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.

 

Transitions

When was the last time you did something that you didn’t feel obliged to do? Something that you felt like you didn’t have to do?

Oh! I am planning on starting a blog, and I’ve been writing and thinking about making the website for it. I think it’ll be a good way for me to  escape from reality and at the same time improve my writing skills. I don’t really do that well in my poetry class and when we write papers, the professor always has to meet with me! So I just want to make a blog to help people…I don’t want to tell you what it’s about directly because I don’t even really know myself yet, but I know that it’s going to be something about helping other people.

Is it going to be poetry related at all?

So this is my idea. I was thinking about calling it “Transitions” and it’s going to be about people’s transitions, like my transition into adulthood, or my younger brother going into middle school, or older people transitioning into, I don’t know, menopause or something like that. So what I want to do is leave it open-ended where people can come in and write what they want to write anonymously and then I can post their stories. It would kind of be like Humans of New York or Humans of William & Mary, but it’s not as formal and it wouldn’t have pictures.

What do you think is hard about making transitions in life?

I feel like transitions are hard because…is it okay if I talk about my plans to transfer schools?

Yeah, sure, you can talk about anything you want!

Well, here at William & Mary I like it okay, but I didn’t think about going to a liberal arts school when I’m interested in science, and so I don’t feel like there’s the right kind of opportunities for me here. Since I’m transferring, I feel like I’m giving up on myself in a way. In all reality though, I’m not really giving up on myself, I’m just going after more opportunities that are available at a different school. So this was my inspiration for starting a blog about transitions, because I feel like when people are in college, it’s hard because there are a lot of expectations from your friends and family.

Do you think that the transition to a new school will be easier or more difficult than the transition was from high school to William & Mary?

I’ll probably end up transferring to ODU (Old Dominion University), and that school is a lot more diverse, which is what I was looking for in a school all along. So in that sense, I feel like it will be easier. But in another sense, I’m really afraid of it because I’m going to be starting over again. It’s going to be my second year of college, and I was finally adjusting to William & Mary and starting to like it. I just decided that the classes that I was taking just weren’t interesting me, and since it was hard for me to change my major and take different classes here, I had to decide to transfer to a different school. I think that transferring in itself will be the hardest part – starting over and having to meet new people. I was just now adjusting to William & Mary, and starting to say “I wanna do this next year” and “I want to do this when I’m a senior” so now I feel like I’m just starting over and having to make new plans.

What’s one thing that you appreciate about William & Mary or one thing that you’ll miss about the school?

I’ll definitely miss the scenery. One of the main things that drew me to this school is how small it is, and how it’s right next to Colonial Williamsburg. The school that I’m transferring to isn’t like the way it is here. It’s bigger and it’s in downtown Norfolk, and so there’s a lot more things that are going to be going on around it. So I’ve definitely appreciated William & Mary and the opportunities that it has given me, even being here for such a short amount of time. Being here has definitely opened my mind a lot more too.

When I was in high school, I went to a predominantly black school and the area that I live in at home is predominantly black. So coming here was a culture shock for me. I was so used to diverse communities and experiencing what it has to offer. It was definitely something that I had to adjust to. I had to accept that not every place is going to be the same and that even if I don’t like something in the beginning, it can come to fruition in the end.

How do you think being in a more diverse community will impact your individual success or happiness?

I was on edge coming here when I found out that it wasn’t as diverse as I had hoped for it to be- it’s something I look for in a school and/or community. I feel like going back to a community where there is more diversity will help shape my identity in a positive way.

My high school was very diverse – there were blacks, Hispanics, Asians, whites. I actually had a friend who was from Palestine. So, through being in such a diverse environment, I felt like I got to experience a greater variety of personalities and cultures. My friend from Palestine taught me some Arabic jokingly one day and another friend from Vietnam taught me how to say some things in Vietnamese. I didn’t remember it afterward, but just saying that I had friends who could teach me new things was pretty cool. My dad is from Mexico so I know a little bit of Spanish. Being in a place where different languages were spoken really helped me to step out of my comfort zone in embracing my family’s culture and other cultures. So overall I think I’ll be able to grow more and be happier in a place where I am more encouraged to cross boundaries and celebrate diversity, that’s what I’m looking for.

A Celebration of Differences

William and Mary is a community where instead of being excluded for my differences, I’m celebrated. I love that! I never feel out of place, here. I always find someone who can relate to me or who gets excited about the same things I’m excited about and I love that celebration of differences. It builds confidence and it makes me feel comfortable being myself. I don’t feel like I have to pretend to conform to certain image people have, like about what it is to be black or a public policy major. I can create my own path. I never feel scared to say I’m having a hard time, here. I feel like the students here would pick me up if I needed help. Someone would study with me if I was struggling with classes, or find another way to help me out. That did not happen in my high school, because we were competitive. Here, though, we work together to achieve our goals.

A Spectrum of Community

William and Mary, to me, is a community of excellence both in academics and outside the classroom. We really try to create a supportive environment that pushes us to be better in every single way – both as individuals and as a community. I think that makes the whole school special. From the most basic level of people being nice to each other, to the deeper connections which come from the “One Tribe, One Family” idea – you can form a very close-knit community with the people around you in clubs and teams, and even in the classroom. It’s a whole spectrum of community, in a sense, and it is almost consistently positive—really supportive and well-done. Of course, on some level it’s important to have strength in yourself, but it’s nice to know that you can rely on other people. You’re never going to be completely alone in any of the situations you face; even if you think what you’re doing is by yourself, you’re going to have an impact somewhere. So recognizing how the community changes and supports you but also how you have an impact on the community is very important.

Not Just a Home

What does William & Mary mean to you?

William & Mary to me is not just a home – it’s also a place where I feel like I found myself. Coming here during my freshman year, I didn’t know anyone and doing all of the Orientation activities wasn’t really what I was super into. But, I was able to find a group of friends that I cliqued with and they helped me to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. Now I understand where my strengths and weaknesses are.

How do you think that coming to William & Mary will impact the rest of your life, as far as your career, your relationships, your future, or anything like that?

I think that even if I drift apart from the friends that I have made here because we’ll be moving to different places and things like that, I’m still always going to remember those friendships and those memories. I feel like I’ve experienced so much here that’s just completely changed my life and my perspective on the world in a positive way.

The Au Pair

So I guess I’ll just start by asking – what’s your major? Or if you’re still undecided, do you have any thoughts?

I’m very undecided. I came in thinking that I was going to do English because I was pretty sure I wanted to do Education, be an English teacher. Once I got here, I started taking an anthropology class, and I’m also taking an English class that I really like. The anthro class actually got me really interested in anthropology, so now I’m considering that as a major. I’m taking sociology and environmental science next semester because those are also things I’m considering. I’m just really interested in justice, in general—like the ways I’m able to improve upon institutions and social problems. I care a lot about environmental justice. It’s really important to me as someone who has a lot of access to higher education and who has grown up with a lot of privilege to use that privilege to help others.

Is that why you applied to be a Sharpe Scholar?

