Tag Archives: reflections

The Deconstruction of Death

A part of me died today. The part of me that depends on other people for approval. The part of me that thought I needed someone else. The part of me that lacked the confidence to go out into the world and get what I wanted. I held myself back, clinging onto any form of social acceptance I could find. Like a parasite, I would suck species dry. Lapping up affection. Demanding attention. Desperately wanting to be seen. To be heard. To be found.

I was waiting for someone to come save me from despair. For a beacon of hope to shine through the darkness that surrounds me. Something to set my soul ablaze and obliterate the constructs of my mind, breaking the boundaries of thought and demolishing ancient architectural paradigms. The endless arches would crumble under the weight of my salvation, my one saving grace.

What I could only hope for…

But now I’ve opened my eyes. And I accept reality. No one is coming. I lick at imaginary pools of backwashed tenderness. Crusty white dust and limestone rings now signify the feelings that once were and no longer are. There is no attention to demand. No one to see. No one to hear. No one to know that I even existed.

The stories I told myself were just that: Stories. Fictional figures of a fantasy life, forming unattainable notions of friendship, and family, and love. The best I could ever get was in the theatre of my mind, rerun after rerun, rewinding the reel over and over until it runs raw all over itself, refusing to repeat my sickened fantasy. Falsely leading me into a sense of hope for the future. A future not worth living.

But I step forward anyways. Wading through the unknown. Pushing past the pain. Addressing each issue head on, trembling with fear, cowardly, shamefully. Holding onto a tiny bit of hope that one day it could change. That one day things could be different.

I muster what little courage I own into a perceptual line of sight. I need every bit to overcome the spirit that possesses me. We are locked in a violent grip, a battle for my soul. Control of my actions. My body, my soul. This battle wages on for what feels like centuries. The casualties of war accumulating, beginning to spill over and out of the realm of the mind and into the other world. And the life of others must suffer the consequences of my actions.

But today that battle has ended. A mark in the halls of time, a scar on the cloth of history. A part of me died today. But the circle of life does not let death go to waste. Death begets life. Before I was incomplete. Now I am whole. As if that part never even existed.

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The Adverse Tea Leaf

swimming in a sea of caffeination –

falling down a listless path

the others drifting nearby

almost lazily, but they keep me afloat.

Makeshift life jackets save my conscious self

with an unconscious effort,

knowing nothing more than the science 

they live up to: buoys bobbing 

up and down like the florescent peel

of yellow skin stuck in the water.

That acidic iceberg set in the distance

follows the ebb and flow of my mind

until I crash into that block of ice

head-on:

you sunk my battleship

 

and I am awake

The Incomprehensive List of Freshman Taboos: A List of Don’ts

This is the second half of my list. These are recommendations to remind you of all the opportunities available in your first year of college. Of course, these are all merely suggestions. Take as much or as little of my words as you like *bows respectfully*

Take your freshman year by storm. Fly my pretties! Fly!!!

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to Your Professors

They might be 30 years older than you but they are still people… mostly. Although they operate on a higher brain wave function and possess motivation levels that rival programmed robots, they do have emotions and – believe it or not – were in your shoes at one point in time. Professors want to help. So let them! They can’t help you if you don’t let them know. Whether you’re sailing smooth waters or weathering the storm, you should stop by. Only good things can happen.

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Some things are not always as they seem… #snapeadoodle

Don’t Stay In Your Room All the Time

For those of you that do not have legitimate medical reasons or severe anxiety issues, then a little sunlight never hurt (NOTE: Vampires should not take this advice to… heart? Do they have hearts???). Not to mention that you will miss out on all the free swag, chill people, and good times that are happening all around you. Besides… how much Netflix can one watch?

Don’t Procrastinate… An Unhealthy Amount

Some procrastination is necessary. When you’re working for 10 hours straight on that paper due tomorrow morning at 7am, frustration levels are likely over 9000 so you should take a break – or maybe a 20 min nap – to refresh your thoughts. But don’t let that “break” become more than just a break. Procrastination is a college student’s public enemy #1. Don’t let it become yours. Vanquish this beast with the power of internal motivation and an indomitable spirit (full MP cost, Cooldown: 1 week)!

