greybeta: (Peanuts - Lucy Doctor is In)
I know, never say never. But nonetheless, a reader did ask me why I think I will never get married...

It's a long story, and I think I've told bits and pieces of it before. Eh, there are several aspects to this, but the biggest is that I'm supposed to get an arranged marriage.

Well, I say arranged marriage, but it's more like my parents are supposed to be my matchmakers. Now that's a love connection for ya.

You'd think this wouldn't work, but it actually works out more often than not. This is because parents often choose to match with another family of equal socioeconomic status, so there's a balance.

Besides, the kids usually know each other anyways. Having the parents be matchmakers is just tradition.

Where it doesn't work, of course, is when the match is made between two people who don't love each other but the marriage happens for political or business reasons. But hey, that happens in non-arranged marriages as well.

On a personal level, I am not quite as confident when it comes to relationships. I may have a good IQ, but my EQ is lacking, to put it lightly.

I don't know how I come across on my blog, but I'm pretty sure it's a lot more positive than I am in real life. I manage to edit away most of the negativity on my blog, but in real life it tends to creep out more and in the most unfortunate situations.

Then there's the whole thing about how being in love means being willing to have your heart crushed by another person. I'm not afraid of being crushed; rather, I'm afraid of doing the crushing.

Not only that, but I am called to be a history teacher in Arkansas. What kind of girl wants to be poor and live in Arkansas for the rest of her life?
greybeta: (Mario - Hard Headed)
[Author’s note: This post is in thanks to [ profile] das_hydra who made me two excellent icons.]

I started playing video games during the heyday of the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment Systems. So I’m a bit biased, but I believe many of the harder games ever made are from the NES. Okay, maybe not the hardest games but definitely some of the more difficult ones to beat. NES games often had only one difficulty setting, often told you to obtain something with no hints, tortured you with intricate jumping patterns and less-than-fine controls that frustrated many a gamer. Also, the lack of 3-D meant the NES would recognize hits on you that you simply do not expect in today’s games.

The hardest game I’ve played and have never beaten is the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for NES. Good grief, what were they thinking back then? Yes, you have four Turtles but Donatello’s extremely long reach makes him the best by far. The enemies come from all angles and you’re quite limited in your responses. Also, in between levels you have to diffuse bombs underwater and if you fall into the seaweed you automatically lose a Turtle. I tried playing it again recently and gave up because it’s way too annoying to advance far into a level but lose all that progress because I screw up on a simple jump. I concede.

Also, I have to make a special mention for the original Ghosts and Goblins. This is a game with infinite continues and yet I could not get past the third boss. Each time you die, the map scrolls from the beginning to the end. At first, it’s pretty cool. But after you die for the twentieth time, you realize something: Oh @#$^#!, I still have three more bosses and countless enemies and mazes to go through?!? I put in a cheat code once to fight the final boss and he’s actually pretty easy. So kudos to those who actually beat it fair and square. Unfortunately, it’s one of those games you have to beat twice to get the good ending.

As far as the hardest game I have ever beaten, I’m going to say a little-known game from the NES called Silkworm. It was on the arcade for awhile as well. The story is that an evil entity has taken over the world and you must save it. How? Well, fortunately, we’ve trained a helicopter crew and jeep to defeat the armies of evil (many NES games pitted your one fighter against the entire alien that worked out logistically we’ll never know).

Maph, a buddy of mine since junior high, and I one day determined that we would beat the evil horde of Silkworm. FYI, “Silkworm” was the name of the invincible missiles that would appear from time to time. He played the heli and I played the jeep. The key to the game is that there are midbosses are each level that provide powerups. If you beat them fast enough, you get two powerups instead of one. This is important because the quicker you power up, the quicker you advance your rank. Once you make Captain, you retain the two power ups of the game: Twin and Turbo. Twin doubles your shot and Turbo speeds up your shot, and both are necessary to stand a chance. Oh, and if you level up fast enough instead of power ups you get point bonuses. This is critical because you obtain an extra life for every 50,000 points you earn.

The game consists of eight waves of enemies, each with a level boss that flashes white when you hit its weakpoint (Penny Arcade would say, “These weakpoints are a f***in’ liabilitiy!”). Some of the enemies are plausible, and some are silly like the flyswatter tank that tries to run into the jeep. There are also mines that one must be aware of. However, if you shoot the mines, they can spring forth a starry invincible shield. You can either pick up the shield or shoot it. If you shoot it enough times, you can destroy all the enemies on the screen (at certain junctures you must do this or die).

You do get two continues, so it’s not completely impossible. The heli and jeep both have their pros and cons. The heli can fly around most of the screen and is more maneuverable, but it can’t fire backwards and there are more flying enemies as well including the aforementioned Silkworms (they can only be avoided). The jeep doesn’t have to worry about silkworms and you can point the cannon in five directions including backwards, but it’s harder to move around and it’s easier to run into a mine or hole.

As to be expected, the game ramps up in difficulty each stage. The stages are played at various stages of the day, from bright day to early dusk to late twilight to the pitch black of night. When you get to the boss, the background fades. The boss is announced with the warning music and then it’s battle time. The one saving grace is that when there are many enemies and bullets on the screen, the game actually slows down because the poor NES processor is trying to keep up. Although, one could argue it makes the game more dramatic and is perhaps a visualization of what happens in our heroes’ minds. Either way, it makes the game possible because you would otherwise not be able to avoid certain Silkworm formations (trust me on this one).

So one day, we managed to survive the eight waves and fight the final boss. By the way, in the eighth level the Silkworms start shooting their own tiny indestrucible missiles as they pass by. So yeah, the final boss just keeps shooting Silkworms and these annoying missiles that follow you around the level and which you cannot shoot down (you have to hope they hit the ground or fly off the screen). It’s all about pattern recognition, and once we played enough times, we got good enough to get in a few good rounds before we died. And then, one day, glory was ours. Yes, we beat the final boss. Maph and I jumped for joy!

We were eager to see what the end was going to be like. The game automatically drives your heli and jeep to the end. Then the screen faded to black and boss warning music was played. Oh noes, the real final boss has appeared! Wait a minute, he’s like HUGE. By himself he takes up a fourth of the screen, and he flies. His body reflects your bullets, which slows you down because the NES allows only so many of your bullets to be on screen at one time. His shoulders and knees fire those annoying tiny indestructible missiles. His first move was to charge forward, raise his hand, and shoot a Silkworm missile from his hand. Oh yeah, we died before we busted out laughing at the absurd difficulty of the real final boss.

Through many deaths and billions of dollars of helis and jeeps, we slowly learned the nuances of the game. One of the first things we learned was that if you got to real final boss, your continues became null and void. We could not die on the first three levels because we wouldn’t advance ranks fast enough to become Captains for the later levels. Some level bosses we knew so well that we would be firing at their weakpoints before they even came on screen. The heli and jeep need to cover each other in certain areas because the heli actually kills ground enemies easier and the jeep’s ability to fire behind the helicopter is important for the enemies that approach from the rear (of which there are many).