Exactly. I joined because I wanted to be more of an active participant in improving lives. At first, I thought that the program was just us getting involved in the community and doing community service through our classes, but it actually ended up more as community research. That’s been interesting. My research proposal is about Farm to School projects – bringing local farms and schools together. Through that, I am not only trying to work on obesity and nutritional issues through education, but also on increasing the success of local farms, thus also helping the environment. It made me think more about being involved in the community in a different way, as a researcher. It’s been really helpful in getting me back into academia, because I wasn’t in school last year.

Oh, you weren’t in school? How did you spend your time, then?

I took a gap year last year and did a lot of soul-searching. I read a lot of religious books and books about spirituality and did a lot of thinking. I had a lot of time to do it. But I was also working. I was an au pair in Spain for seven months. It was amazing – one of the best experiences ever. And I got certified to be an English teacher while I was there. It was really cool to be just nineteen and an after-school tutor for a lot of kids throughout the city. I would go on the Metro and show up at people’s houses and work on English with those Spanish kids. Then, since I was an au pair, it basically gave me the whole day to myself while the little girl I took care of was at school. So I had time to read and exercise a lot and take classes – I took a guitar class and salsa lessons. I also had a lot of time to travel so on weekends I would go to different places and go out at night to cultural activities. It was an amazing experience for me.

That’s so awesome! So, you kind of started on this track, so I’m just going to go with it – you said you took guitar lessons, and I know you’re in the Accidentals, so what role does music play in your life? How do you experience and appreciate it?

Music has always been a part of my life. It’s probably the most stable thing in my life, ever. My mom put me in choir when I was four years old and I started taking voice lessons when I was six. So I’ve grown up with a classical music background. I continued singing in a choir in high school. I went to boarding school in Massachusetts for high school, so I sung in a choir there, an acapella group, and a chamber classical group. Singing is my downtime, in a way – I don’t have to think about it, it’s really my version of relaxation. Which is really funny, because it also causes a lot of stress. I have to run around to practice and rehearsal and get all these pieces memorized. But it’s my familiar thing – almost like going home, for me. I moved a lot when I was a kid, so if I could think of just one thing that’s been a stable, happy presence in my life, it has always been singing and music.

So you said you were interested in education – what level would you want to teach?

As of now, I want to teach elementary school. I can’t imagine teaching teenagers, who are so close to me in age. But I would also love to teach high school English. So more duality there, I guess. But I’ve always loved little kids. Actually, last year during my gap year, before I went to Spain, I was working and living in Northern Virginia with my mom. I went in to DC and was working with Jump Start, a preschool literacy program. Through that program I learned a lot about how important early education is and child development. That really interested me and I just really love little kids, I can’t be unhappy around them. They’re just so cute! So I’m thinking about maybe being a preschool teacher, too. Because I got a lot of experience teaching while I was in Spain and also through Jump Start before I went, I really feel like education is a good option for me.

Yeah, kids are amazing.

They really are! It’s amazing how creative they are. I think it’s so important to foster creativity and let them grow. Growth in general is really important from an early age and I’m learning a lot about that. In my psych class, we spend a lot of time talking about how much is learned between ages three to seven and the difference is huge.

I agree, sometimes I just stop and think about how mind-blowing a child’s brain is and how much it takes in.

Exactly, and how much they are picking up – it was cool because the preschool I was working at in DC was bilingual, so I got to speak with the kids both in Spanish and English. I just learned in psychology about how being bilingual contributes to flexibility in problem-solving. It was cool to connect that back to my experience last year. It’s nice when those things connect.

I agree, connections are wonderful in all senses. I guess my last question is – what made you want to come to William and Mary, of all places? This diamond in the rough – or diamond in the muddy swamp, rather.

Actually, both my parents came here for school, so I was already familiar with it. In the beginning, it wasn’t at the top of my list at all but what I liked about William and Mary was that there was quite a diversity of opinion and people. I didn’t feel like everyone thought the same way here. I ended up at William and Mary which was so annoying because I hate doing the exact same things that my mom does.  

Oh, why is that?

Okay, so I’m the oldest and I have somehow ended up doing so many things that my mom does. First of all, I’m just really like her in personality. I get along with her really well. She went to my boarding school and now I’ve gone to the same college as her. I’m also in the same sorority as her. It’s ridiculous! But I do love her so it makes sense. I really admire my mother so it makes sense that I like to do things similar to her. What is weird is that I went to elementary and middle school in Northern Virginia and went to boarding school for high school so coming here, I’ve been running into so many people I knew from middle school who are all a grade above me since I took a gap year. But so far, I’ve liked it here. I had a rough transition in the beginning of the semester. I didn’t come back from Spain until two weeks before Orientation. I hadn’t thought about it before but I was going through reverse culture shock. Leaving America and living abroad for half a year was a transition in itself, but then I came back and went directly into college life. Also, all my friends were already sophomores so they had already gone through the transition—and on one hand, it was nice to talk to them because they had advice for me, but on the other, my closest friends weren’t with me. It was hard not to have them with me. I continuously got this feeling that I didn’t fit in, or didn’t belong here. But now that I’ve been here for a while and found a home in the singing community, which I love, and other people around campus, and especially Samir—I love Samir—I’m definitely starting to like it more. I like William and Mary now.

I’m sure William and Mary likes you too!

That’s good. I’m glad to hear it. Didn’t know the College itself had an opinion about me though, but that is good to know!

Secret Santa

Why did you want to have everyone come back and do this Secret Santa?

Michael: So this is actually our fourth annual Secret Santa and the first Secret Santa … I actually didn’t live in this dorm. I lived in DuPont, which was an upperclassmen dorm. I was placed there randomly. I just did orientation with this group of people. They called me “Hobo” because I didn’t have a home here. But over the past four years they’ve made William and Mary my home. And they became my best friends and made the college experience amazing. I wanted Secret Santa to happen one last time … in order to see everyone and see how much everyone has changed. I wanted to show everyone that … that’s what makes William and Mary beautiful. Life is about the people you meet and being able to stick with them throughout the years. William and Mary is a place where I met some extraordinary people, and I hope to keep these bonds close for many years to come.

That’s beautiful. Yeah, I’m so glad you found a home with all of these people. That’s awesome. Did you get a good gift tonight?

Yeah, I got this! *Shows scarf*

So do the memories come flooding back when you’re here?

It sure does. We did a lot of goofy things in here.  I remember everything … from making an actual tent inside and watching Game of Thrones to studying econ while people had fencing fights with pool sticks … some of which broke. Some of my friends would have a jam fest once in awhile and we played games here all the time. We would cook big breakfasts together and I would stay over people’s places ‘cause, you know, I didn’t live here. I was just kinda here all the time.

Everyone was just open, which was the best.

That’s cool. Did you expect that coming into William and Mary?