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Does anyone else feel this way?!?

Don’t Forget Your Roots

Let’s start things off with a quote from one of my favorite animated series:

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“No matter how things may seem to change, never forget where you came from.” – Zuko’s Mother, Ursa

It took time for our main character to come to terms with his past, but that is exactly what he needed to do in order to survive the onslaught of corrupt Earth Nation soldiers. Granted, none of you will face this exact situation, but we all have faced that internal existential crisis at some point in our lives. We pleadingly cast our sorrows into the sky longingly hoping for a response as we shout like a Dragonborn being into the air, “Who am I?!?”. You are a product of your family and friends and the experiences that you have developed with them. They will be greatest allies in your darkest hours. Never forget that. At the end of the day, Zuko knew what was up. It’s all about HONOR! HONOR! HONNNNOOOORRRRR!!! Bring honor to your family. Bring honor to yourself. But most importantly, bring honor to your cow.

Don’t Stress Over “Major” Decisions

The stereotypical first-year student question that plagues the minds of unsuspecting freshman and torments their souls for the rest of their years in college: What is your major? Just kidding. It’s not that dramatic. Not quite. Picking a major is the least of your concerns. There are so many possibilities that lie ahead of you that you’ll find that this is irrelevant. Find a love interest! Apply for that dream job! Meet the band that you drool over! Just follow your interests, find your passions, and make your dreams come true. The major will come along the way. Don’t be a stereotype!

The Incomprehensive List of Freshman Taboos: A List of Do’s

I was tasked to come up with a presentation for the incoming freshman to prepare them for the year they are about to experience at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. What began as merely a discussion with the new students about life as a college student became an opportunity to reflect on everything that has happened to me since I have been in college. This is one half of a list that I have compiled detailing advice to heed for the fresh kids on the block. Enjoy!

Do Explore the Campus and the City

UW-Madison is much more than just a campus. The city of Madison has a vibrant population of free thinkers, humanitarians, and life-long learners to match the attendants of the university. Find your favorite coffee shop. Take a walk in the arboretum. Visit the free local zoo (did I mention that it’s free?) And discover the hidden history of the city – most notably the tunnel system! Adventure awaits you! You just have to go out there and find it.

Clearly Russell is a Badger! Follow in his footsteps and explore (or follow him and eat his trail chocolate)!

All rights to this video are owned by © Copyright Disney

Do Ask For Help When You Need It

College is an adjustment period. Everyone is transitioning past the awkward stage of pubescent hormone misbehaviors and into a semi-realistic introduction into the inner workings of the “real world”. The shenanigans do not stop. There will be times where you get yourself into trouble. You bomb a test. The love of your life dumps you. A family member passes away. Emotions run high in life the same as they always have but college intensifies those feelings. Whatever issue you encounter, do not be afraid to ask your friends or family for a little guidance. And the campus community provides a long list of people – from residential to medical – that are dedicated to helping you navigate your way here. Everyone feels these hard times. And we need to help each other get through them.

Do Be Present for Class

Being present for class means more than just showing up. Although showing up – on time I might add – is a good place to start. When you are in class you put away the phone, stay away from internet black holes (Facebook, Twitters, all dat other good nothin’ web space), and zip your lip and your friend’s lips as well. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Especially the professor. You are a student at a university. You pay to be here. So pay attention and your work will pay off. And if you are feeling like an overachiever, let some of those behaviors continue past the classroom. It can’t hurt, right?

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The picture says it all… Don’t do that!

Do Join A Club

It is tremendously easier to make friends if you have intersecting interests and joining a club will help you find people that share those commonalities with you. You might think that you are the only one harboring a guilty pleasure behind closed doors, but chances are – and the chances are high with an undergraduate pool of 29,000+ Badgers – that you aren’t the only one hiding that dirty little secret. So step out of the shadows and into the light with your freakish obsessions. Be loud and proud weirdos together!