The real final boss is weak only at one point: His heart opens up for a second after he fires his Silkworm missile. At all other times you must crazily avoid his volume of missiles. When he rolls forward, the jeep needs to cover the heli by shooting some of the missiles that can be shot down. When he rolls backward, all you can do is pray that you’re quick enough to avoid death. Slowly but surely, we got closer and closer.

One day, in between practices for the musical Oklahoma!, Maph and I played the game to kill some time. Our good friend Riest happened to be there as well. Our teamwork was exceptional that day, as we got to the eighth and final level without using a continue. Then we purposely died to get a full stock of lives. We managed to beat the final level without losing a life. We sensed that this might be our best chance. The real final boss rolled forward, we dodged. The real final boss rolled backward, we died. Rinse and repeat a couple times and Maph has used up all of his lives. I’m driving back and forth in my jeep and blindly connecting a few hits while frantically evading missiles (with the heli dead I was more focused on not dying than hitting the boss).

Then it happened.

The boss flashed red.

He was dead.

At that point, we waited to make absolutely sure. Sure enough, the final cut scene played. And for all that effort, what did we get?


Just a text message saying we had saved the world?

Saving the world has never been more disappointing.
greybeta: (Arkansas Razorbacks)
[Author’s note: This post is in thanks to [ profile] das_hydra, who has made me two excellent icons.]

What can I tell you about Arkansas? Well, when someone mentions “Arkansas”, the first thing they’ll most likely think of is William Jefferson Clinton. Indeed, Bill Clinton (and Hilary) have done many things for my home state. What most people don’t know is that Bill Clinton was actually defeated after one term as governor for a variety of reasons. My parents always tell me that one of the reasons is that Hilary refused to take his name (she was known as Hilary Rodham back then). Hey now, we’re in the South here and our women are submissive to their husbands (and yet few people quote the second part of that Bible verse, that husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies). She changed her name and they came back strong the next time, and the rest is history.

Arkansas is in the bottom five states in terms of education and salaries. On the other hand, we have a low cost of living and you can buy a spacious house at a great price. Arkansans are constantly the butt of jokes, that they’re hillbillies who don’t wear shoes or marry our cousins. Okay, so in certain parts of Arkansas that happens but that’s beside the point. We also contain the remnants of the KKK, as in we have people who will still dress up in the white garb you might see in D W Griffith’s Birth of a Nation. You’ll see people hanging Confederate flags and singing Dixie. If you travel in the river delta part of the state you’ll definitely get to hear an ubiquitous Southern drawl from all the citizens.

We have no professional sports teams, so people follow the one big college team, the Arkansas Razorbacks. Since we’re in the South, the head football coach (that’s American football for my European readers) of the Razorbacks is more recognizable than the governor and may arguably be the most powerful person in the state (he’s the highest paid state employee, at least). Entire talk radio shows dissect every decision the coach makes, from spring football practice to disciplining players to the minutiae of boneheaded game decisions (even in victory the coach makes dumb moves). Basketball and baseball are fairly popular here as well.

Thanks to an abundance of natural resources, Arkansas is nicknamed “The Natural State”. We’re supposedly the state that could be self-sufficient. We have the only public diamond mine in the United States (which is why there is a diamond in our state flag). We have twenty five stars because we were the twenty fifth state to join the Union. We sided with the Confederacy in the Civil War, though no major battles were fought here. Our state capital is in Little Rock, so named by some French explorer.

The state legislature is heavily Democratic, reflecting the fact that the majority of Arkansas is farmland. Governor Huckabee became governor because we elect our lieutenant governors separately, and the guy before him fell in a major scandal (many conspiracy theorists claim that this guy fell on his sword for the Clintons). The current governor, Mike Beebe, was previously Attorney General and while popular, had no chance of making this state purple for Obama. Our Senators, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor are considered to among the most moderate Democrats. Mark has his Senate job for life thanks to his dad, David Pryor, who was a governor as well as a U.S. Senator.

Of the four congressional districts, Northwest Arkansas is the bastion of Republican conservatism. Oh hey, look, Wal-Mart and Tyson foods is headquartered here. Ah, yes, Wal-Mart or Wally’s World originated from the town of Bentonville. I live in a border town called Fort Smith, right next to Oklahoma. We’re famous for Hanging Judge Parker, who kept law and order by publically hanging criminals (and as our National Historic Site will remind you, it was considered a family event complete with picnics).

My parents like to joke that there’s a church on every street corner here. Well, it’s not quite true but church is part of the cultural fabric (ironically, though, we have one of the highest teenage prenancy rates in the nation). In my town, which is especially conservative, people protested the opening of a Hooters franchise on pure principle. It took several years to get a state lottery on the ballot (but when it did it passed). Strip clubs and other similar entertainment venues are shackled by all sorts of zoning laws. We don’t sell liquor on Sundays. Things close at 9pm weekdays and at 6pm on Sundays.

As you might imagine, it can get rather boring here. Then again, it’s nice and quiet. Plus, there’s the whole Southern hospitality thing. Oh yes, you must have some biscuits and gravy or grits or fried okra if you come by here. We also refer to all carbonated drinks as “cokes” even if it’s not Coca-Cola (it ain’t soda and it ain’t pop either).

On a personal note, my town actually has quite a few Asians because nearby Fort Chaffee is one of the major entry checkpoints for immigrants and refugees. Overall, I think it’s a great place to raise kids. And hey, I didn’t turn out too badly having lived here all of my life!

Are there any other Arkansas related questions you’d like answered?
greybeta: (D2 - Signpost)
Last Friday, I posted a poll on the use of one’s LJ. Thank you to everyone who voted! Obviously, since it’s a poll, it tends to favor those who consistently use their LJ. The question that asked if you logged onto LJ at least once a day on average? If you voted in that poll, the answer was overwhelmingly yes. I’ve learned more about the dangers of small sample size from LJ than anywhere else.

Looking deeper at the numbers, I realize that I have way more female friends than male friends on LJ. This was done on purpose. You see, most of the females in my analog life are cordial but they will rarely talk about their personal lives. On LJ people seem to share much more freely. I can honestly say I’ve learned more about how the other half lives more from LJ than anywhere else (with the usual statistical disclaimers, of course).

In terms of politics, I’m confident in saying that over 80% of my friends list leans to the left side of the equilibrium. This makes sense: the split in 2004 on LJ was 83-17 in favor of Kerry. I consider myself a moderate Republican (yes, I am a registered Republican). I live in a town that borders Arkansas and Oklahoma, and both red states came out heavily in favor of Bush and McCain. I spent a summer interning for Senator Inhofe, who believes that global warming is a bunch of baloney. What can I say, I’ve learned more about the left side from LJ than anywhere else.

