The Excitement of Life

What is something that gets you up in the morning? What excites you?

What excites me in life? Well I have this mortal fear of having a boring life. I come from rural Virginia and there’s a lot of people there who have grown up, lived, and then died 20 miles away from their house. I do a bunch of random stuff because I hate … I’m, I’m not religious.  I don’t really have a lot of certainties in my life, so I want to go out and find a reason to get up in the morning. I want to go out and find something that’s fun. And I feel like if I just kinda sit and do the same thing day-in and day-out, I’ll never get to that point. And so, I like to go out and I like to try everything.  I like to go out and do tons of random stuff just to kind of, I don’t know, get a little more of a handle.

Is there any point at which you felt like has a grasp on life?

Oh, God no, not yet.

Or are there any experiences that really resonated with you and that you look back on like, “this is awesome?”

No, that’s fair. I hate to do almost anything alone. Like, I really like to have people around.  I’m very extroverted. I get really jazzed up around people, so like I get energy from crowds.  So, um, I really understand that.  And that’s one of the things, actually, that is a good point. I try to make it a point to meet people and ask about their stories because of that.  Even in my home community. Like I said, I don’t want to be one of those people that grows up and lives and dies 20 miles away from the house. Well those people are incredibly interesting even if they live a lifestyle that I don’t want. And, I mean, they’re fascinating people.  There’s this guy named Charles Bennett who’s just … he probably has lead poisoning or something, but he has an almost incomprehensible level of country accent. He’s like 86 or something … and he has a cat, and this cat is his life. And he gardens and the man can barely walk, but he can make things grow in the ground every frickin’ year.  And it doesn’t take him anything.  Like he literally just walks outside and is like, “Okay, I’m going to put some seeds in the ground. I can make things grow.” And so I always go out and I try to meet people.  And I try to really figure out what makes other people .. kinds bringing it back to the other topic… what makes other people get up in the  morning. And see if that would be something interesting for me. Because, again, I don’t know.  I don’t have that.

Do you relate your academics to that at all? What are you studying here?

I’m a Comp Sci and a physics honors double-major.

Okay, so I have ADHD and if you get to my age and you have ADHD you can develop an anxiety disorder with it.  Just based around the ADHD.  I had that and, um, for the SATs .. I don’t want to be like an asshole or a bragging person, but I did frickin’ well on the SATs.  But you have to send them out officially through CollegeBoard. Could not do that.  Like I stared at my computer screen and just like, was unable to click two buttons and do it; however, I applied to … in the William and Mary application I’d written that essay for the 2-2 Program and they didn’t have enough people for it.  So they’re like, man this kid’s an idiot, but he can be our idiot.  So they accepted me into that program. Then I was like, “fuck they don’t allow you to double major.  You can’t do anything in science.”  And I was like … ’cause both my parents are English teachers, but I’m also decent at science as well, so I’ve never really had a path to go [along.] So, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I immediately dropped that program.  Then I was like, “Oh I’m going to be an engineer because we have a 3-2 program with Columbia. And, so the only degree you could get for that in three years was a physics degree.  And so, I was like, okay, I’ll be a physics major! So then I was kinda doing that and then I got stuck in it ‘cause I was too stubborn to leave. And now I want to be a politician.

So, I’m like, “fourth year.”

That’s cool.

My life is never, like, from point A to Point B.  It’s always like really twisty and messed.

Why politician now?

Because, again I don’t really feel like I have a direct end goal or path that I can take that I feel would be meaningful directly for me. I feel like I might be able to get some meaning out of helping others. And I’m decent at computer science and decent at physics, but I’m certainly not, like, a genius. And I definitely am a lot better at public speaking, working within a political realm whenever I’ve been in that realm, and even if I could be a political but like working on a campaign to help people because if I can, especially if I can make other people’s lives during my lifetime and hopefully after my lifetime, with work, I might be able to do… If could make their lives better, I feel that might give … that might be like when I’m however old I’ll be and dying, hopefully of old ago … Although, who knows, it could be a freak plane accident … hopefully I’ll be able to look back and be like, you know what, it was worth it and I’m dying now, but I’m madly satisfied.

I think that’s a very noble goal – to help people.

It’s a little selfish from my angle because I’m like, you know what I want to be okay on my death bed.

Do you have future plans after … are you going to school still or are you going on a …do you know yet or are you just living day by day?

