Both of my grandfathers are veterans. My mom’s father served in Korea, and my dad’s father in WWII. Every Veterans’ and Memorial Day I think about that fact. And I think about the fact that I rarely hear any stories about it.
My dad’s father passed away before I was old enough to remember him—unfortunately what I know of him is concocted through stories from my dad, uncle, and their cousins. The one thing I do know—the one thing my dad says a lot—is that he never really talked much about the war after he got back. Sure he had a few entertaining stories, but he always stuck (I’m told) to a select few. I asked my dad one time about why he thought that was, and his answer was fairly poignant: “I think he saw more over there than he really wanted to remember. I think he had to try and put it to rest.”
My mom’s father—who I’ve been lucky to grow up with—served in Korea, and though he mentions his days in the army sometimes, it’s really not very often. He’s as proud of being a veteran as anyone, but I think the same holds true for him: I think he saw more in the conflict then he really wants to remember or talk about. He’s happy to stick to his stories of funny bunkmates and captains, because that’s where he’s comfortable.
These are the things I think about on days like this; the fact that though many have served (and are currently), what they see isn’t a movie like we experience at home on TV. They see and experience things that we hope never to experience—and which they never want us to. That’s the reason they make the sacrifices they do. So today I think about those sacrifices and appreciate them as much as I possibly can. Memorial Day is fun for pool parties, cookouts, American flags—but it’s also for remembering and honoring those who aren’t here to celebrate with us.
My earlier post this week on Product Hunt’s community seems to have struck a nerve—in a good way. It’s underscored in my mind the notion of community, and what that can really mean on a macro level. As such, I’ve begun to seriously question what things can be gleaned from communal dynamics, and how one can learn from these dynamics to look at society and “read between the lines,” so to speak.
Inasmuch as I would like to make the bold statement that I’ve examined concepts of community and “figured it all out,” the more tenable reality is that community as a concept is far more difficult to understand that to simply experience. Experiencing community is easy because it’s something that we learn to do naturally from day one. We are (mostly) comfortable with the intricacies that flow between communal conversations and relationships, even as we struggle to understand their deeper meanings.
Certainly no bold statement or thesis can be made at this stage, but perhaps one will appropriately materialize in the future. Only through these examinations, though, can one truly begin to understand and fully appreciate how communities work on their simplest levels.
Many nights I stay up and reflect on deep things that transpire throughout the day, and ponder meanings of ambiguous gestures by people. Tonight though, I’m thinking less about ambiguous happenings and more on specific thoughts flowing through my head. Tonight, the notions from the day are simpler to decipher.
I always go back to my belief that relationships with other people are everything. They define our lives, and open up doors for us even when we’re not necessarily looking. Talking to people, and being able to do so with relative ease, is something that I believe everyone should learn how to do, at least on some level. But people need to also learn to hear others; not just listen, but hear. Hear what other people are saying, even if you need to listen for the words between the words. Being able to read the non-verbal cues that people put out—what’s important to them, and how to augment those things with your own positivity—is one of the sure-fire ways to cultivate meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with people. Everything else follows that.
As we approach the graduation weekend for numerous schools around the country, I’ve been reflecting on the past year. A year out of the dorm, and a year beyond the home I made during my college years.
I graduated from Brandeis University a year ago this month, and as I see posts containing the words “graduation” and “college” beginning to trend on Facebook and Twitter, I remember what it was like sitting my dorm days before life would take a major turn.
And I think about the commencement speech draft I wrote, but ultimately didn’t end up giving during graduation. Another wonderful speech was chosen, but as I reread the words the went pen to paper 12 months ago, it’s striking just how much they still hold true today. Even more striking, though, is just how applicable they might be and are to most every student graduating now, regardless of the school.
I’m struck reading it just how much it still resonates with me. And it seems that it should see some sort of public viewing, even after a year, and even if it’s not from my lips at a graduation ceremony. So I suppose I’ll take a chance and publish it here.