In terms of religion, I understand that most of my LJ friends are agnostic, liberal Christians, or spiritual. Having grown up in a Southern Baptist church, it’s been fascinating learning the similarities and differences between various religious ideas and beliefs. I once was on the leadership team for a college ministry, although my faith has shifted more towards Buddhist ideas recently. I’ve put “Balance” as my religious views on Facebook because I’m more concerned with the balance in my life than anything else. Oh yeah, I’ve learned more about non-fundamentalist religions from LJ than anywhere else.

On the personal side, many of my friends bat for the other side or swing both ways. Quite a few are proudly polyamorous as well (how odd, Microsoft Word 2007 does not recognize polyamorous as a word). I surmise this is because the central hub of my LJ friendships branch out from [ profile] theferrett and [ profile] zoethe. My parents taught me that Asian culture demands faith to one’s spouse and family, so it’s been enlightening to read the counterarguments. Indeed, I’ve learned more about LBGTA from LJ than anywhere else.

In conclusion, I’ve learned a lot from LJ and still have more to learn. My music knowledge has increased greatly from the classical base I knew in high school. I am constantly entertained by the variety of links provided by my friends list, which in turn has helped me entertain my 1000+ friends on Facebook. You’ve answered my random real life questions, including cooking, credit cards and web design. Although, right now, I do have one more question to ask.

Have you learned anything from reading D2’s journal?
greybeta: (Robotech - Rick and Lisa)
D2 has three general philosophies on love. They are as follows:

1. You have to like someone before you love them. I don’t believe in love at first sight, but I do believe in physical attraction at first sight. But there’s also the attraction of getting to know someone, in other words getting to “like” them. Once that prerequisite is out of the way, then you can really “love” someone.

2. People’s hearts change. The reason most high school sweetheart relationships fail is because people change. It’s a fact of life that the relationships we formed growing up because of convenient geographic distance don’t hold so well once the glue of high school is gone. It’s not impossible for long distance relationships to work, but it’s difficult. Plus, people are always changing. If your significant other can’t understand that, then you’re going to have many, many problems.

3. You have to dream the same dream. This is the most difficult step in any relationship, and the one that must be hurdled before a ring can be offered or accepted. Let’s say you have a doctor and a teacher who are dating. Just to be politically correct, we’ll say the doctor is the female and the teacher is the male. With such a large pay scale and socioeconomic difference, there must be something that holds them together greater than what can be seen on the surface. Let us suppose that the doctor and teacher dreams of changing the world. Then that would be the uniting dream of their relationship, the raison d'être of their joining. If they didn’t dream that same dream, they would eventually break apart.
greybeta: (Yang Wenli)
Say you’re walking into the house of a happily married couple. What’s one of the first things you should notice? If you’re me, you’d notice that their wedding photo is usually located in a prominent position. It’s an indication of who owns and lives in that house. Also, guests inevitably have to ask “How’d you guys meet?” if there’s a picture of a grinning bride and groom staring back at them.

However, in my parents’ house, there is no such photo. Of course, there are photos of my family and them being together. But you won’t find any photo of my dad in a tuxedo or my mom in a bridal gown, not even for a re-enactment ceremony. Why?

Because of April 30th, 1975.

That’s the day Saigon fell, and with it the democracy that was South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Cong reunited Vietnam under the banner of Communism, the Communism that would bring “paradise” back to the land of dragons and fairies. Well, Vietnam today struggles to meet WTO standards and political unrest lurks. Some paradise my motherland has become.

But back to that fateful April 30th. My dad had just graduated from the Vietnamese National Military Academy less than two weeks earlier, a bright-eyed young lieutenant who believed in his country. He believed America would aid his country to fight the evil that was Communism.

To his surprise, the Americans left and the North Vietnamese army marched in to take control. Now, you see, it’s not as if the South Vietnamese couldn’t have won without American help. But American foreign policy at the time pushed for containment instead of direct confrontation with China and the Soviet Union. Incidentally, the policy worked as America was able to take advantage of the fissures between China and Soviet Union to split the two biggest Communist blocs in the world.

A small, piddly ally like South Vietnam was a small price to pay.

What did the unconditional surrender of South Vietnam entail? Well, first consider that the president of South Vietnam fled to the U.S., leaving others to take the fall for him. Among the many political prisoners was my dad, who by the mere fact that he was an officer meant that he had to endure two years of “re-education camp”, also known as a concentration camp (though of a lesser degree of the Holocaust).

Every day meant a day of hard labor for my dad. At night, a propaganda officer would teach the prisoners the errors of their way. Oh, you thought the Americans were going to help you? Where are your Americans now? Foolish brothers, learn the errors of your way and admit that Communism is above all.

Now see, my mom and dad really hadn’t formed a strong relationship yet but the love was there. Dad would write letters to Mom, but he had to go through several means to do it. He’d have to give the letter to his brother, who would give it to my mom’s aunt, who would deliver it to my mom, who promptly burned it after reading it.

When my Dad got out of the “re-education camp”, he found it difficult to find work. The Communists had made it so that officers of the former Southern Vietnamese army would find it very difficult to rise in the new society. Think of all the Northern punishment of the South in the Reconstruction period after the American Civil War and multiply that with a country that has never really known true democracy.

My mom, though a fellow native Vietnamese woman, was teaching English at the time (this is one of the reasons why I have pretty good command of the English language despite being the son of two immigrant parents). If her relationship with my dad was discovered by the Communist government, she would have been blacklisted into oblivion. They were married in their hearts, but an official marriage would be fatal for their future.

They realized that they had to flee their home, all that they knew, to some place where their children could grow up to have hope. They didn’t know exactly where, but they took a journey on a boat into the vast ocean. The journey itself is a story, but eventually they would end up in America.

Now, entering the country, my dad had a choice. He could go to Minneapolis where three of his brothers and sister and relocated to already (my grandmother, the three uncles, and several of my cousins still live in the Golden Gopher state), California where we had some relatives, or Ft. Smith, Arkansas where he knew one cousin-in-law. As you might know by now, he chose Ft. Smith, Arkansas.

Why? Well, the ostensible reason is that you put the most important things in the center of your country (my dad was blissfully unaware of the bicoastal bias of the U.S.). But, I think the main reason is that my dad was the type of person to build his own life on his own terms, and going out to Arkansas would help him accomplish just that.

My mom was six months pregnant with my sister at the time. Being refugees in a foreign land meant knowing very few people. The people you had a connection with, other Vietnamese refugees, were just as poor even if they had been in the U.S. a few years now (my parents arrived in 1980, compared to the waves that had been coming since 1975). Fortunately, the people at Eastside Baptist Church helped my family out.

