the university and leaving my laptop as fast as my words per minute could bring them to life. And lo and behold! Tuesday evening I received a fortuitous email from my correspondent informing me that, due to my Red ShirtTM history and new found friends in high places, she could secure a “leftover” flamingo for me.

Wednesday morning, 8am at the Wisconsin Alumni Association building. There will be a package waiting for you at the front desk. (of course I am making this sound more like a drug deal than a personal favor, which is far more interesting)

With a flamingo held firmly in my grasp, I basked in the glory of victory, cast my hands out into the air thanking any otherworldly influence that could have even remotely contributed to the outcome of these events!! I didn’t need to lead a clan of battle-hardened college students in a raid on the home décor of Bascom Hill (though it would have been awesome). I just asked. And I received. It was as simple as that.

flamingosInLove_v02

Love can be found in the strangest of places.

But my story was not finished that day. Not yet. I was indebted to the WFAA. I had to make it up to them somehow. And I had the perfect solution: I would exchange my criminal past for a new future of security detail. As much as I had previously wanted to steal all the flamingos, the WFAA wanted to keep every last one of them. But something changed. Our once conflicting views now aligned. Everything came full circle, from thief to defender in the matter of minutes. That is how quickly life can change. And I would hold myself to the same standard that I held on the opposing side (but reverse, kinda like an enantiomer). Before I wanted to leave Bascom Hill barren from an attack by a ragtag strike squad of college lunatics, but now I would safeguard the livelihood of the flamingo residents in unison with the Alumni Secret Defense Forces (ASDF, just for kicks). Not a single flamingo would leave that hill. Not today. Not on my watch.

DSC_0653

Freeze! Put the flamingo down on the ground and no one gets hurt #flamingosecurity

So I didn’t catch anyone that day. It probably because no one wanted to steal a flamingo while I was on guard. They knew their chances would exponentially increase once I left. And I applaud them for that. I wouldn’t want to steal a flamingo if the original bad-ass was now guarding the treasure. But that wasn’t the point. I didn’t need chase anyone down the hill for miles on end, screaming at the top of my lungs and unleashing a battle cry that would stop men in their tracks. Or tackle perpetrators to the ground and rub dirt in their faces alongside the failure as I pinned them to the ground and dashed their dreams of owning an authentic Bascom Hill rarity (though this all would be MATHMATICAL!). I just wanted a flamingo.

One more item was crossed off my bucket list that day. And one more person could enjoy the sentiment of the UW-Madison flamingo. I was living my dreams and I would continue to do so.

bruhEdit

Me and muh PIC enjoying a mission success. ‘nuf said

Advertisements

The Senior Bucket List

Senior year has arrived, and with it has come a most deplorable fate. The secret that has been hidden in plain sight. What we have chosen to ignore. Refused to even acknowledge its existence. It was easier that way… But now the time has come. No longer can our blissful ignorance protect us. Nor can we hide from the inevitable. The truth must come to light. Our eyes must be opened.
A cold, hard dose of reality slaps you in the face, beats you down to the ground, and leaves you just conscious enough to realize what is happening to you. We are seniors. We will be dragged – kicking and screaming against our wills – into what is known as “the real world”. Whispered rumors become full fledged realities. We have seen others succumb to this most harrowing fate, but it was never us. The day that we would be standing in the place of fabled seniors that were once our closest allies are now forgotten in the depths of what is called “undergraduate lyfe”.
Being buried under a pile of assignments doesn’t look so bad compared to the dirt that would be sprinkled over our metaphorical graves if we left. The death of our youth. And the birth of our adulthood. (which explains why there is so much kicking and screaming involved…)

While some seniors may turn their head in denial away from the impending doom of the future (myself included), others are taking preemptive measures to ensure they do join the ranks of the fallen. These seniors are spending their time studying for admissions tests, securing letters of recommendation, and finalizing their plans for the next step beyond the illusory experience of the undergraduate stage. But I cannot bring myself to do that. Not with so many unknown variables left to solve in my equation. This is what we have been trained for… so why do I feel immensely unprepared?

This is why I choose to invest my time into the present, hoping that it will pave a road for my future. It will be my “first time” for the last time this year. I won’t have the opportunity to be in an environment that facilitates the idiosyncratic nature of my being. College forces us to discover so I have to make use of that while I can.