Do Be Yourself

You could be downing doughnuts or other sugary sweets, busting some embarrassing moves to your favorite songs, geeking out over your favorite childhood cartoon or even if you see that she’s wearing short skirts and you’re wearing t-shirts, there’s one thing you should always do: Be Yourself. People appreciate the authenticity. And you will too when you find the group of people that accept you for all your weirdness.

Let’s get weird!
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Because it’s Batman

Moving Out and Moving On

One week ago I – and the rest of Madison – engaged in the pleasantries and pains of Move-Out Day. Everyone had an immense amount of preparations to make to ensure save travel and transportation of their precious life’s belongings into their new houses and out of their old lodging. We were required to erase our existence from the space we had inhabited for so long. We packed our rooms that were full of an overwhelming assortment of items, we scrubbed the rooms free of the filth that had accumulated because our forsaken house chores, we were compelled to forgive and forget the excitement – or “drama” – of the past year, and lastly we vacated the premises to release our old homes from the duty of sheltering ourselves from the outside. And lest we be labeled as trespassers and fined outrageous fees, we left the cracked walls and crumbling floorboards of our homesteads behind. But the empty shell that we were leaving behind held our history, etched into the walls of the apartment and the corridors of our minds. The relationships we had forged existed as residual echoes of our time there. Remnants of our old lives would resurge whenever we saw each other again, remembering the good times and the bad and all the shenanigans that ensued. We weren’t really saying goodbye.

With my capacity for anxiety filled to the brim, I left looking forward to the change that was about to occur. With a new apartment came a new set of roommates to learn to live with in the upcoming year. We would cook, clean, exercise, joke, annoy, laugh, insult, fight, celebrate, push the boundaries of our comfort zones, see more of each other that we ever would need to for a lifetime, navigate this whole “college thing” together, and experience the life as a set of “bros” together.

I love my roommates in the most heterosexual way #bros4lyfe

Video credits awarded to youtube stars nigahiga and chestersee

Because my new roommates already lived with the same management company that we were going to live with this year, move out and move in could be accomplished on the same day. That meant no Homeless Night for any of us! But it also meant TWICE the work in one day… Though with the resolve to have a roof over our heads and the imminent termination of their leases to pressure us, we all worked together to haul our livelihood out of destitution and into our dependable – though distant – new apartment. In just under three hours we had moved all of our stuff and some additional Christmas goodies into our home base.

The move-in was not that difficult, not any more strenuous or harrowing than the average experience. What was most daunting was the change attached to moving. Every year I am forced to uproot my life and restart. Implanting facets of my life onto new ground and adapting to the new environment. I have fallen into an endless cycle of instability, unable to identify sources of a fixed nature to anchor me in place. But this year I know that is going to change.

In the past I have lived with the people that I currently live with now. But I detached myself from them, thinking that I needed to be alone to truly grow to my full potential. But even as the distance separated me from them, the intended isolative effect could not take root. I still saw them every week. I still spent my weekends at their house. Nothing changed. Except for my outlook. These were the relationships that we were meant to have in college. The proverbial friends that you will have forever. I was missing out on major life events. I was missing out on building a life that had meaning. It is only with the assistance of an unwavering community of friends that I will achieve an unchanging state of mind. I will solidify my amorphous state of affairs, shaping the future of my final year on campus.

Throughout my years on campus, I have developed rapport with an abundance of campus advocates to help guide me through my journey. There are so many people that have placed their faith in me to become a successful, contributing citizen of this interconnected world. And I will not let them down. I will not let myself down. I have come too far to let that happen.

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Everything changed when the Kai nation attacked…

In my first year I learned to let go of the past and not focus on who I was.

In my second year I searched deep within my soul and discovered who I am.

In my third year I explored the possibilities that lie ahead and envisioned all that I could be.

In my fourth year I will take hold of my future and tell the world everything that is Kai.

Look out Madison. A wild Kai has appeared. Truthfully, he’s been here all along. But now he has decided that he would let you know.