The terms may not apply to every school, and the people referenced may have long since found new avenues. But I still think perhaps some few might get something out of reading it. I certainly did writing it. I wrote it while listening to the song “You’re a God” by Vertical Horizon; I’m not sure what exactly was in that song, but to me, it seems to capture the surmounting victory and limitlessness of graduation perfectly.
So I’ve simply copied my original text; no corrections, omissions or substitutions. Honest words for an honest feeling, take from it what you will. This is how I felt a year ago this month. Accomplishment and pride in oneself go hand in hand as we forge through tough times to hit our most celebrated highs. To all those graduating, congratulations on reaching a new horizon.
On Our Horizon
Everything we need is right here before us. We have conquered so much to be here now, and our tide is still rising. To my fellow graduates of the Brandeis University class of 2014: Congratulations!! We’ve reached our horizon!!
What we have accomplished here today is success unto itself. We have succeeded in becoming what we always thought we might be, but never truly could be until we came here, to Brandeis; we have succeeded in fully becoming the best versions of ourselves: compassionate, driven, talented, destined. As far as we move in the future, as uncertain as our paths might seem, or scary the times may become, we will always know that it was here at Brandeis that we become heroes, the masters of ourselves, our pasts and our destinies.
I could never be anything but honest in saying this to all of you. As Brandeis graduates have stood here before me to say, “thank you” is what we can only begin to communicate back to our esteemed President Lawrence, Provost Goldstein, the members of the board of trustees, and Brandeis alumni. Even more, though, to the distinguished and hard-working faculty and staff, our honored guests, our friends, and most importantly, our families, without whom none of us would be standing here today.
In the seven semesters that I’ve spent here at Brandeis (yes, I was a Midyear, and such a cult status will never be lost on me haha), I’ve learned more than I could ever articulate at this particular moment. I was breathless with excitement and determination on the day my acceptance letter came, and I only became more so the moment my college career began here, a feeling I’m sure you all share.
Because that is exactly the kind of school that Brandeis is; the kind of school that challenges us to achieve all that we can, the kind of school that challenges us to be masters. Yet Brandeis is the sort of place that welcomes not only those students who are academically bright and accomplished, but those students who possess other talents, most more than anyone could ever imagine. Brandeis accepted me when I certainly didn’t have the 4.0 GPA. Yet they saw in me not what I had ever been (in grade school, high school, or whatever), but what I could be as a Brandeis graduate. For all of you, I can only begin to imagine the potential that Brandeis saw when your names came across the desks here.
And what a breathtaking community we’ve cultivated here, like no other anywhere on earth. We are not content to crawl; Brandeis students run everywhere, most times with three or four textbooks in hand! But I’ve seen Brandeis students achieve amazing things: I’ve seen students create a more stable sense of community than I have likely ever seen, rejoice with one another when the times are wonderful, and console one another when the times are tough.
Little did I know when I stepped foot on campus during Orientation the experiences at Brandeis that would unfold before me; the experiences that will forever shape my life. Here’s just a little bit of what we did. Things we loved (and some things we regretted so much haha!):
We rode down the library hill in the snow, flipping over on impact at the bottom
We all somehow got through UWS
We fought tooth and nail for the best seats in the library during finals (regretting immensely when we left for just a minute to grab a coffee!)
We put together amazing broadcasts on BTV and WBRS (seriously, who doesn’t have a WBRS shirt?)
We dominated in sports (sometimes haha), led by our captivating athletes (and yes, we all tried desperately to figure out what our mascot actually was (apparently an owl with a law degree who sits on a jury))
We totally rocked the social justice thing; no we didn’t always agree, but hey, we’re the judges and jury, so would anyone expect us to?!
We absolutely excelled in the classroom, and collected majors and minors like they were baseball cards (and yes, I still only have one major, so I might be back in the future!)