I did not know what to expect. When I came into William and Mary I wasn’t in the best of moods because a lot of things happened to me beforehand. I then decided to make things better and meet new people. Somehow one by one I got to know everyone and then we .. I just .. we were all naturally silly around each other and that’s what really helped out. Some people are hesitant to do something that’s a little different, but everyone here was just so open to new experiences. We were just like, “Yeah, let’s do that crazy thing. Let’s build a tent in the middle of the lounge.” Thanks to my friends, I have learned about various cultures, obtained new perspectives on life, and the best part, eat all sorts of wonderful food.

Water is Life

What is your story?

My name is Laundi Keepseagle and I’m from Fort Yates, North Dakota, which is on the Standing Rock Sioux tribe reservation. I just got done running Chase’s campaign. Chase Iron Eyes, he ran for the Dem-NPL Party in North Dakota and he was running for Congress. Clearly, there was a lot of agitation from the political side, as in Trump’s campaign and segregation that he had caused, and also local aggravation from the NoDAPL movement, that I feel like was a big part in the failing of his run. Either way, onward and forward. So, now, I am the Director for Last Real Indians, which Chase Iron Eyes is the founder of, and basically, we’re switching gears from the campaign and being more involved in the political aspect into Standing Rock’s camp at Oceti Sakowin which is the head for the NoDAPL movement. Chase is a lawyer by profession, and a humanitarian by heart, and I basically just assist in all those efforts. I’m way more badass than he is, so that’s what he needs me for. So now, we are here in Charlottesville, we did a TED Talk yesterday, what town are we in actually? Bridge-builder?

Chase Iron Eyes: Water is life.

No, what town is this?

Natural Bridge.

Water is life. That too. But, we’re at Natural Bridge for a pipeline summit, yesterday, we were at the TED Talk, and then, from here, I’m going to Washington, D.C. to do the groundworks. I’m organizing a benefit concert that Dave Matthews is heading in Washington D.C.  at Constitution Hall on the 27th of November. And then on the 28th of November, we’re hosting a huge march, which all of you are invited to, and I hope that you guys come. It’s going to be from the Department of Justice to the Lincoln Memorial. We’re going to have a lot of great speakers and people present and basically, just make a stand that what’s happening in North Dakota…there’s zero tolerance for social injustices, for racism, segregation, and hatred, and we’re not going to put up with that shit. From the ground level all the way to the presidency, we’re just not gonna sit back and accept that this is our fate. So, it is led by the NoDAPL movement, but we’re really hoping to build those bridges between conservationists, between wild lens organizations, lawyers, students, politicians…this is all of our fight, everybody’s fight. We just want to engage the world to be involved. So that’s where we are now.

Show us your shirt and tell us what it means and how it embodies the movement.

So, this is an “Honor the Treaties” shirt, and the artist works through the Amplifier Foundation, and they do a lot of dope, grassroots artwork. So right now, what’s happening right now in Standing Rock, that land is basically treaty land. It’s a treaty that was made between the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the United States government, which isn’t being upheld. How do you trust a country that isn’t even uphold its own treaties? So a big part of this movement, is first, acknowledge our history, acknowledge that there’s a treaty already established, and then we wouldn’t be having this problem in the first place. So, that’s where my shirt comes from.

Can you tell us a little bit about what’s happening in Standing Rock right now?

So right now… I will talk about two sides of it. The first is the movement itself. In the movement itself, it is huge, it is a huge magnitude. It is indigenous peoples from all over the world, non indigenous people alike, it’s just all the people that are there standing behind the fact that climate change is real, that we need to stop our dependence on fossil fuels, that we won’t accept segregation. That indigenous people need to be recognized and valued and stop being dehumanized. It’s just this great big beautiful movement that stands not just all the injustices taking place here in the United States, but also internationally.  

And then there is another side that you are looking at through another lens, and that is North Dakota itself and their local government including Governor (name) who is a piece of shit. And he has sixteen percentish invested in a pipeline itself. And because North Dakota doesn’t have an ethics commission they are pretty much able to do whatever they want. So they kind of declared a false state of emergency and urgency that enables them to pull money and resources from wherever they want. But that type of emergency that is supposed to be used for resources like I don’t know like a tornado or a mass flooding, not for a peaceful protest. So they are doing it really successfully so they are convincing all the people of North Dakota that will offer them some sort of job diversity, which it isn’t – that’s a total lie. The pipeline is owned by Energy Transfer, and they’re out of Texas. The people who are gonna moner (??) to the integrity of the pipeline come from Oklahoma and Texas, so they’re out of state. And then the people who have been hired so far like security and construction workers, those are only temporary jobs, those aren’t’ long term, lasting jobs. So I feel like it’s kind of a no-brainer, but for a lot of people it isn’t.

In addition to that, North Dakota’s oil is shitty as it is, I mean it’s crude oil. They don’t have a refinery there that’s capable of processing that type of oil. That’s why it has to be shipped out to Chicago and has to be refined there. So when it comes down to that and ‘jobs’, which are all in another state as well, and that specific oil is going to be refined and then contracted to China. So economically, it doesn’t do anything for the US let alone North Dakota, and these are the things that people aren’t paying attention to and need to be aware of.

So those are the two things happening: the beautiful, amazing camp that is there with all of these awesome people like artists, musicians, politicians, tribal leaders, indigenous peoples, just a big beautiful commune. It’s super sustainable and everybody’s working together to keep moving forward, and it’s just a great place to learn and educate each other. And there’s singing and dancing and art, and it’s just a beautiful place if you ever get the opportunity to go there that’s cool. But then the other side is the ugly side, the side that’s mostly led by the political world, which clearly sucks for us all. And now even more so with Trump, because Trump is also financially invested into DAPL, so that’s shitty too. So there’s these two worlds, but either world you want to be involved in, you should come there and make a stand with Standing Rock against big corporations, against big oil. And also for your own personal vendetta, to be there and say ‘This is what I stand for, this affects all of us and not just indigenous people.’

jack-and-lyla-08

Can you tell us a little bit about the people from Standing Rock?

Yea, I mean we are them! We’re just like everybody else, except we grew up in a small towns. We grew up on the reservations, so it’s just like small town living that would be anywhere else. It’s always funny for me to see people who have never had a direct relationship with people who grew up on reservations, because they see living on reservations as like a weird little bubble. But actually, we’re exactly the same. Our culture is vibrant and even though it’s been threatened for hundreds of years, we’re definitely revitalizing those specific issues. We play basketball and go to college just like everybody else!

But right now, this is very personal because it challenges our inherited stewardship we have for the planet as indigenous people, and so that’s why I feel like we’re having such an uprising right now.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your life?

I’m 29 years old, and I have two daughters; my oldest is 6 and my youngest is 4, and they’re probably like the coolest people on the planet. I currently live in Bismarck, North Dakota, but I’ll probably be travelling around for the next however long. I grew up in Fort Yates, North Dakota, with my grandmother. I have a huge family (10:38)

With my dad I have 17 siblings, so there’s eighteen of us. My siblings are all super powerful and involved, and amazing people. Funny story is that Chase’s mom and my grandmother were super homies growing up. And so our families have been intertwined through generations.