Um, living day by day is something that I enjoy doing, but right now I’ve applied to the William and Mary 5th year Masters program for business analytics because they do machine learning and artificial intelligence classes in that all in a programming language called “R” which I haven’t had a lot of experience with, so I’m excited about that. So if I get in, I’ll know by the 20th of December if I get in.  That’ll be very awesome for me and I’ll be like, okay, well, since I don’t really know what I want to do I can get this and the job market is really good for that so I can go in and do some business analytics for a couple of years, do some consulting and hopefully become an international business consultant.  Maybe do some networking, understand a little bit more about the international economy, because if I become a politician, that would give me a little more of an “in” in the business world.  I would really like to push for a better education system in America, but the only way to do that is to … the education system in America is … our scores are just terrible in comparison to other western developed nations.  And a lot of that has to do with the way we treat education in our economy. And with a  globalized world, we can have a more broad idea of what education is and how it should be treated. And so that’s why I want to go, especially in interactional consulting, I’d like to see frame markets and see how they treat education from a business perspective.  Because especially with the rise of neoliberalism, that’s, especially in America, that is how our education problems are going to be solved. We’re gonna have to pitch it from a very like, “this will be profitable,” instead of, “this is a good idea to do.”

It sounds like even though you are focusing on things in school, you have all these other interests and you’re actually learning about them and wanting to do something about them. 

Let me just put it like this: I am not focused in school at all. I’m just going through, but, it’s the outside stuff that really interests me.

Okay, I have a question because I think I mentioned your name to an upperclassman and they said that you have really good clothing style and everything.  Is there a reason why … do you take pride in your style?

Let me think, how do I explain this… So I wear like a lot of crazy patterns and stuff. Especially when I was abroad in Scotland, I was in a long distance relationship so I started really just not caring, so I would wear mascara and stuff and just go out and say, “Why the fuck not?” I don’t know, I just … for me with clothing and stuff like that, it’s like .. I used to wear … I’m a hand-me-down kid and Goodwill, so I wear just like, whatever I had at the time.  For a long time I didn’t really have a style. I’d just wear whatever the hell I had. But then when I got to college I had a bit more control over what I could wear.  And I just started realizing that, for me, I wanted to do so many varied things in life that I … this sounds kinda ridiculous, but it’s like I want in a way for my clothing style to reflect that. So I started realizing that I was very interested in patterns and colors because a lot of modern fashion is not patterns and colors for men. You go to the shirt section in Goodwill and it’s every variation of plaid. I am so tired of plaid shirts. I probably have about ten Hawaiian shirts and, like right now, I’m kinda crashing on a Saturday, but I just like suspenders, bow ties, just like anything that’s like fun. I’m so tired of clothing having to be “fashionable” or “cool” or like “ooh I gotta do this.” I just want my clothing to be ridiculous just so that I can. Why not?

I think that’s really cool you are taking that initiative to just be you.

Well, thank you very much. I may take it too far sometimes, but, uh, yeah it’s a lot of fun.

How do you find clothes?

Goodwill.

Do you have an eye for things?

What do you mean?

Do you see something and know it will be awesome?

I’m decent at … the weird style I have, that kind of fashion sense comes naturally.  Even though I don’t know if it can be called “fashion-sense” for what I wear, but yeah, it kinda pulls together in my brain.

I also like this very [pointing to decorations].

Yeah, it breaks every fire code rule we have.  So I actually built a table out of logs that we pulled out from under the bridge over there. I was a great table! It lived in our kitchen, it supported our damn microwave and all our appliances and then the fire code people came in and were like, you’re not allowed to have this because you’re not allowed to have Christmas trees. And we were like, first of all, that is a ridiculous way to make us get rid of a table. And so they kept sending out e-mails that were like, “oh you can’t hang things from your ceiling because it breaks fire code and we were just like, fuck you, you took our table … we’re going to hang everything from the ceiling. This is all because of our friend {Cody} whose, like kinda an amazing human being. Well, not kinda, he is an amazing human being.  He and his mom just got this stuff and Cody’s just one of those guys who will literally empty his wallet on anything if he thinks it’s going to be a cool idea.  Like he tried to run a chocolate business and he was doing pretty well until the Jamaican customs people stopped him from importing coca. So he’s like one of those guys where you’ll ask him what’s happening one day and you’ll just be like “oh, okay yes, Jamaican Customs. That’s something that I have no experience with.” So we get in a lot of stuff like this.

Yeah, you guys have a fun dynamic, that’s for sure. Do you consider your adventuring the main part of your life?

One of the biggest things that I could, in terms of any advice …  and I am not someone that should be giving overarching life advice, but …. is that there are times when you’ll be doing something and you’ll feel scared, but it’s not that you’re terrified.  It’s that fear of doing something that you’ve never done before, or that challenges you or that forces you to really really think about what it means, like what your life means in that moment. And that’s sounds a little dramatic, but for instance, going exploring, going in steam-tunnels, jumping off a high cliff, usually if for a lot of people one of their first. Things like jumping in the water, you know it’s going to be fun, you know you’re going to have a good time doing it, and you know that at the end of it, it will make a great story. And if it’s important to you that people will think you’re awesome for doing it, but you have to be yourself.  You have to have an inner conversation that’s basically like, “you can turn away right now and everything’s going to be okay, or you can take that one step.” And for me, whenever I get that feeling, be it going up and oh, God, I had a terrifying experience the other day, where it was like, this is a little bit weird, but I saw this absolutely beautiful woman in the caf. And I was like, I’ve seen her once before and I was like “Holy shit.” I promised myself then because I was trying to work up the courage to go talk to her and I was like, “Oh, God, I’ve gotta …I’ve gotta do this. I saw her and I was like, no Edward, you can’t live your life like this. You’re always going to kick yourself in the face if you don’t take a little bit of a risk.”  And so you just feel this welling of anxiety and then you past it.  I walked up and was like, “Hey. This going to be really weird, but you’re one of the most beautiful people I’ve seen on this campus.  Do you mind if I ask you out, like get coffee or something.” And a lot of Facebook conversations. Wound up not working out, but that’s fine.  And it was just kinda like, a weird example, but taking those risks allows you to be a little bit more full as a person when at 3 in the morning you’re questioning yourself. You know, you wake up at like 3 in the morning like, “Oh, fuck, what am I doing with my life?” You can look back and [say], “no screw it, I’m taking those risks.” I’m doing the things that I want to do in the moment without really hurting anyone else.