We hung out at Ollie’s way past our bedtime, rocked out at Chum’s and ordered Asia Wok way more than any of us want to admit (yes, this is another regret we think back on warmly haha)
We mentored each other, competed with one another, and learned more in four years than many of us thought possible
And most importantly, we made friends and relationships that will last a lifetime
Brandeis is just one more step in our life’s journey, but one that we will hold close forever. Last year, I went abroad and found myself in Amsterdam, in a city, country, and culture vastly different from my own (ok, not that different haha). And although I miss Amsterdam every day, while I was there I found myself missing Brandeis every day. No, I didn’t miss the BranVan so much, or the Rabb steps, and I for sure didn’t miss that ridiculous East Hill most of us had the displeasure of trekking up in the winter. No, what I missed was the sense of community that one can only describe as “Brandeis social justice.” Because it’s not something that we do to create a sense of community for social events in Waltham or Boston, but also something that we create for each other here, every day.
It’s something that begins to envelop prospective students the minute they come for a tour, and something we all feel throughout our time here. And while I made wonderful friends while I was abroad, and felt a sense of community that was special at that time in my life, nothing was or will ever be able to replace what we have with one another here at Brandeis. The support we give to one another, the benefits we afford each other and the pride we take in one another…these are all things that we came to learn best during our years here.
And now this time has come to an end, and it’s time for us all to move to our next chapters in life. But what a ride it was! We handled it as best we could, and I must say, I think we absolutely succeeded. I could say that I believe that the degrees we receive today are a testament to our accomplishments. Except they aren’t. They are an affirmation of what we already know: we, us, here right now, we are our own testament. We are all we need. Look to the people sitting beside you today, and take pride in the people they are, take pride in yourselves. Let us take pride in who we have all become. We have become the heroes of our own stories, masters of our own destinies, if only for a little while. That is what our degrees are a testament to: that we will never give up, and that the drive and success we found here at Brandeis will follow us our whole lives through.
So today as we strike the next notes in our symphonies, remember what Brandeis taught us: be fearless, take risks, dare to dream, dare to strive for something more. Reach the crescendo like we did every day here. Continue to be Brandeisian in every moment of your lives, lending hands to the world and spreading the values that were instilled in us here. We’re pretty stubborn, I think we’ll make it work.
I am inspired by every one of you every day, and look forward to seeing the amazing things that you all, that we all, accomplish. Congratulations, class of 2014!! We are heroes. We did it!!
Even on the toughest days when writing seems like it should be the furthest thing from my mind I still find a way to put something down on paper. It’s not that I’m fleeced into thinking that everything I write will be groundbreaking, but that the simple act of writing helps me to feel productive. Despite the fact that it may seem counterintuitive to feel productive when one forces oneself to put anything down on paper, the opposite is quite true. It rather feels like more of an accomplishment than anything, as one’s initial thought process might usually find such a task daunting in that moment. But even the dreaded blank-page syndrome can’t curtail the sense of productivity I feel when I see words—any words—on that page in front of me. Perhaps in the end, it’s simply that experience that encourages me to continue to write, even in my most off days.
Some nights I get to the evening hour and I’m wiped out. I’ve been writing and talking with people all day, and find my mind completely fried. The light is dimming outside, and people are settling down after dinner. And I’m alone with some thoughts.
Yet in those moments when I’m almost a zombie to the world, I find I have some of my most intriguing thought processes. It’s in those precise moments that I come to grips with the passing day, and prepare myself for the volley of thoughts which will undoubtedly bombard me before bed. Such thoughts don’t overload my mind though, surprising as that might be. I find that this particular strain of thoughts tend to be what help me to keep pushing forward.
And thus I cherish this time—and these thoughts—more than one might think. Though they take up time as I’m trying to wind my mind down, they are nonetheless soothing in their reflective qualities. For some, relaxation and reflection mean plopping down on the couch and turning off one’s mind to watch Netflix. For me though, I (ironically so) find myself most reflective and somewhat relaxed when bombarded by thoughts that seem dogged in their stubbornness. Perhaps I’m even more of an artist than I think.