This is personally really important to me because I went to school for sustainable development. I have also been involved in an organization called POSO? which is Placed based Opportunity for Sustainable development and high hopes which builds science curriculums infuses indigenous knowledges, ecological knowledges with core sciences like chemistry and biology. I have been really immersed in that really environmental aspect. And when that fight was taken to my home, you take on a personal relationship. So I have been there doing whatever I can to stand in support. I haven’t been arrested and I don’t really plan to get arrested. I am taking on more of the political side and hopefully the legal side. So now I am here and I don’t really know what is going on after this. This is my real focus as a person.

And just that, I have two cats. Winston and Sebastian, they are pretty sweet. And that’s just about me basically, I am a workaholic.

My number one thing is educate yourself, so become well versed on your topic so you know where you stand and you have the ability to communicate it clearly. That’s one of the biggest things. Be educated. Be woke. Wake yourself up. Be aware of these things, be aware of the politics, be aware of the legal elements so you are able understand these things from the broader elements.Take your education seriously, that is the only way you can help any movement. And the biggest thing we are lacking right now are lawyers. So just consider that, be educated.

And the second thing is in your own way pray. There is a higher power, and I know that there are a lot of people indigenous and non indigenous alike are called to the movement, so take the time to reflect within yourself and do whatever you do to connect with your higher power to find the right answer.

As far as money, you can go to the Last Real Indians, contact us and we can help you with that, or you can go to standingrock.org and they have a donation site there. Organize your own rallies, ask questions, join social media movements, if you cant travel there, which is the number one thing, just because it is a super awesome, it would be a super awesome experience for you, when you are 70 years old you can tell your grandkids about

But if you can’t do that, educate yourself, pray, maybe donate some money, maybe donate some time, but also be influenced by the movement to bring that type of motivation and that inspiration to your own local fights. That is really important as well.

So on the ground there are camps, so people are camp living so that is really cool. But winter is coming so that is a big fear for everyone. So on the ground there is that, there is the camp. Also they have the direct action and civil disobedience quite often. So they go out and practice civil disobedience and at different construction sites and locations. That is where they are facing militarized security that is funded by the DAPL, police officers that are influenced by our super shity governor, and they are facing extreme brutality but I mean this is real.  People are getting shot with rubber bullets, which people call non-lethal, but in actuality they are just less lethal. They are painful, they tear your skin and it feels like you are actually being shot. People are being maced;  men, women, children, it doesn’t matter, People are being tear gassed, there are constant sound horns that blast excruciating sounds. People are being subjected to extreme violence just for standing up for clean water.

On the ground people are dealing with PTSD and severe emotional abuse. Believe it or not, we are all on the same team. People have a hard time understanding how other Americans can completely dehumanize us as a nation. It is really intense, it is really crazy, it is really sad. We need people like you guys to stand up with us and basically say that “this is not okay that this is happening.”

What keeps you motivated?

My daughters. Anytime I have reflected within myself and thought about why I am doing this, why is this important, it comes at a personal level because this is my home. I don’t want my daughters to think it is okay to treat them awfully because of the pigmentation of their skin. This is a civil rights movement, it truly is. I will not sit back and let not let my daughters see me be mistreated because I have a darker color skin. That is absurd. I will not do it as a mom.

Also we have one planet. We don’t get another one. We don’t get to go anywhere else. That river that is there right now is the cleanest river in the United States. People in other countries right now are being stripped their rights of their right to clean water. I don’t want that to be my children’s or my children’s children’s future. That’s insane. I will not sit back and let that happen.  Also my friends and family. They are there every day. They are there being arrested. They are there taking bullets directly to the face. They are my inspiration. Anyone would be there to protect their family. And you just got to do it in the best way you know how to do it.

Everyone else that is part of the movement is really my inspiration. And Chase is my inspiration as well. To watch someone from my own community to get through roadblocks in their own life, continue to move forward, get educated, become eloquently spoken, and run for Congress, it makes you feel like anything is possible.

People like that give me inspiration for standing up for what is right. This movement and the peaceful protestors are 100% in the right. I don’t care what they have to say,  there is no argument that can tell me what they are doing is wrong. If they are trespassing…well Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus at that time, and history vindicated her. And that is what will happen to this movement.

Anything else you want people you want know?

The biggest thing is not to be discouraged by this Presidency. If you look at the voting map of your generation,  almost every state except for North Dakota is blue. That gives me hope. You guys the most inspirational right now. You are on the right path. Keep doing what you are doing.

We all have to be aware of the environment. It is all interconnected. Whatever you are doing can be useful. So just know that. Education is definitely the path you should be taking. And also we have bomb food at camp right now. Seriously there’s four really awesome food tents. So if you needed any other reason to go, just go and stuff your face, it is really delicious.

And also you can add on facebook “Last Real Indian” and Standingrock.org, if you want more information go on that site. Follow me on facebook, my name is Laundi Keepseagle.

The Light of Lanterns

Is this your first year doing the event?

No, this has been going on since I came here as a freshman. I have volunteered all three years since I’m a junior right now. So I’ve been doing this since I got here.

What does doing this event involve?

This year I am president of the Chinese Student Organization, and last year I was the secretary. There is a lot of stuff that goes into preparing events. We had to order the tables, get them delivered, and we have speakers. We had to order all of the lanterns, do advertising, and spread the event. We try to make it so that it’s a community event, so it’s not just on campus but also off campus. Usually earlier in the night, around 6 or 7 pm, families come. There’s a lot of scheduling. Last year we got rained out so we had to plan for rain days.

What do you think is the significance behind people writing down on the lanterns what their hopes and dreams are?

The lantern festival in itself is a traditional Chinese holiday. If we followed the rules, it would be during the Lunar New Year, which is in February. But, we have a Lunar New Year Show that we do around that time so we don’t really have time for it, so we do it now. During this period of time, the Lunar New Year is like New Year’s—you make good wishes. For Chinese people, it’s very important to wish people good luck. For example, if you have tests or midterms, they’re like “oh, please give me a good grade!”. A lot of the phrasing that we say is about love, family, and careers, which is stuff that a lot of Chinese people also emphasize, but they can also just write or draw anything on it.

For you personally, do you think it really works? What do you think is the spiritual connection that really makes it magical?

A lot of people come because we associate it with the scene from Tangled. I feel like it’s something that William & Mary doesn’t really see. We are the Chinese Student Organization and so one of our goals is to promote Chinese culture. For a lot of people, it’s something they’ve never experienced before, and that plays into a lot of what they get out of this event.

I see a lot of your organization is involved in the preparation and running of this event, and it’s a great way to promote Chinese culture. What do you think it means for the Chinese student body here to have an event together as a community?