Objects Are Lonelier Than They Appear

August 14th: A date that has innumerable forms of significance attached to it

Some treat this day as a period of cleansing and renewal. Others treat it as a time of upheaval and unrest. And some might even have a birthday on this most sacred of days. Still one definition sets itself apart from the rest, celebrating the act of giving – to themselves and their own homes. Hippie Christmas.

The tradition of Hippie Christmas is founded upon the transition of rental property leases for the Madison demographic of 18-24 year olds AKA college students. Leasers are forced to comply with their contracted agreement, and must vacate the premises of their living quarters else face “undesirable consequences”…

But the values of Hippie Christmas overshadows the history, proven by the many city inhabitants that strive to uphold the glory of this day. And with the holiday season upon them, the city of Madison made every effort to embody the preemptive refurnishing spirit. Celebrators kept in mind that good fortune comes to those who come early and that the early bird gets plasma screen T.V. They also were well informed of the target sites, setting their sights upon residential areas of affluence and a reputation for disposal. Veterans of this ceremonial practice would plunder to their heart’s content, obtaining only the most legendary items for the most profitable of prices. But there was always room for amateur practitioners to abscond with a generous haul of looted goodies from gilded garbage holds. Everyone was a winner on Hippie Christmas.

I wanted something different than the average citizen celebrator though. I was on an entirely different mission that night.

I would engage in a search and rescue operation. My primary objective was to search for items that contained sentimental value. These forgotten relics once stood for some other purpose, a hidden meaning beyond the original intention. Memories forged through the trials of time and bound through sincere ownership by an earnest possessor. But they are no longer. They are subject to the impermanence of human life and the wasteful nature that has overtaken society.

We watch each other discard and abandon. So many of the things we own have an expiration date. An expiration date arbitrarily assigned by ourselves. Once our possessions become obstacles to happiness, cleaning, fire safety laws or moving out, we act as we always have. We sever our ties to it. But what we really are doing is defacing the value behind the object. There are stories attached to it, a history preceding the present, and human lives intertwined because of this very object’s existence. There are so many belongings that we accumulate over time that it becomes hard to discern the true value. But we have become masters of symbolic attachment. This unspoken evaluation is what sets certain items apart. This is what makes them special.

The items that have been deemed “special” by the scavengers roaming the streets of Madison are a select few. The chosen artifacts of a prehistoric period when this object meant nothing more than its intended function. A point in time when no being associated a thought or feeling or belief to the body of the item. This “thing” resides in a sea of disposable goods and overindulgent waters, but the retention of its function allowed it to float to the surface. It is ripe for the picking and ready to take on a new form. To be salvaged from the wreckage of wastefulness is the greatest honor that can be bestowed. Though these foragers forsake the codes of honor, unsympathetic to the fates of the things around them. The foragers only seek to find items that fulfill their needs. But these items do not care. They just want to be used.

But then there are the objects that are overlooked. They do not have a buoy to keep them afloat. They experience major turbulence as endless waves of collectors wash over them, and bury them further down into the endless expanse. These objects did have something special though. They recorded moments of life. Revealed thoughts and feelings and beliefs. What existed was an opportunity to look through a window into someone else’s life. Each of these personal effects offering insight and a new perspective into the daily life of a citizen in Madison. These objects held the most significance in my eyes.

I treasured the articles that I did find. I sat and gazed at them, demanding that they give up their secrets. Let me into the lives they recorded. I wondered what these people were like. What I could discern from the items they once owned. I saw the significance behind these items, but I didn’t know the history. I wanted to save these objects. Why didn’t they?

I did have a reason for wanting to rescue these objects, but it is unclear to others around me. Perhaps it was my sense of inquiry, to discover the nature of the world around me. Perhaps it was my sense of duty, to save the broken and needy. Or perhaps it was because I saw a little bit of myself in these objects. So easily abandoned. So easily disposed. Just like a piece of trash.

Christmas came early for me this year. And I am proud to have successfully celebrated this most distinguished day, leaving with a triumphant victory and a newly enlightened perspective.