I wasn’t around, but apparently the Hamm family greatly helped my parents out, teaching them the joys of American finances and life. The elderly Holmes couple served as our religious compasses, naming my sister Hannah and me Daniel. This is how I grew to like the waters of the Southern Baptist Church (and still like that water, in fact).

I remember growing up, feeling something was missing from our house. It finally dawned upon me at a friend’s wedding that my parents, while they had gotten married, didn’t have one of those bride/groom pictures. So I asked why recently, having woken up from a long slumber.

They told me that such things don’t really matter. Besides, they wanted to wait until I got married before taking such a picture. They want to know that their decision to leave their motherland for America was correct. I then understood what they were implying. I didn’t have to ask for clarification.

I am the happiness of my family.

It’s not that my sister isn’t important. She is, very much so. But Asian culture values sons, the “golden” sons which shine happiness to their family. When I was selfish and just slept in my house for nearly a year, my parents were disappointed, perhaps even mortified. But their experiences taught them that they had been through worse and they were willing to be patient to see me break out of my reverie on my own.

They left all that they knew for me. They wanted me to be a perfect fusion of Vietnamese and American culture. Now, Vietnamese culture dictates that one’s son should be dedicated to being a doctor, pharmacist, or engineer. American culture dictates that one should follow one’s heart and do what I want to do. I was confused, as I seemed to have contradictory impulses splitting me apart.


Everything lined up for a click of insight, one of those rare moments in your life where everything that confused you before suddenly made sense. I needed to be dedicated to what my heart said and what I wanted to do. I can apply my mathematically inclined mind to the rigors of teaching history.

I accept being a failure in the eyes of traditional Asian culture and the burden of being my family’s happiness. No, there’s no way to get around it. And perhaps, in American culture, I fail to make full use of my talents by teaching history. However, as a fusion, I’m perfectly suited to make use of both. I’ll be a technologically-proficient history teacher!

It makes me realize that the good Lord does exist. Now, now, I’m still agnostic about the whole “Jesus is the only way” thing, but I will do my best in my investigation of Christ’s teachings and Christ himself. I look forward to whoever and whatever gives me the right answer in that regard.

For the first time in a long time, I can say that I honestly enjoy life again.

So, I’m curious, what’s missing from your parents’ house?
greybeta: (Robotech - Rick and Lisa)
You know what word strikes fear into the hearts of antisocial high school nerds everywhere? Prom. If you’re a guy, you’ve been playing too many video games or done too many anime marathons to foster the kind of relationships conducive to dating (ratio of gamer girls to gamer guys might be 1:20 at any given high school).

I was the same way, plus on top of that it was expected that my parents would arrange a marriage for me once I graduated from college. So I really didn’t worry about girls in high school (read: the only girls I associated with were in class or at church). While this allowed me incredible focus into my studies, it also made me an extremely introverted person.

Then senior year hits and a lot of people get excited about college. I remember my Psychology AP class, taught by Mr. Mahaffey. He made us write a journal in which we had to average five pages a week. It’d been a long time since I kept a journal, so it was good for me to get back into that groove.

Looking back into that journal makes me laugh. I had a habit of starting out each entry with a quote, for Mr. Mahaffey always had different quotes on the board to spur on our writing. And I would wax poetic about nothing in particular. But towards the end one subject made me feel uncomfortable.

Mr. Mahaffey kept imploring us to go to prom. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to senior prom, something you don’t get back once it’s gone. Go ahead, ask that girl out that you’ve been thinking about for the past few months. Years down the road, you’ll be glad you did.

Now you have to understand that the high school version of myself was a stuttering, quiet, and timid person. I’d have to explain somehow to my parents about why I wanted to go to prom, although I remembered my sister going to prom so I knew I had a chance if I presented a good case (yes, with my parents I always need to present a case when I want to do something).

However, I was afraid of being rejected. Now, this is a common fear, but it was exaggerated even more so due to the circumstances of one of my childhood friends.

This guy I had known since the second grade and we even worked at the movie theater together. While we weren’t close friends, by senior year you catch up with random people to see what they are doing. I asked him about prom and he gave me one of those sad, sighing looks. What happened, dude?

It turns out that he was going to ask a girl out on Valentine’s Day, complete with a bouquet of roses. Except he had been working at the movie theater and didn’t have time to buy them to make it on Valentine’s Day. No problem, a day or two late wouldn’t be a big deal in the long run.

So the girl receives the flowers and is wowed by them. She really appreciated his thoughts, but she had to refuse. Why? Because the day before she received the flowers, she had called up a friend in college (a year ahead of us) to ask him to take her to go to prom. He had been one day too late.


With this unfortunate incident on my mind, I had to find a girl who I felt comfortable enough to go to prom with. Outside of class, the people who I interacted with most was in Quiz Bowl and Knowledge Master Open. I thought of a girl who I thought it would be cool if we went together. We had been in the same social studies classes for the past six years and even in same period for Mr. Mahaffey’s class.

Finally, I had the opportunity to ask her after school one day. Reading through my journal, it seems I stumbled around until I finally asked if she had a date to prom. When she said no, I asked, “Do you want to go with me?” She laughed and said no, her parents weren’t going to allow her to go to prom. I pressed her for the reasons why, but I never really got an answer.

A bit dejected, I consulted my old, old friend, Father John (future Episcopal priest and the friend that I’ve known the longest, since kindergarten). He suggested I ask one of his debate friends out. I wasn’t too sure about this as I didn’t know her really well, but she was also in Mr. Mahaffey’s class so I went for it.

Politely rejected.

Hmmm, at this point I began to feel the worthlessness of being valedictorian. I mean, dang, what’s the point of studying so hard if I can’t even get a girl to go to prom with me? I told myself I would ask a third girl in my Biology AP class and if I struck out there, I wasn’t going to go to prom. I’d rather stay at home than go stag to prom.

Frustratingly, the third girl wasn’t going to go to prom by her own volition.

After that, I was a bit depressed, actually. I didn’t do anything wrong other than being slightly awkward in how I asked these girls out. I began to regret all those weekends playing Magic and video games and watching anime. On a whim, I called up the puppy Maph (who had not turned into an army man yet).

In my high school days, the puppy Maph was someone you could go to pick yourself up when you were having a bad time. And he did it by being himself. He was enigmatic that way. I called him a puppy and yet he seemed wiser than I could ever be.

We went to the mall to do our usual perusal of the anime at Sam Goody’s and Gamestop. We sat down to eat at the Lucky’s Chinese restaurant where I told him I had struck out asking three girls to prom. He commended me for my courage, which he lacked since he couldn’t quite ask a girl out who had been hinting she wanted to go to prom with him.

Then out of the blue, it happened.

He said what he needed to say.