I think the fear of not knowing is worse than the fear of knowing.

Yeah, no it totally is. And for me, I definitely have problems of like, if I don’t do something, I’ll just feel really bad about myself. I’ll just be like, “Edward, what is the point in living if you’re not gonna put yourself out there.” And I take that on all levels.  I do a lot of stuff that people … because I just hate this … sorry this kinda a rant, but I detest this concept that people seem to have, especially at William and Mary, that there is this rulebook of life. That there’s just things that you do and things that you don’t do and you can’t step outside of that.  For instance, it’ll be ridiculous things like talking to a professor. For me, it’s just like, I’ll go and be like, hey, let’s have a conversation. Let’s talk. Or like, the people at the caf. I’ve actually been talking to some people about maybe trying to get a book together or maybe like a collection of stories because the people at the caf have AMAZING lives.  Like there’s this guy named Hassan.  He was studying to be an engineer in Morocco. And now he fixes all the machines. Like the drink machine, and the ice cream machines, anything like that. And he’s just this amazing guy but no one fucking talks to him! And there’s Mohammad who is also from Morocco. And we had this really cool conversation about this Moroccan prince and all this other stuff. And people are just like, “Oh, you don’t talk to the car workers. You don’t do that.” And it’s just like, “no, what the fuck?! They’re really cool!!” And Miss Evangeline. She’s from the Philippines. She’s the sweetest lady. She’s like that do you know her? She’s like the tiny Asian woman. She’s super Christian, but like she’s super nice about everything and she’s really taken that, like, Christian thing … I come from militant Christian land, so for me it’s really awesome to see someone as religious as her just totally take the kind aspect instead of the militant part. She’s taken all of the things about kindness and Christianity and just channelled that. And so, like, I have her number now.  And it’s just, she’s super fucking nice and I love her. Another thing is that I e-mailed this guy from NASA. I looked up … uh, I’m a physics comp-sic major, so I was like, “fuck it, I’ll do quantum computing.” And there’s something called the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab that partnered with Google out in Aims, California. And it’s like, who the fuck does machine learning, quantum physics, fucking.. it was just so amazing and there was no information on internships and stuff that I could find.  So I just e-mailed the guy.  And so many times I’ve talked to people, especially around William and Mary, and they’ll be like, “wow i really want to do this thing.” And I’m like, “Why don’t you call them. Like, call the person who runs it.” And they’re like, “Oh, I can’t do that.” And I’m like, “why the fuck … what are they going to do to you? What are they going to do to you if you call them?” Oh, they’re going to say like, “fuck off, I don’t want to talk to you.” Like, oh, no, you tried. Like at least you tried.  You know now that it wasn’t possible, whereas, from like let’s say 10 years out, you’re like, “Fuck, man. My life could’ve been completely different if I just tried to make that one phone call.” So, like now 10 years from now you’ll know like well, fuck, that wasn’t going to happen.

Maybe, I’m a little childish at heart, but I think it’s me.

No that’s amazing, come on, never … Saying that, “being a little childish at heart,” if you’re in kindergarten they teach you: everybody cleans up, everybody shares, like, don’t be an asshole. And be honest. Tell people what you’re feeling. Like, have these conversations.  And when you’re a kid, you’re like, “I want to be your friend because I think you’re cool and you fucking can climb trees. Like, I think that’s really cool. And now, in the modern age of adulthood — well, “adulthood” as it is in college — you just have to guard everything.  And you’re not allowed to do those things like, “I want to put a fucking sticker on an envelope because it’s awesome.” And it is awesome! Like who doesn’t like stickers. Yeah, no I agree. Whether it be e-mailing this dude at NASA or talking to the caf workers, it’s just … always put yourself out there. Cause, again, for me, I don’t have that big end goal, so I might as well just enjoy things as they are now.  There’s no point in walling yourself off. Unless, I mean you are super comfortable with yourself, being alone, then yeah, whatever. You can get a lot of joy out of that.  But I just .. it would be such a dark world if you just didn’t interact with people.

Yeah, for sure.

 

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