I’m pretty sure we are the biggest cultural organization on campus. We have around 140 paid members this year, which is a lot considering how big William & Mary is. We try to work with the Confucius Institute, so they’re here to promote Chinese culture and Chinese language on campus. We try to engage not just our organization, but other organizations too. Not specific to this event, but we also work with KASA, the Korean-American Students Association, JCA, and also our own members. I think we do pretty well with member retention because we have these big events that we host. Beforehand, we also have a lot of social events just for our members, and we do Bigs and Littles. I think that’s the biggest way to get people involved in our organization, and we also have a show that we put on. Basically we just try to make an atmosphere for freshmen and upperclassmen to get along and get to know each other. Kind of like creating a family on campus.

So when you first started working on this as a freshman, why did you get involved?

From very early, I have been very aware of my culture as an Asian-American. It’s something that I’ve been very comfortable with, and it’s something that I personally sought out when I got on campus. It helped because my brother is an alum of here, and he was involved in the organization, so I got exposure to it earlier on. I came out to the shows and I saw that they do these dances and actings, and I heard them talk about them. That was my first exposure, and I really liked it.

Though I do have to say, for me, it’s been because I sought it out. As the Chinese Student Organization as a whole, sometimes when we recruit people they’ll say: “Oh, I’m not Chinese,” but it really doesn’t matter. This year is the biggest that our organization has been, and I feel like it’s because we’ve been reaching out to people. We ask them to bring their friends, and there’s no barriers—literally anyone can join. People sometimes feel like they can’t join, but there’s really no problem with that. Because we celebrate Chinese culture, we do focus on that; but at the same time, we’re just trying to grow as a family.

The Reader

What brought you to sit in this tree?

I sit in this tree kind of often because I like to read here. I was reading “Pride and Prejudice” when you came. I haven’t read it before, but my sorority has a book club and they’re reading this right now so I thought, why not?

I usually read lots of different things, but recently, I’ve been reading books that teachers would assign in school that I just wasn’t assigned. For example, I’m also reading “Catcher in the Rye” right now since nobody ever made me. And I recently finished “1984.” But when I did that one, I listened to it instead of actually reading it, and I think I liked it better that way because there were some lagging parts that I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed and given up on if I was reading it normally. I liked the story itself, just not necessarily the writing. Sometimes the author gave too much explanation of the Winston’s thoughts that I just didn’t care about.

What do you find meaningful about working in the Campus Kitchen?

I like volunteering there because I can do it with my friends and I get to cook something and feel good about doing something that’s going to people who need it. It’s convenient because I can go whenever I have time to do it—honestly, I haven’t gotten to it at all this semester but last year I did it quite a few times.

The Goats

Why are goats your favorite animal?

Because they are the weirdest animals you’re ever going to come across, and very genuine to themselves. They don’t care about anyone else, they just do their own thing. I think it’s great. I also think they’re just adorable. I actually almost got a goat. I went to goat farm, picked out my goat, his name was Betty, but my dad said no

College seems like a hard time to get a new pet.

Right! My dad told me if you get this goat….he’ll be gone when you go to college. There will be goat meat in Betty’s place.

Oh no!

I know it’s a terrifying statement to make.

So did you know this was happening today, or were you just coming through?

I didn’t know there would be goats! I’m part of the Jamestown Complex and so I saw the email and was like OH MY GOD THERE’S A PETTING ZOO I forgot! So I ran away from Swem for a little bit.

This is definitely a good way to destress from work!

Yeah! Do you mind if I go pet that goat?!?

The Painter

sw2pukkkspanhakxe6dena_thumb_5e5Are you from the community?

I am. I live in Williamsburg. I’m a second grade teacher in Yorktown. I’m a hobbyist plein air painter.

So you’re not an art teacher?

Nope. Second grade. So yeah I come out here from time to time. I got my graduate degree here from William and Mary. I do have a bit of a connection to campus. I know a bit about why the bridge is important.

Have you painted anywhere else around campus?

Not on campus, no. This is a nice spot.

What is your favorite thing about the campus?

That’s hard because I was in the School of Education. And we were in Jones and the one next door that’s even more dilapidated and so what I think I liked about campus was the old part. How walkable everything was and how the crate myrtles around Swem Library go through their seasonal changes. I think it’s a beautiful campus. And I lived in the graduate housing and I worked on Scotland Street. It’s a convenient campus and it’s in the community, but not in the community. It’s not a city campus, but it’s a nice, woodland campus in the middle of a town.

How long have you been painting for?

Well I’ve been “painting” all my life, but I’ve picked up plein air oil painting about four years ago.

You just started out of nowhere?

Actually I went to a workshop for teachers and it was really for science teachers and art teachers. But since I teach second grade, which basically teaches all of that, they let me come. It was on the Eastern Shore and through UVA, and they had a plein air painter and an ecologist there. You learn about the ecology of salt marshes and then you learn some painting techniques and paint the salt marshes. So that’s how I got started on it, through that professional development program. And then I bought my own easel and kept going.

Are you a big fan of art in general?

Yeah, generally. I’m pretty excited about the Botticelli exhibit coming to the Muscarelle soon.

Will you try and finish this today in one session?

Yes, so with plein air painting you have about a three hour window before the light changes too much. You don’t want to paint at high noon because you can get weird shadows. I started this around 30 or 45 minutes ago. And as you can see, the sun is starting to go down, so I’m going to have to work quickly.

Do you find painting therapeutic? Is that why you do it?

I do find it very enjoyable. With plein air painting, the thing I like most about it is that you only have a three-hour window. You have a finished piece in three hours, whatever it is going to be. It’s that nice feeling of accomplishment that you actually finished something. But it is really nice with plein air painting because you are outside. In some ways it forces you outside. Nature is just so relaxing. I’ve never done cityscape paintings, which I think are beautiful, but I imagine it’s a lot different.

What Makes Us Human

I just really love learning about other places and interacting with people from other places. I think it’s so important to maintain ties with other countries and be active in a global community. Today, we have such a tight international community that it’s just really important to be able to connect with others and to understand other people’s viewpoints and where they’re coming from…I think everyone can work on doing a better job of communicating with each other and working together.

Love everyone and find ways to identify with every person that you meet…it’s so important, because that what makes us human. Being able to connect with one another in ways that promote love between one another.

Our Family

I don’t have a word that describes our family, I’d say we are all very close yet all very different. Sitting around the fire with our dog unifies us quite a bit honestly. We all have different interests… horseback riding, sailing, rock climbing, video games. My sister and I are big fans of singing.

We have moved around, everywhere from California to Pennsylvania. I always loved the spot I live currently the most. Not by choice, it has been kind of accidental. Like I loved living in Wisconsin so much and then we moved to Maryland. There was nothing bad about Wisconsin, it just moved out of focus. I was suddenly living in Maryland and there were so many cool things around me… I love William and Mary more than Maryland, so that has been good. I have met more amazing people here in a shorter amount of time than anywhere else I have ever been.

We both went to school in Virginia and knew of William & Mary. I love Colonial Williamsburg and I knew it would be a great match for him. As he has been here, I have found it to be a very nurturing and stimulating environment. The creativity in both the music and theater far exceeds other schools this size. It seems to let people celebrate individuality rather than force conformity. Some schools seem to try and get everyone to be alike, but here it seems to let you be yourself and bloom.