A Model Student

My week at the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s (NCAR) Undergraduate Leadership Workshop was underway and I was building my professional repertoire for the future. Just as this program was coming to a close, another opportunity opened up – by interrupting. The phone call was from the marketing department of the Wisconsin Foundation Alumni Association (WFAA). I was informed that they were looking for Great People scholarship recipients to publicize the new eighth edition of the Red Shirt and wanted me to send head shots for modeling. The opportunity immediately attracted me, though I was skeptical that they would actually want me to model for them. But I decided that I wouldn’t let any distractions rain on the NCAR parade. I had to put the WFAA on hold until I got my head out of the clouds and back to Madison.

Upon my return to Madison, I began to entertain the abstract idea of modeling. If the WFAA was looking for photogenic, highly enthusiastic, and – above all else – fun people, then I was obligated to disclose the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. My Facebook profile had profuse examples of my trademark face, capitalizing upon a particular peculiarity of my character that is conveyed best in person. A photograph simply could not entirely capture the essence of my eccentricities. Any of the comments on these pictures would support that claim. But now these images – what others had labeled as “awkward”, “immature”, or “unappealing” – became comical, light-hearted, and intriguing in the eyes of the recruiter. My honesty paid off. I was going to be a model for the Red Shirt campaign!

Even though I was permitted to participate in the scholarship fundraising crusade, I still felt apprehensive about the whole ordeal. I wasn’t exactly the most spirited Badger. I didn’t own any Badger gear, I only recently learned about “Varsity”, and I have never been to a Badger football game. So Badger Pride clearly wasn’t my priority, but I was inadvertently contributing to the campus community in other ways. So maybe I wasn’t the traditional UW-Madison student, but that is exactly what this campaign demanded: unconventional originality. And I knew about unconventional.

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Capturing a glimpse of a wild Kai in his natural habitat

Photographs courtesy of © Copyright C&N Photo

After my performance modeling the Red Shirt, what was originally an offer to act as an amateur model extended to an encore with the video production company to highlight my career thus far at UW-Madison. I was starting to believe that if my investment with the sciences did not work out, then my flirtation with modeling and film might have future prospects. Events were falling into place and plans set into motion. With childlike dreams for fame and fortune, I would anxiously await for the adults to decide the fate of my poses and finalize the future of the Red Shirt.

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The image seen round the world.

August 4th, 2015. The release date of the photos. I had been informed that this would be the launch date, but I was ignorant of the indirect impact it would have on my life. I felt like Harry Potter. Through some strange sorcery, I was becoming popular in real-time. The message my face delivered had been transfigured from “oblivious bystander overstepping personal boundaries” to “shamelessly awkward ownership of true character”. People were falling under my spell and under the influence to open their wallets to purchase the merchandise I was sporting. This wasn’t some illusory experience. This was real. And it was me for once.

I had stepped into the spotlight and was captivated by a 24-hour period of fame. A week ago, I was unaware that my face would take center stage on the UW homepage. Now it felt like a far-off memory. My time had passed. It was time to share the spotlight and make room for other stories and other people. Life carried on regardless of what I did. So whether I liked it or not, I had to step out into the darkness and exit stage left.

An introductory acting experience – featuring signature lip bites, subtle gestures, and a self-proclaimed weirdo

Video produced by © Copyright Backflip Films

The inconvenient truth of my socially awkward identity was that I was merely an undiscovered resource, waiting to be tapped and harnessed to its full potential. I discovered a place that would utilize my overt extroversion and channel my boundless energy. I had more Badger Pride than I had previously thought, and the homepage was evidence of that fact.

My earlier interpretation of my self-image fixated upon my interpersonal relationships, but I realize now that I should have directed my attention towards an intrapersonal dialogue as well. The Red Shirt campaign triggered an introspective investigation into the social aspect of my life. It taught me that I should just embrace all of my character because I had been hiding the best parts. Standing in the spotlight illuminated this secret for me and enlightened my understanding of myself. I felt needed for once, but I didn’t need a Red Shirt to invoke those feelings or even enable this side of my personality. I could be that guy on the front page all the time. I am important, I do matter, and I embrace the quirky reputation that I hold. And it didn’t matter what anyone else thought.

It is true what they say.

The Red Shirt is the only shirt that gives back.