Daniel, do you know what you need?

No Maph, what do I need? (Normally, if I had been aware, I would have known what was coming but I was so depressed I was just responding mechanically).

You need HOT SEX!

Oh dear, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life. Normally, my Baptist tendencies would require me admonishing him for suggesting premarital sex, but the irony was killing me here.

Anyways, that woke me up enough to really think about giving it another shot. Once I got back up on my horse, I thought of who I could ask. I thought of my time in the Future Business Leaders of America, and there had been a quiet Indian girl who I talked to when we went on competition in order to pass the time.

I knew I’d get too nervous in person so I looked up her number in the student directory. I breathed a deep breath and called her number. I got her dad. I panicked a little, but recovered enough to ask for his daughter.

She came onto the phone, wondering what was up? I didn’t beat around the bush too much and asked her if she was going to prom (yeah, this time I was going to make sure of that fact first before I embarrassed myself again). I asked her if she was going with anyone, and she said no. So um, would you like to go with me?

Silence. Then a “yes”. A “yes”?


Then I probably got excited and started talking too fast about the details of picking her up and everything. She mentioned that she lived near a Motel 8 or something but I wasn’t really paying attention to that as much as the fact that I had finally gotten a prom date.

Convincing my parents was simple. Hey, I’m going to graduate valedictorian and I deserve a little fun. End of story.

I asked one of my old friends, Kevano (a guy I had known since the fourth grade) and learned that there were two places to rent tuxedos. I went for the cheapest tuxedo possible, and they had a pretty good deal as I rented a tuxedo with grey trimmings for forty bucks.

Oh yeah, I had to buy something called a corsage and wear something called a boutonniere. Fortunately, puppy Maph’s mom worked at a flower shop and helped me decide. Did I know what color dress my date was going to wear? Um, no, but I like the orange corsage anyways.

As it turns out, my date bought an orange boutonniere without consulting me. She wore her hair up and a beautiful peach Indian dress. Everyone complimented me on my awesome tuxedo (it was rather dark on the dance floor). So it worked out in the end.

On the day of prom, I was nervous. I had never bothered to put gel in my hair (and still don’t), but I decided the occasion warranted putting gel into my hair. Except, I didn’t know how to use gel properly so I had to ask my dad for help, who laughed at my social ineptness.

I drove to the address she gave me…and I arrived at a Motel 8. The address of the Motel 8 was the address she gave me, which I immediately realized what that meant. I went to the lobby, where I found her dad eyeing me. Yes sir, I’ll have her home by midnight.

How many people can say they picked up their prom date at a motel?

Many people were going to eat dinner before prom with a big group. Most of my inner circle of friends were going to the drama shindig, but I decided to take my date to an Italian restaurant called Taliano’s. It was one of those nicer restaurants that a high school kid should only go to for prom.

Dinner was excellent. The conversation? It was fairly mundane, actually. It was more a first date than anything else.

Prom itself is a sort of a blur. There’s the awkwardness of the people waiting to go to a party where alcoholic beverages were going to be served against the backdrop of some corny slogan. And everywhere were curious people, seeing who would come with who and who would drop who after the first hour of prom.

They announced the awards. I won one for my exploits in Quiz Bowl. I believe if there had been a poll that day, “Hardest Working” and “Most Likely to Succeed” would have gone to me as well.

Then the midnight bell drew nearer and I needed to return my date home. After dutifully doing so, I picked up lucky Andy from the prom site and we went to a chaperoned after-prom party. We hung out with friends and acquaintances, drinking (not in an alcoholic manner) in the last moments of high school before graduation made it official.

I drove back to the site, but the gate was closed at three AM in the morning. Lucky Andy had unluckily left his car there. So there was but one course of action. Crash at my house and retrieve his car the next morning. And it was so.

My prom wasn’t spectacular or exciting, but I’m very happy now that I did go. I wish I would have taken more pictures back then to preserve those memories. As it is, they’re fading away into oblivion.

In retrospect, I would compare my situation to the swing-and-run rule in baseball. When a batter strikes out, if the catcher doesn’t catch the ball cleanly, then the batter has an opportunity to take first base. However, the batter must be aware that the ball was not caught cleanly and get a little lucky with the bounce of the baseball and the throw from the catcher to first.

Someone like me makes it safely to first base.
greybeta: (Jesus Saves)
The army man Maph and I used to go to his old elementary school at night to play around on the swings. We would often ramble about our future and philosophies. And one night he asked me what I thought the perfect world would be. I defined the perfect world as one without strife. In other words, my perfect world was one where everyone was dead. After all, heaven’s full of dead people, ain’t it?

Of course, so is hell. So my perfect world isn’t so perfect after all. But I suppose that was the ultimate idea of my faith, that in the end we were all going to die. So it never made sense to me to try too hard in life.

Something gnawed at my mind, and one day it surfaced years later when I was discussing the exact details of my faith with a girl I had nicknamed Kimono-chan. She furiously stood by the Bible and the fundamental aspects of Christianity. Curiously, I chose to tell her that my faith was based on people…

I don’t believe in randomness. While some coincidences are merely that, a large part of coincidences are set up. The people I meet and interact with, they all have had some impact on my life. My life intersected with theirs for a purpose.

My mom once told me that when my sister was born, there was only a dime in her purse and that dime represented her net worth at the moment. She had arrived in America six months pregnant and three months later was saddled with a daughter in a foreign land. She didn’t have any family or friends to turn to.

How did my mom and dad overcome their long odds? Of all the groups helping out Vietnamese Refugees, Southern Baptists were among the most helpful in Arkansas. They taught my mom how to take care of her child, all the while explaining the power of Jesus Christ. If their God is that powerful, why not worship him?

So off I went with my sister to church. My parents stopped coming after awhile, but I kept going since it had been a habit ever since I could remember. And yet I was stuck between Buddhist and Baptist ideals. They shared a lot of philosophies but of course their differences were accentuated each time I came home from church. I wasn’t sure who to believe.

Going to college at the University of Tulsa, I had a half-hearted intention of joining the Baptist Student Union. I felt like I owed it to my American grandparents to undergo a deeper inspection of my faith. There were two reasons. First, was the recognition for high school seniors at my church. Second, my American grandparents had given me my name of “Daniel”, which means “God is my judge.”

To address the first point, they had a slide show of all the high school seniors one night at a dinner at the church. I was struck by how few pictures of myself I was in and by how many things our youth group had actually done. Eastside Baptist probably would be considered one of the wealthier churches, in terms of its active members having well-paid professions, so it would only be natural that the youth group would follow suit in its passion to serve Christ. I laughed to myself as I realized that I reflected no such passion.

For the second point, I believe names are important, so much so that I love asking how people got their names. We often don’t ponder on this, but our names usually represent some sort of hope. Yes, our names are given at both, when we have near unlimited potential. As we grow up, people give us nicknames to describe our true character. I’m fond of giving people nicknames for that reason.