So today was Mother’s Day, and though we all know it’s a day created by the greeting card companies, I still reflected on my relationship with my Mom. How lucky I am to have the supportive relationship that I do, and how fortunate I am to even be able to spend the time with her that I do. It’s easy to take good fortune for granted, but the moments that we have in life are ephemeral, and never come around again. They only live in our memories, a realization that’s sobering in itself.
My Mom is one of my heroes, and someone I model myself after in many more ways than one. We are all products of our parents, for better or worse, though in my case I’m lucky enough to say better. I talked here about how my mom shaped my love and desire for music, but I’m fortunate for much more than that. It’s in the moments when the walls seem to be closing in, and when the world seems completely upside down that I find myself the luckiest. It’s in those moments that my mom reminds me of who I am, and who I can be. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, I love you.
Yesterday was May 8th, 2015. For those of you out there who are history nerds, yesterday marked the 7th anniversary of one of the most pivotal days in world history: VE Day, May 8th, 1945. Though it seems so far in the past for today’s kids in grade school now, Victory in Europe Day marked a significant turning point in the 20th century—like 9/11 or the JFK assassination, most people who were around remember exactly where they were when they received the news of victory in Europe.
Yet I saw surprisingly little fanfare online yesterday, especially for the 70th anniversary of such a momentous day in history. It made me wonder if people simply forgot, or if as we move farther away from the actual day, it seems to recede into history (for me though, I don’t think it’s the second). It also occurred to me that—sad as it is—many (if not most) of those who were around during VE Day in 1945 aren’t with us anymore. It’s the natural order of life—people pass away, but it does put into perspective things that must have been so momentous to them and that to us perhaps seem less so.
I’m not sure that I think that people simply forgot what yesterday was, but perhaps most decided to take in the anniversary with less fanfare than we summon up for Memorial Day. Perhaps family cookouts and pool parties really aren’t the way to celebrate—but also remember—the near end (victory in the Pacific wouldn’t come for another few months) of one of the most catastrophic wars in history. The historian in me observed yesterday with a certain sense of wistfulness. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
Inasmuch as I would like to write about intense topics every day, I find that one reaches a point where such topics are too tough to tackle without the proper mindset. Such a mindset isn’t something you (or I) can will yourself (myself) into. It’s something that comes from the sometimes spontaneous (sometimes ephemeral) desire to take a shot at the universe. Poetic as that might sound, the spontaneous quality is something I find helps me create pieces that possess a keener energy than some which I slave over for days or even weeks at a time.
The poetic nature of spontaneity and ephemerality lend to one’s writing a mercurial quality that makes it even more like art than it might otherwise be. It’s such an artistic flavor that makes less dramatic posts both more entertaining and more engaging. For that, I understand that not every post will be able to take on such a quality, but I know that by willing myself into it unnaturally, such a quality would surely elude my writing. Thus, for now, I’ll let my mind settle as I wait for the mercurial ephemerality to return to it.
Today was a slow day. After the three-day whirlwind that was TechCrunch Disrupt in New York, even those of us who streamed at home felt like we need a day to recuperate. After sitting (relatively) glued to my computer for the past few days (to watch the live stream as well as participate in the conversations), I was happy to “take today off” and let my mind wind down somewhat.
And yet, even as I forced myself to take a break today, I still found it unnerving to not at least look at the tech and music news. Though not a feeling as heavy as displacement, it seems that coming off the tail-end of a highly charged and intensive conference like TCDisrupt has a tiring effect. A “duh” statement in and of itself, it nonetheless is important to keep in mind that we’re human, and simply can’t keep our brain’s on 100% of the time. So what feels like being unfocused is actually a way of rediscovering an equilibrium that was recently out of balance. I’ll feel more focused after the weekend I’m sure. After all, a little rest never hurt anybody.