(Senior) Hall Bonding

What are you doing here today?

“Bonding. Freshman hall bonding, except we are seniors. We are doing a scavenger hunt where we run around Williamsburg, find clues, solve puzzles, and find out more about who we are as people. It was a perfect excuse to spend a Sunday afternoon with one another instead of sitting around and not doing anything.

“In the most recent challenge we had to meditate for five minutes without technology. So that was cool. The whole time I was thinking about how she inhaled a piece of cake earlier so I couldn’t stop laughing.”

We love each other. No matter how much time or distance we spend apart, we always come back together.”

 

New Friends

We met on Facebook through our profiles, but we were actually able to meet up this summer. I actually found out where she lived, and I was like wait a minute, Im going on a cruise there this summer! So me and one of my best friends were able to hang out on her island, where she almost killed us. She made us go on a 5 mile hike down the beach. It was great bonding though. Weve already sweated together, so this is easy.

Great Guy

Hes actually a great guy. For example, my first night here I was doing laundry, and I got a little tired, so I told him I would fold it later and go to bed early. The next morning when I woke up, I saw basically all my clothes folded very neatly on my desk. Hes pretty supportive. He hasnt had any problems with anything I do. Another example is I went to DormMania yesterday and got those. I didnt have time to assemble them so I put them over there. The next morning, I found he had assembled them for me and put all my shoes on it.

The Humanist

Sarah05b.jpgI conducted this interview with Ed on Friday, April 8th, 2016. He lives at the Quarterpath Inn in Williamsburg. This interview was conducted as part of the homelessness awareness week that we were putting on with Greater City. Brian Jenkins, the founder of GC, was with me at the interview and asked some great questions, too.
As a personal reflection, I thought it was interesting how he didn’t talk about his living arrangements but just loosely alluded to them as financial difficulties. Also, I just really cherished how much he seemed to value this interview. He got super dressed up and was low key super excited to do this, despite being a little hesitant about talking to a stranger. Having Brian there really helped because he opened up a lot more.

Do you have a best friend?

A lot of people.

In my family, they’re all my best friends, because they mean so much to me. To tell you the truth, I’m a humanist, and I don’t believe in best friends because we all share life. I don’t believe in categories, I think that degrades people. It’s like what drives me crazy is people go around saying, I’m this race or this race when in truth there’s only one race: the human race. It kind of drives me crazy when people say, “I’m part of the Irish race or Polish race,” or whatever…You’re a human being! You’re a part of the human race!

Why do you think you feel that way?

Actually, I think it was more my father than anybody. My father was an amazing person, and so was my mother. I think I get my positive attitude from my mother. My father was a person that had no prejudice whatsoever. He did not discriminate against anyone. He always told me that you judge people by what is on their mind and in their hearts. And that’s what I do.

Well I found out, that you never stop learning. Each person you meet you learn something from them. And that’s why I came up with this personal motto: “everybody’s my friend until they prove otherwise.” I learn something from him, I learn something from you, you learn something from me.

How long have you been living in Williamsburg?

Going on 16 years.

I’m always curious, how do Williamsburg residents see William & Mary students?

It runs the gamut. There are some that see you guys as snobs, some see you as great people, and some are in between. It’s not like the Naval Academy where you get two types of people. Here, it’s the full range.

That’s very interesting.

Which I think is the right way of doing it.
This goes way back, because I’m old. But in one of my psych courses, there was a class on the middle child. And I’m a middle child. Now, the middle child is an extremely observant person and we have above average listening skills. And trust me, being caught between two brilliant siblings, listening was my only way of surviving. So, I observed and I listened. So yeah you’re going to have people who think you guys are great, some who think you guys are lousy, and some who fall in between. For me, I think you guys are great, so far.

Brian: I just see you as a really strong person, so maybe you could tell us a little bit about what it means to be a strong person? Or a story about a challenge you’ve faced?

First of all you have to realize that a weak person or a fearful person…well first I should say that fear is only the absence of knowledge. And if you gain the knowledge you lose the fear.

When my inheritance caught up with me, I simply went in and told the doctor, “tell it to me straight.” He gave it to me straight. And my fear was gone. When I was growing up, I just simply observed my adversary and found out that they were more bluster than bully. So, I just simply walked up and looked him in the eye, let them say what they wanted to say, and when it was over and done with, I went on my way. I think the last time I actually had a physical fight was when I was 18. I was taught by my father that the greatest gift and weapon that our blessed Lord gave us was our mind and heart. And it’s proven to be true. Being strong, I don’t believe it’s physical. I believe it’s mental and spiritual.

It sounds to me like you’re a scholar, that you like to study things. Is it safe to say that you derive a lot of mental strength from that?

I overheard my father once tell a very close friend of his that his middle child had his open mind, which is a curious child. Which means that if I’m curious about something I am going to seek out the answer. I have an open heart, which is a giving heart. And trust me, I’ve gone broke a couple of times with that. If I get curious about something I’m going to finance it. But then somebody invented the internet and I do a heck of a lot of research.

So you mentioned mental strength and spiritual strength. Where do you think you get your spiritual strength?

I believe I get it from my father’s side. My father was assigned to Maryland and was waiting for a house so we stayed at my grandmother’s. For some odd reason she would wake me up every morning to go to Saint Rita’s 6 o’clock mass. My father, my grandmother, and my aunt had to be my greatest influences on my Catholic foundation. My father once told me that everybody travels their own Damascus road. The only thing I wish my father would have told me is that mine was a complete circle. When you complete your Damascus road, you will find your parish home and your parish family. And I did. Because St. Bede’s is absolutely wonderful. The Parrish family at St. Bede’s is wonderful.

How do they support you?

Through love. Through hope. And joy, forgiveness, mercy, and peace. In other words, the blessings of the Cross.  

So it sounded like it started with building that foundation with your family when you were young, and now you say you’ve got this family here.

Well, trust me, the Damascus road was not fun.

Why not? What was along the road?

I would rather not say.

Growing up… there were stumbles. My father always taught us that anyone who believes in the trinity is your brother and sister in Christ. And the way my father explained it was that the cross that Christ was crucified on was made out of wood, wood comes from a tree, a tree has branches, and each branch is a Christian denomination, so we’re all connected. So all Christians are my brothers and sisters. Now we just need to get closer together. The amazing thing is what John Paul II and St. Francis are doing right now. They’re bridging the gap of the great schism. The Coptic church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church. I believe what Pope Francis is doing is trying to bring them together as an example to the Christian community that, ‘if we can do this, all of us can do this’. And I think that if we can do this, then the world’s going to be a better place to be.

If you had a room with a listening audience, what would you tell them?

First of all, I don’t like speeches. I prefer dialogues and debates. A speech you learn from one person. In a debate or dialogue, you learn from each other.

If you could communicate something through your writing, then, what would you want to share?
To think for yourself. That you have your own mind, an independent spirit. That between the two you can work well and do great things if you want. That’s the main thing. The other thing is that that spirit comes from above. The other thing that I would want people to realize is that our society, the group mentality – it’s a bunch of bunkus.