At the Activities Fair for freshman orientation week, I was handed a big pen with the words FOCUS, the name of the weekly lunch for the BSU. Wednesdays at noon, free food. I’m a sucker for free food, so I took them up on their offer and to my surprise it was delicious. But I wasn’t naïve enough to believe this lunch was free.

As a freshman, they strongly encouraged us to visit the freshman Bible study known as BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ). I remember the intern that year. I remember wanting to live like this guy, confident in my faith and confident in the path that I’m walking. His future wife almost screwed it all up, though.

One of the traditions in the BSU is that upperclassmen will invite freshmen to their churches so they can sample a range of worship styles. Some people like traditional worship, some contemporary, and some in between. Well the blond girl, serving as a freshman leader, invited me and my friend Stevo out to her church.

“I’ll meet you guys there,” she said. Well, we were there, but she wasn’t. At that point, I got angry. But more than that, I started thinking, “Man, if this is the kind of people who are leaders within in the BSU, I’m not too sure about these guys.” But Stevo, ever the personable guy, explained that stuff just happens. I would later find out that she “slept through her alarm clock.”

I didn’t attend many of the BSU events or activities my freshmen year. But, one day during freshman Bible study, the intern and his future wife asked us to plan one of the Sunday night worship times. We would form a Freshman Leadership to plan such a thing. We needed to have a message, a drama, and music.

The “Arkansas Connection” formed to take on the message portion. Stevo, Noise, and I decided to split the message into three parts. I would go first, setting up some problems. Stevo would knock them down. Then Noise would use up the remaining time with his message.

What we didn’t realize at the time was that we had an unusually strong freshmen class. When we were seniors, we would comprise seven of thirteen leadership team members. This Sunday night service displayed our potential. And it revealed something about me.

At that point, few people knew who I was in the BSU. I was a quiet, self-effacing freshman in the honors program. But during that message, I asked what bothers you most. For me, I blurted “I just wish everyone would just shut up every once in awhile!” to quite a bit of polite laughter. Later on, Danny and Nick would tell me that was when they knew I’d be a good guy to have in the BSU.

From there I would join the leadership team, going to a retreat known as Glorieta during my freshman summer. I met and interacted with other BSU leaders, finding out joining leadership team meant that I needed to attend as many BSU activities as possible, a stark contrast to my freshman year. I’d also participate in intramural sports, which I was terrible at but they encouraged me to participate anyways. It was during flag football season a guy named Quade stuck me with the nickname of “D2”.

Officially, I was in international ministry. However, I see now that I was the one being ministered to rather than the one doing the ministering. A lot of things never made sense to me, but my elder leadership partner patiently explained her views on things. And so I did international ministry for two years.

Also during this time, I completed the MasterLife course in four semesters. Well, it was more that I learned the techniques of discipleship rather than discipleship itself, but that was my own fault. Regardless, the deepest friendships I would have with at the BSU would be formed in this class. For example, I would have never known the prayer warrior Ryan if it wasn’t for that class.

One of the things that I noticed was that people are hesitant volunteer to pray in large groups. I clearly recall several instances of where an open call to prayer was met with a few seconds of awkward silence. Eventually, that changed as Ryan started volunteering almost every time for that duty. I think I started volunteering just so that he wouldn’t have to do it every time.

At this point, I began realizing that I wasn’t cut out for international ministry. I didn’t say this directly, but it was strange being the one ministered when you’re expected to be the one to do the ministering. So I asked to be on the freshmen ministry for next year, where I hoped to avoid contentious religious issues.

Something unexpected happened one day. Steve called me into his office and explained that Lauren was going to be the intern for my coming senior year. That made sense to me. Nope, what surprised me was that I had been on the short list of candidates to be the next intern.

At this point, I began to realize that there was a dissonance between how others perceived me and how I perceived myself. I knew inside my head that I would be a terrible intern, but at the time I couldn’t grasp what others saw in me. What seemed natural to me, like regularly attending events, serving drinks at FOCUS, or selling the parking lot were things that people picked up on.

I had been developing signs of depression, but my personality refused to let anyone know that. On the outside I was a highly intellectual person, brimming with confidence and curiosity for life. On the inside, I was a lazy, spoiled brat, bored to death by mundane everyday routines.

Then I just went home for awhile to cope with my depression. This probably caught a lot of people completely by surprise. And during that time I said some terrible things. I wasn’t right in my mind, but I lashed out anyways. Eventually, I would calm down enough to return to TU.

My voice of conscience spoke loud and clear, telling me to do strange things. I purchased a calling card to call up a friend studying abroad in Spain. I bought a girl a pink shirt because she had never owned a pink shirt before. I organized a welcoming party for a girl I had never met. I attended an Episcopal service just to hear a red-headed friend sing in the choir for her birthday. I tried playing a piano song in front of an audience, forgot my sheet music, tried to play that song, tried to play another song that I forgot, and finally played a third song correctly.

People actually believed I was okay, but the fire inside out of me was burning out. Once it did burn out, I disappeared. My parents found me and brought me back home. People called me and emailed me to try to find out what happened, but I didn’t answer any of them. I didn’t touch a computer for several months as I just slept and slept and slept. It would be awhile before Phil figured out a way to drag me back.

When I fell out of belief, I realized something. The dissonance in my life was caused by my own dishonesty. I claimed to be a straightforward person where I was not. I had to do something unthinkable: admit the truth. Admitting Jesus was not the only way to heaven would certainly be a betrayal of my time on leadership, and for that I can never do enough to make amends for.

But all these experiences have helped me regained a burning fire for life. Then I realized a perfect world was not one in which everyone was dead. No, it was one in which everyone had a passion for life, a world which would be alive. I seek to brighten other flames in life, so heaven can wait while I teach history at the high school level.

In conclusion, this was a long-winded way of saying “be yourself”. The person you are is who God wants you to be. You cannot live a happy life otherwise.

This means that for those seeking to explain to me the deficiencies in my faith, you don’t have to worry.

I’m the type of person to seek you out.
greybeta: (Odd Eyes Reuental)
I was talking to my sister yesterday, and she asked who had managed to bring me back into society. I said it was Phil (a.k.a. [ profile] wldntulk2knwwho. Of course, she asked me who Phil was since I barely talk about my friends.

With the benefit of hindsight, I thought about it and recollected…

At most colleges these days, they have some freshman orientation camp before the official school year starts. It helps to know the layout of campus and make some friendships without the pressure of classes beating down on you. As luck would have it, they put a certain electrical engineering major along with a certain chemical engineering major at one such camp

The EE and Chem E felt the bond of engineering and discovered that both were on full rides to the University. They were walking back from the orientation class, expecting to break off from each other to go to their respective dorms. But wait, they started walking towards the same dorm. What a coincidence. They got off on the same floor…and started walking towards the same suite! As fate would have it, they would be suitemates for their freshmen year.