I have clearly taken the “bucket-half-full” perspective on this one, so with no further ado I introduce THE ONE, THE ONLY

SENIOR BUCKET LIST

  • Walk Across a Frozen Lake Mendota – possibly singing songs from the “Frozen” soundtrack
  • Ice Skate in Teeney Park
  • Go to a Drag Show
  • Release a Red Heart-Shaped Balloon in the Capital building
  • Take a Picture with Bucky
  • Take a Walk in the Tunnel System
  • Olbrich Garden – Thai Pagoda
  • Attend a Muslim mosque, St. Paul’s church, Jewish synagogue, Buddhist temple
  • Obtain a pink flamingo
  • Open Mic “Take On Me” at a student org
  • Shake hands with Chancellor Blank
  • Ride Merry-Go-Round at Ella’s Deli
  • Go Inside the Clock Tower
  • Sit on Abe’s Lap
  • Love and be loved in return
  • Participate in the Battle on Bascom
  • Steal a lunch tray and sled down Bascom
  • Go out to lunch with my friend Ty Tau
  • Sneak into Camp Randall at night
  • Freakfest!
  • Eat at L’Etoile
  • Badger football game?!?
  • Essen Haus Boot Challenge
  • Steal a Memorial Union chair
  • Go somewhere I have never been before
  • Eat the Plaza Burger
  • 5K! Color Run?
  • Go to Holi, Diwali, Chinese New Year… SOMETHING!!!
  • Drink at The Library
  • Orchestra Recital!
  • Positively impact a random stranger’s life
  • Leave my mark on the UW-Madison campus
  • Nothing Left Unsaid – ongoing life perspective

That, my friends, concludes my list of unexplored mischief for my final year on campus. But by no means is it exhaustive! I just wanted to open a dialogue to generate ideas about what I should and want to be doing before I leave for good. One final rally that would make all my dreams come true – whether I knew what those dreams were or not. I want to look back on these moments and reminisce over all the crazy things that I have thought, and said, and done (it usually happens in that order). But as I ponder of the wonders of my life that are yet to be had, I have come to realize that I can’t plan everything. That is the nature of the future. It is unknown. And there is just too much adventure to be had!!! So until then I’ll take life one slice at a time and make sure that my mischief gets managed.

Flying, Falling, Freeing

I don’t know how this happened. I just know that it did. I remember earlier this year after watching “Kingsman: The Secret Service”, I wanted do everything that they did. For three weeks, I had new idols and new life ambitions. My focus on becoming a Kingsman faded with the initiation of finals week, but I still relished the idea. When my roommate mentioned it was his lifelong dream to sail through the skies at terminal velocity, my mind was made up. We were going to do it. On nothing more than a whim, I gathered information, identified cheap tandem skydiving sites, and coerced my closest acquaintances into my psychopathic fantasies of this potentially fatal pastime.

During the ride to the Wisconsin Skydiving Center, I was so psyched to be doing this. Skydiving?!? This was in my wildest dreams. And I would be doing it with my best friends. It was pure excitement. It was uninhibited joy. It would fulfill my thrill-seeking, adrenaline-crazed, sense of adventure quota for the month! Probably… But this would be a highlight of my summer. A highlight of my life.

Unlike them, we will all knew that we had parachutes… or at least we were attached to people that had them

Scene from “Kingsman: The Secret Service”, uploaded by Steve Hubbard

When we arrived at the Skydiving Center, my enthusiasm skyrocketed. We were here! I could see the hanger, the planes, and the instructors donning obscure jumpsuits. My objective was sitting right in front of me and I would waste no time to completing my mission. My roommates and I quickly signed the papers and completed the training. I didn’t really pay attention much though. I was too focused on the end result to pay attention to the basic life-saving maneuvers and standard operating procedure for basic skydiving survival skills. Talking about the experience wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t continue living vicariously through brochures and pamphlets. I want to create my own adventures.