Ok, Ed, this is kind of a random question but I always like to ask people what they wanted to be when they grew up?

Believe it or not, I just wanted to be whatever God wanted me to be.

Have you felt like he’s wanted you to be one thing or another? Have you felt particularly called in any way?

No. I know he gave me the talent to entertain. I know he gave me the talent to write….To care. But you know, life’s not over. It’s an amazing adventure.

I surprised somebody once. One of the drawbacks of having this inheritance, was that I had an incident where I had a stroke, seizure, and a heart attack.

All at once?!

Yep. The doctor came in and said, “How are you doing,” and I told him, “Okay.” And he just stared at me and said, “You almost died.” And I told him, “Death is only part of the journey.” He goes, “What is the end of the journey?” I said, “Heaven.”

When you refer to an inheritance, what do you mean?

My health problems are the same ones that my grandfather had, that his father had, and his father had, etc., And it’s a lot better than calling it anything else – so I claim it as my inheritance!

What have you learned from that?
That when faced with a challenge, you face it. You take it on. And you don’t let it stop you. You don’t let it slow you down because if you do, you’re cheating yourself out of a part of life. And I’m not about to let it.

Sticking together

Did I tell you how my dad got a new teaching job while I was in high school? He had been unemployed for like, I don’t remember, a year or two maybe. And he got this job. And it was a few days before school started. He found out on a Thursday and then school started on Monday – it was such a whirlwind. We were just so excited for him that he got this job, though. But then after the excitement settled he realized that the new school had a rule that your kids have to go to school there if you teach there; they said it was a way of ‘showing support.’ They were going to let me out of the rule that year because classes had already started, but it would apply next year. They were still going to let me out of it, though, because it would have been my senior year and it would have been mean to make me change schools. But they weren’t going to let my younger brother, JonDavid out of it. And I just told you how I’m probably going to cry telling you this but… he would have had to go to this new school by himself. And that just made me so sad to think about because… I just miss him a lot. My siblings and I have all been so close. We always just followed each other all the way through school. And then I realized that he was going to have to leave and wouldn’t be able to share the rest of the experiences that we had. So when I realized he was leaving, I just went with him. Because I didn’t want him to go by himself. And I’m so glad that he went to this new school because I feel like he has such better friends there. And I think overall it’s better for him. I don’t know how much I had to do with it, but being with him that year was way more important than finishing my senior year at my old school.

So you left for your senior year?

Yeah. That’s like my one really good story. Like I wrote about it for college and everything.  That’s my one story.

How did you tell him about your decision?

I was never sure. I think that he knew that I was vaguely considering it because we both went to prospective student day. I just went for the heck of it because I was interested and I wanted to miss school and stuff. And I was like “oh yea they’re fun I like them!” I tried to not tell him because i didn’t want to ever get him excited and then not follow through.
I talked about it for a long time with my dad. Back and forth back and forth. I talked about it a lot with my older brother. A lot of people were really not supportive of it. My older brother was not supportive, my teachers were really not supportive. I think my dad really wanted me to go but was trying not to sway me. I remember I decided when I was on a bus.  I thought “I have time to think right now so I’m just going to sort it out right now and make a decision about it”. So then I decided I was going and I texted my dad and he was really excited. So I came home and asked my brother how he was feeling about changing schools. I would periodically do that because I knew he was scared and sad. So I asked him “how do you feel about changing schools?” and he said “fine, I guess” and I said, “would it feel better if I was there?” and he was like “yeah, but what do you mean?” and I said “I’m gonna come. I’ll be there.” And he just started freaking out.

We have each other

Rahul 02aWhat’s your favorite thing about Megan?

Megan is always fun, she’s always down to have a good time.

What’s your favorite thing about Sunny?

She’s very comfortable in her own skin, I feel like I can be myself around her.

What’s your favorite aspect of your friendship?

We are both freaks, and weird as hell. It’s nice to be able to talk to someone about anything and everything, and that’s what we have with each other.

The Girl from Improv

How did you become involved in Improv?

I was a huge theatre geek in high school and had the opportunity to study some improv before I came to college. My high school theatre department took biannual field trips to Chicago and the students got to take workshops with several of the renowned Chicago improv groups. I found I was good at it and enjoyed getting a laugh, and thought it would bAllison 05b- The Girl from Improve something I would look into doing at college. At W&M Day for Admitted Students, I met several students from Sandbox Improv. They seemed really fun, and I really clicked with them. They seemed like people I would want to be friends with at college.  When freshman year started, I found out that most improv groups take only about two or three people each time they have auditions, and with thirty people signed up, my chances of making a troupe were slim. I had nothing to lose by auditioning, and auditions were held early enough in the year for me to find something else to do if it didn’t work out. When I found out I made it into Sandbox, I was really excited.

How have you found laughter therapeutic?

Laughter is a great way to de-stress. At a school like William & Mary, it’s important not to get too caught up in academics, and taking time out of your day to laugh a little bit will help you realize what’s really important in life.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in Improv after college?

I don’t think I’m going to pursue a career in doing improv, but I would love to continue doing it on the side. Performing improv is something that a lot of professional workplaces actually encourage. It helps with your listening skills, problem-solving skills, and collaboration skills.

What is your favorite memory from your Improv group?

Last summer, one of the members of Sandbox got married, and we were all invited to attend his wedding. The wedding made me realize what an impact Sandbox had on not only his life but on all our lives. These people have become my dear friends. After college, they will be the ones I keep in touch with. They will be the first people I tell about any major life event. After the tearful goodbyes were said to the bride and groom at the end of the wedding, the rest of the members of Sandbox stayed at the farm where the reception was held and attempted to set up a tent where we would sleep for the night. Although we were never able to figure out how to set up the tent (we probably should’ve set it up before the sun went down), we had a great time laughing and telling ghost stories.

If you had to recruit other students to your improv team, what would you tell them?

You have nothing to lose by auditioning! So many people think that you need theatrical experience, but that’s not true at all. We have several people in our troupe who have never done any sort of acting before Sandbox. People also think you need to be laugh-out-loud funny to be good at improv, but that’s not true either. Some of our best improvisers don’t make very many jokes, but they are good at setting up other people to make jokes, and as a result, improve the quality of our show tenfold.

In addition, make friends with the people you are improvising with! Not only will you have a better experience, but it helps if you have some sort of idea of what is about to come out of the other person’s mouth while onstage. Sandbox hangs out all the time, whether it be at rehearsal, on Friday nights, taking vacations, or even just bothering to grab lunch at the Caf in the middle of a stressful week.

A secret longing

Interview with Arthur (Art) Davis

I work at a senior living community in Lake Oswego, Oregon, a few miles south of Portland. Art Davis is one of my favorite residents. Whenever I give him a drink or his food, he always says in his Mississippi accent, “Oh, bless your heart.” He spent some time in Williamsburg in the 50’s. I interviewed him while at home for spring break.

When did you live in Williamsburg?