They were in the same physics class together and studied together often (the night before the test). They were also duped by free pizza to join the dorm student government. If they had been told what lay ahead of them for making that choice, they might have refused because of the dangers that lay in store. Alas, those unaware of the danger will step into it anyways.

One day in the spring of his freshman year, the EE now double majoring in History was talking to a red-headed girl he had befriended in his freshman honors class, much to his consternation. They were antipodal in politics but developed an understanding through several spirited arguments (now whether she always won those debates or he let her win is up for debate). She asked him to join the Student Senate. He thought about it and decided to do it on foppery and whim. After all, how bad could it be?

(Digression: The answer to a rhetorical question is obvious. Like, if someone asks, “Don’t you know who I am?”, the answer is obvious. If you have to ask, the answer is no.)

Well, the EE told a few friends to put him on their ballot. If he won, then God willing he’d do this senate thing. The first vote was 5-5, as some other guy apparently had the same idea. The runoff vote was 18-18. In these rare cases, the Student Senate itself decides between the candidates.

If the EE had to make a real speech that Tuesday night, he would have been hard pressed to actually come up with one. However, he was saved from doing so by his opponent’s absence, who had apparently forgotten to come that night. And as the EE was sworn in, he became slightly afraid of parliamentary procedure. It was the most unnatural thing to him, having to direct questions through the chair and raising points of order.

Ah, but at that first meeting the EE had to decide which committee he wanted to be part of. No one had put down the Financial Allocations Committee, which doled out money to the student organizations on campus. The EE overheard that FAC was a lot of work, but he shrugged and signed up for it anyways. Foppery and a whim.

Turning to the fall semester of their sophomore years, the Chem E now approached the EE about joining Student Senate. The EE promptly replied that his friend was insane. And the Chem E confirmed that fact by restating his intention to join the Student Senate. So now the Treasurer and Vice President of the dorm hall government was representing their dorm in the Student Senate.

The Chem E won his election, fair and square. He also joined FAC, despite the fact that there was a rule that senators from the same dorm couldn’t be on the same committee (as with most rules, they’re only enforced if they’re useful). The FAC Chair that year was a garrulous and forceful young man. The EE noticed that while people despised the FAC Chair, they actually listened to his arguments.

The FAC Chair that year decided to split Chair duties into an Allocations Chair and a Bills Chair. The Allocations Chair would take care of the allocations process itself while the Bills Chair would cover conference travel bills. The EE, having risen to the status of second seniority simply by staying in FAC for half a year, was selected to take over as Bills Chair.

At the time, the Student Senate utilized “confidential criteria” to undercut padded numbers from organization. So someone might send us an estimate of $832 for four people, but they were only eligible for $200 per person. Now you might ask how someone couldn’t figure out the numbers through a simple regression. Well, the organization was only given the total amount so it would be difficult to even come up with the regression off total amounts unless one were really sifting through all the conference travel bills.

The EE and Chem E did not talk much during their first year in Senate. Rather, they observed how to construct one’s arguments for future use. And they worked on the tenuous allocations process. One hundred fifty plus organizations versus the six members of FAC. After that, the current FAC chair was elected student Treasurer and the EE and Chem E became Co-Chairs for the allocations committee. They were prepared to tag team their way to improving Senate.

However, they were not prepared for the sudden resignation of the student Treasurer during the summer. In the Constitution at the time, the chair of FAC was then elevated to the Treasurer position. However, at this time, there were co-chairs so now it was a question of which one. Simple expediency solved this issue. The Chem E was in Tulsa while the EE was back home, so the Chem E was the obvious choice.

But now their plans to tag team improvements had fundamentally shifted. Normally, the FAC Chair and Treasurer are opposed in philosophies, one legislative and one executive. And now suitemates were in this position. They discussed how this would change things and agreed to work as best they could through it. In the meantime, now in their junior year, someone else needed to be elevated to the Allocations Chair. The girl known as “Smiles and Sunshine” would now be counterbalancing “His Most Bitterness”, who was now the clear Senior Chair for the committee and responsible for all of its wrongdoings.

Being the Senior Chair is a terrible responsibility. No matter who you are, people will hate you because you’re the one responsible for giving them money. And they’ll always wonder why, why couldn’t he give me more?

Also, by mere attrition, the EE had become the most senior senator in terms of length of duty. As such, he was chosen as the Parliamentarian for the Student Senate despite the fact that he despised such formalities. He became known for coughing when someone failed to direct their question to remind them to formally observe the rules, even doing this to the professor who served as the advisor for the Senate. He also was known for being the Senate Storyteller, which he used to tell rambling fables for the heck of it.

And then something unexpected occurred. As his lasting legacy, a senator from FAC introduced a bill of “open sunshine”. This perturbed the Senior Chair so much that he wrote a quite lengthy post on his intragovernment boards about it. Yes, the Senior Chair was being asinine about a good idea; nonetheless, someone had to play devil’s advocate. Something screamed inside of him that told him to oppose this measure with every once of his energy.

The Senior Chair confided in his Treasurer friend that he would resign if this bill passed. This was despite resounding approval from the rest of the Student Senate outside of FAC, including the red-headed girl who had returned to Senate after volunteering for a Democratic state senate campaign in the disappointing 2004 election. The Senior Chair took time to explain his reasoning to his committee, which understood them since they also understood “confidential criteria.” The irony was that he couldn’t explain it to the rest of Senate without comprising the main value of confidential criteria.

What many people don’t know is that the Senior Chair went out and researched the history behind confidential criteria. After pouring through countless Senate Minutes, he discovered that the reasoning behind confidential criteria was not recorded because the meeting had been closed. Interesting, a closed meeting producing confidential criteria. His suspicions were later confirmed when he discovered an old school newspaper article questioning the validity of the new criteria system. He wondered how the criteria survived with all the outcry, but then he realized inertia has a powerful effect in bureaucracy. Once something is in place, it is difficult to remove it.

As part of that inertia, the Senior Chair used some dastardly tactics to stall the bill in Senate. It was not going to pass easily through even if he had to be a bastard about it. The Treasurer backed him as best he could, but they could not stop the overwhelming sentiment to bring this up for a vote. Debate was closed and the vote came up. Then the Senior Chair motioned for a roll call vote.

This was a breach of parliamentary etiquette. Most bills past with senators raising their hands for yes, no or abstention. A simple record of how the vote went was left in the minutes. But a roll call vote requires each senator to state his or her opinion alone, with their vote recorded in the minutes. In other words, the Senior Chair wanted to know exactly who was for and who was against this change and to make sure the results were recorded for posterity.