Naturally, I volunteered to go first. I would tribute myself to appease the skies. The wind wanders aimlessly, searching to release unsuspecting travelers from the Earthly chains that bind them. We must sacrifice our Earthly natures in order to ascend. The sky has something to teach us and I was about to discover the secrets that it held most dear. Guru Laghima said it most appropriately:

“Let go your earthly tether. Enter the void. Empty and become wind.”

zaheermeditating

FAVORITE LoK Villian right here #trueflight

We would soar ever higher, above the cloud layer and over 9000(ft). But as we continued our slow ascent to the heavens above, the reality of the situation began to register in my brain. We were 10,000 above the ground. Two months ago I could only dream of the possibilities of floating among the clouds and observing the atmospheric processes that directed their movement. But now that my eyes – along with the rest of my body – could view the masses of clouds and feel the direction of airflow, I wasn’t so sure that this was what I wanted. But it did not matter anymore because we had arrived at our destination. The sky was the limit and we had reached the end of the line.

The end of the line meant that we were supposed to be ready. The instructor unlocked the latch and opened the door to my demise. My initial excitement immediately melted into a distressful terror. What was I doing at this height?!? 10,000 ft in the air? How did I get here? Before I had not questioned the sequence of events that led up to this moment, but now that was the only thought on my mind. I grabbed the rope with my hand. My mind was racing, but my heart beat faster. I put my foot on the step outside the plane. My inner being was telling me to choose life. And I was in the perfect position to fall.

But that’s why I was doing this. I wanted to live.

The time fell upon me. We were here and there was only one thing left to do. I longingly stared down to the Earth, remembering the comfort that solid ground beneath my feet gave me. I did not know what was going to happen, but I knew I had to do this. I took one last breath.

And then I began to fall.

We first fell backwards and I could only stare at the sky and wonder how there existed anything above our current altitude. But then we flipped and I was tumbling though the air, swirling in endless loops in all directions. We stabilized. I felt a rush of air blasting upward, cutting through me. Into my body and into to my soul. I tried to scream. I couldn’t hear any words. There was air all around me, but I couldn’t even breathe. I was shaking. There was no weight to my body. I didn’t exist anymore. But when I made the strange realization that I was nothing more than a disembodied conscious, it was then that I was free.

I looked towards the ground knew that I was flying. –Er, well falling. Plummeting more actually. But I was in the sky and I was the wind. I felt the acceleration of my body, falling faster and faster. And I extended my limbs to their furthest points so my entire body could capture this moment. My mouth was wide open trying to take in the experience because I knew that any attempt to gasp for air was futile. I had released my Earthly tether. I had entered the void. I emptied and became wind.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A vicarious viewing of my socially deviant behavior

But then I was pulled upward. Yanked back into my body and out of this otherworldly experience. The parachute had deployed. Our freefall was over. We began our leisurely descent back down to Earth. And it was in these moments that I learned the most.

Now that the most exhilarating moments had fleetingly left us, it was time to reflect. My instructor told me to sit in silence and observe my surroundings. I looked across the horizon and down to the Earth, in search of new insight for my fatigued state of mind. I could see everything from up above. The organizational layout of the cities, the plots of land dedicated to agricultural production, the thin strips of black road that transport people from one location to the next. But none of the people below even knew that I was up there or that I even existed. I was an inactive participant, removing myself so I could observe the story unfolding before my eyes and the people creating it. As the wind guided us gently to the ground, it gifted me with the experience of flight and a new perspective with which I could view the world.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

7/10 for the landing – Didn’t quite stick it…

When I landed I was breathless. Partially because my heart still had not stabilized, but mostly because I couldn’t comprehend what had just happened! It wasn’t until afterwards, when I sat and reflected on the experience that I began to feel more down-to-Earth (likely because I had Earth to stand on now). But in all honesty, I did learn the power of sky. The power it has to see what others cannot. The immense beauty that it contained. And the potential for danger that it held.

Skydiving provided irrefutable evidence for my next step in life. It showed me that I should not be afraid to jump head-first into the unknown. It is where we can learn the most about ourselves and the world. It is completely necessary to push past the boundaries of our comfort zones. And sometimes it is the only way. We can move forward by being in the moment. We can welcome our journey into the uncharted lands of the future.

“… And once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci

EDIT 08/24/15 Changed quotation credit from Zaheer to Guru Laghima – newb mistake, I know…