I never lived in Williamsburg. I was in the Mississippi army, the National Guard. I was stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia, which is about 6 or 7 or 8 miles out of Williamsburg. Fort Eustis was a small base. It was a transportation base, and it was located in a very pretty area surrounded by history. So if you were going to be in the army, it was a good place to be. That’s my relationship to Williamsburg.

And you visited Williamsburg a lot?

When we got off duty in the afternoon, and I don’t know if it was 4:00 or 4:30 – I cant remember – but we would have 2 or 3 of us and we would get in a car and drive over to Williamsburg. And none of us had any money and we were all young people and we would get a hamburger or something and we would sit on the curb and watch the tourists, or we would find us a bench and watch the tourists, and that was our entertainment. We’d go back to the base around 8:30 or 9:00, so that was our excursion and that was our excitement of the day.

Did you ever walk through campus?

Anna, as well as I can remember, and correct me if I’m wrong, this goes back 60 years ago and my recall is not so good, but it seems like to me there was a drug store right smack-dab on the corner of the main street. And it seems like, and I could be wrong, that the street bat off to the left I think, and that was the extension of main street and you would go down a few blocks and William and Mary was on the right if I’m not mistaken. Is that right?

Yeah!

Well, I’m doing good so far. Now, I went down out of curiosity one day to look at the campus and to walk through the campus and to soak up the history and the ambiance of the campus and the beauty of it. And I thought to myself, “hey I would like to go to school here” but of course I did not have the opportunity. But years later, I was a college football coach and I thought to myself, “If William and Mary were to call me and wanted me to come up to interview for a job, I would have to go up.” I was so enamored with the beauty of the campus and the town and the history and the colonial aspect of it and all. It was so appealing to me. I didn’t go to the football office and I didn’t go to the football field. But to look at the building and the colonial flavor that the town offered and that William and Mary offered – it was wonderful. And for you to have the opportunity to go there to school is a great thing.

I love it.

I would too. I would love going to school there, I really really would.

Did you ever go back?

I went back one time to a conference in Williamsburg. I want to say I stayed in the 1776 Inn. Is that still there?

It might be. I’m not sure.

At that time, it was a very nice place to stay. Williamsburg is one of my favorite places, and I’ve been to many places. The quaintness of it and the history and the colonial aspect – all of that is so appealing. I’ve only been back one time since the 50’s.

What years were you there originally?

I was only there for four months. Back then, when you were in the National Guard, you were required to go on active duty for six months, and I spent four months of that in Fort Eustis, which was a very good place to be. And more than once, maybe twice a week, we would get in a car and drive over to Williamsburg and do nothing but watch the tourists and eat a sandwich or something. We may have eaten on the base and then gone over to Williamsburg, I can’t remember. And then we enjoyed the fact that we could get off the base and have a glorious place to go. And it was. And am I right that Williamsburg is down the main street and on the right?

Yeah!

Well, I’ve got fairly good recall. And if I’m not mistaken, the main drugstore in the town was right there on the corner, and it’s probably not there anymore.

There is a drugstore there – it might not be the same one.

There is a drugstore there? Well I’ll bet you it is the same one. I’ll bet you it is. My memory is better than I thought. Anyway, it was a tourist place at the time and I’m sure it still is. We would watch all the people and visit with the people and sit on the bench or the curb and at 8:30 or 9:00, we would go back to the base. And that was our day. That was what we did. That’s about all I remember about Williamsburg, other than the fact that I liked it so much and if they had ever called me to go up there about a coaching job I would have gone because I liked it so much and it appealed to me. And it would appeal to any student school. If I were a student, it would be attractive for me to go there.

Where did you go to school?

Mississippi State. Are you a sophomore?

Mhmm

Ain’t that something? You’ve got another two years to go. That’ll be fun.

[We talk for a while about my major and activities and things]

Well Anna, I can’t think of anything else as far as Williamsburg.

And Colonial Williamsburg was set up then, right?

Yes. And where we would get a hamburger or a hotdog or something, I don’t know. I can’t picture any fast food places in that area.

Do you remember Duke of Gloucester Street, DoG Street? Or Prince George Street?

I remember the names of them, yes.

Those are the main streets down.

Do the people still dress up?

Oh yeah.

And that’s part of the flavor of the tourist attraction and so forth. Well, you’re a lucky girl. You’re very fortunate to have the chance to go to that school.

It’s unforgettable. It’s amazing.

And I saw William and Mary play James Madison this year, and I was wondering if you were at the game, and you said you weren’t at the game.

My dorm is right across the street from the stadium, so I can basically watch the game from my bed.

Really? But you don’t go to the games?

Not usually, sometimes I’ll go for a little bit.

[He tries to convince me to go to games and talks about football for a while. And then talks about his granddaughter at Baylor.]

Golly, Anna. My goodness. Well you’ve got a good start in life at a wonderful place and you’re meeting wonderful people.

[We talk about my sorority for a while. His daughter was a Kappa Delta at Mississippi State.]

Were you in a fraternity?

I was. I was a Sigma Chi. The blue of her eyes, and the gold of her hair, she’s a sweetheart of Sigma Chi. I wasn’t a real enthusiastic member. I didn’t have time to go to the fraternity. I was in football all the time and I didn’t have time. I did as much as I could. And now, they write me all the time for money. They want money for various projects and so forth, and I help them as much as I can. But I was never that gung ho about it. And you get out of it what you put in it, and I didn’t put much in it. But, I can say that I was a Sigma Chi and it was a good fraternity.

 

Folk Music

Jack 07aTell me about the music you play.

We play traditional American folk music, old timey music, hill billy music.

It has a sense of openness. Classical music is very hierarchical and conformist in the sense that when you play classical music you have to conform a particular aesthetic, which is the western hegemonic aesthetic. It is very European. This music… frontier’s music, is very different. Each individual has his own style. And instead that being measured to the yardstick of the western classical aesthetic, it is understood for being good as its own thing.

How did you guys meet?

Aaron: We met in a class called the Appalachian Music Ensemble. Now when Miles and I have a chance, we like to come together and play music. During the week, I will be listening to music all week, trying different tunes. And on the weekends we will come together and I’ll say “Hey check out these tunes”

Miles: Basically he does all the hard stuff. Like the melodies. The rest of these songs have a pretty basic structure.

Aaron: Miles has spent most of his life studying jazz, blues, and stuff like that. So he adds a really interesting element when we play.

What does the future hold for you?

*chuckles* First thing is first. There needs to be a political revolution. We are going to take over and destroy the millionaire and billionaire class. We are going to nationalize and democratize the economy. And then everyone is going to sit on their porch and play folk music. That’s our future plan.

Stranger on the Train

I was standing on a train platform in the city waiting to catch my ride when I spoke to this stranger.
I met my wife at William & Mary Law School. I was  third year and she was a first year. All three of our daughters have since graduated from W&M and about a dozen of our extended family decided to go there as well. I still remember doing the Yule Log tradition even as a Law Student!

Dani04a