The results were not a surprise. Only members of FAC voted against, the rest of Senate voted for. After all, “open sunshine” was a good idea. But if it was to be implemented, the Senior Chair would rather someone else do that hard work. After that contentious meeting, the Senior Chair informed the Treasurer that he would be resigning as he had stated earlier. And yet, the Treasurer did not allow his friend to resign.

The argument was a familiar one. If someone was going to implement the change, who better but someone who hates it? That’s because someone who hates the change will try to find everything wrong with it, which will end up improving the final product. Much later, the Treasurer would tell his Senior Chair friend that the main reason he had argued so was to save the finances of the student government. If the Senior Chair resigned in protest, the Treasurer would have followed, thereby causing rancorous havoc on the government. The Treasurer explained to his friend that he should take the higher ground and enforce these new rules to the best of his ability.

So with a sense of duty, the Senior Chair returned bitterer than ever. In fact, he started becoming facetiously bitter, noting pet peeves out loud in Senate. He was known to say, “Questions that can be answered by reading the bill make me bitter” and “Questions that can be answered by having the bill in front of you make me bitter” and “Questions that can be answered by paying attention to the questions already answered make me bitter.”

And yet, the Senior Chair did work to improve the allocations process. With an updated webpage, the Student Association as a whole had an opportunity to jump to the internet. One of the first things to go up on there was a FAQ about all the new allocations and conference travel rules that would be coming to light. The Senior Chair also created a template for conference travel bills, saving many future senators from hunting down a travel bill in their binders to copy off of. He also helped create the first electronic packets, which had its fair share of problems but a step forward nonetheless.

No one really thinks about those kinds of things, as they take them for granted once the generation that provided that step forward has moved on.

And oddly enough, the Treasurer and Senior Chair “went beyond hating student government to loving to hate it.” So much so that the Treasurer’s girlfriend and future fiancée joined Student Senate just to see what it was about. She’d later as the Clerk, taking over for the Secretary in case of an absence.

At the end of their junior years, the Treasurer and Senior Chair decided to form a ticket and run as a President/Treasurer combo. Unfortunately, their lack of organization sealed their doom. They mistakenly believed their electoral losses would be the end of their student government careers.

But just when you’re out, they’ll call you back. The Treasurer returned to Senate while the Senior Chair became a Justice. Also, the Senior Chair became the Opinion Editor for the school newspaper and shed light on some of the bills passing through the Senate. They also encouraged other students to positions within student government.

By now the EE had become a History major. The Historian and the Chem E reminisced about the old days. Only the Chem E knew the truth behind the bitterness of the Historian. The Historian had used his overly comical bitterness to soften the blow when he had inane points. They also knew that allocations was a monster that could never be tamed. Its appetite was insatiable, and no matter how much future senators tried to fix it, it could never be fixed. The allure was in trying to do it.

And one day the Historian dropped off the face of the earth. It would take awhile, but the Chem E searched far and wide for his old friend. He tracked him down and dragged him back. In many ways, the Chem E was the only one who could snap his friend out of his reverie.

Because friendships forged on the battlefield are not easily forgotten.
greybeta: (D2 Academic All Star)
“If you could go back in time five years, what would your past self ask you?”

I’d like to think I’d be able to tell myself something useful…but something tells me deep inside that my past self wouldn’t believe me.

He’s probably laugh it off as some kind of dream.

Oh, I can see it now. Five years ago I was working at a movie theater, flying through my junior year of high school. It seems so long ago, like it was yesterday.

[Random note: The pic I'm using for this post was taken during my junior year of high school.]

My past self of five years would know about destroying the whole space time continuum nonsense, then proceed to go on about his theory about how time travel backwards was impossible even though I was right there to offer proof that it was not so.

Then he’d notice that I’d be wearing a University of Tulsa shirt and ask why I wasn’t wearing a University of Arkansas shirt. I’d tell him that there are many things in life that go differently from what I expect.

He’d ask whether or not he would graduate valedictorian. I’d tell him he would make his parents proud.

He’d look sort of embarrassed and inquire if he would have a girlfriend by now. I’d laugh and tell him that he needed to smile a lot more, because he’d never know who’s falling in love with his smile. He’d then comment about how I didn’t answer yes or no, and then we’d say at the same time that I would never answer yes or no.

He’d ask what I would be graduating with. I’d tell him that he wouldn’t be graduating in four years and that he would have to struggle just to graduate. He’d be curious to know what he major he chose. I’d tell him he started out as an electrical engineering major, that he’d make a 4.0 in his first semester, but then things would fall off after that. He’d ask why, but I would tell him that he had many things to learn.

He’d demand to know about what I’m doing in college if I hadn’t graduated by now. I’d tell him that he’d be surprised to know that he got involved in student government, serving on a leadership for a campus ministry and worked as the opinion editor for the campus newspaper, among other things. He’d raise an eyebrow at each one. I’d tell him that he was hiding things deep in his heart that he cared about.

He’d pose a question to know what he cared about. I’d tell him that he come to care deeply about religion and politics and thought a lot about it. Then we’d comment at the same time about how those are the two rudest topics of conversation.

He’d wonder what kind of roommate he would have. I’d tell him that for his first four years he would have a scheming roommate, yet one that he would enjoy hanging out with and someone who would help him grow.

He’d expect to keep in close contact with the friends he know now. I’d tell him that some friends would remain closer than others and that quite a few things about his friends now would surprise him. He’d want to know what those things were. I’d tell him that his friends would know that he was hiding his true self under a mask that hardly ever smiled.

He’d want to know about the friends he made in college. I’d smile and tell him that he would make a wide range of friends. He’d ask what sort of range it was. I’d tell him that he would make friends ranging from very conservative and very liberal ideals, from very religious to very nonreligious ideals, from people heavily involved in sororities and fraternities to people who heavily despised sororities and fraternities, and so on.

He’d ask what I did in my spare time. I’d tell him that he’d be doing the same things he did now: watching sports, playing video games, collecting anime and getting so good at Magic that he’d test to become a judge.

He’d ask me about the one thing about me that would surprise him most. He’d look at me in complete disbelief when I’d tell him that he would be able to cook for himself.

He’d ponder a bit, and then he’d announce he would like to ask one last question. What’s the most important thing that is going to happen in the world in the next five years? I’d respond by asking him if he liked his AP American History class. He would say that he loved it and Mr. Loux’s teaching style. I’d then tell him that something world shattering would happen in five months.

He’d be curious to know what it was. I’d tell him that two passenger jets would crash into the World Trade Center in New York City and that the shockwaves would resonate around the world. America would no longer feel invincible and invade Afghanistan and Iraq to retaliate against a terrorist organization that he’d never heard of.

We’d look at each other for a few minutes.

Then he would ask, “What is the World Trade Center?”

July 2009

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