never aging

David Mould, Glasgow, UK

David Mould, Glasgow, UK

This is the second year where my birthday gets ‘lost in time’. I fly out on the 10th, and reach Singapore on the 12th, and at no point do I ever experience the ’11th of June’.  Now, I know it’s all about frame of reference, but I think it’s a great practical joke that’s played on me every year. Regardless though, my favorite birthday present is being able to see my family and be reunited with them after a whole year once I walk out of the Customs point. In some way, the practical joke redeems itself.

When I was young, birthdays were all about me. It was about celebrating my existence, and who I am. I’m glad I’ve moved on from that. Loving yourself is different from indulging in yourself, and I think I’m coming to that distinction in a clearer way as I grow up. Being 23 now, it’s interesting how much of the world makes more sense, and how much issues that seemed frustrating as a youth appear more realistic and clearer as a young adult.

So as a 23 year old, let me share some of the lessons I’ve learnt. This is a combination of lessons I’ve learnt from traveling the world, starting my own company, mixing with celebrities, serving in the military, being in a fraternity and going to college in Chicago. These lessons are in no way final and ultimate – in fact there may be more nuances that I have to discover but I feel like I’ve reached some form of an opinion on all of them.

  1. You cannot disregard a person’s experience. Someone’s experience is deeply personal and tied to their identity, and to attack any aspect of their identity means to reduce their lives, which goes against any aspect of equality. Physics follows laws, but social laws and rules are constructs that serve the purpose of their society, and we all know societies change and evolve, and so must the laws and rules.
  2. Rape Culture is a thing. Laughing at the use of the word ‘rape’ and being an apologist for rapists is all too common in communities I’ve been around, and it makes me sick that laws do not recognize the violence that is rape in completely scarring a person’s version of reality and taking away the agency of a person over their body. Getting drunk is not the same as raping someone. Blacking out is not the same as raping someone.
  3. Humanity has immense potential to move forward. We have made amazing strides since our primitive societies, and can continue to move forward, but we must believe that every life is important and that there is a need to believe in causes beyond ourselves. Yes, we must take care of our careers, our families, our health. But we exist in an ecosystem that gives and takes, and if we want change, we must be the agents of it.
  4. Money solves 90% of all problems. So be smart, make money smartly, and use it well. Invest, show value by spending your money on the right people and right priorities, and using it to challenge the norm. Everything ca be tied back to how the money flows, but if you control the money, you have a say in how the future is shaped.
  5. Develop people. People are absolutely amazing in what they can do with a little bit of investment. Build leadership, and they will bring back cities. Train them in skills, and they will carry your work further. Appreciate and affirm, and they will surprise you with their effect on the world.
  6. Privilege is real. In all societies. In forms of patriarchy or the dominant race, we have an obligation to recognize the systems we benefit from and ensure that it is not at the expense of someone else, especially if its without reason other than systemic control. Challenging one’s privilege is difficult, it means recognizing aspects of your life have essentially been handed to you on a platter, but it doesn’t necessarily mean taking away the platter from you – it means making sure the platter gets to everyone.

There’s so much more fundamental lessons I’ve learnt and I’ve been grateful for constantly being challenged by the situations I’ve been in. Keep throwing yourself into difficult situations and wrestle with the pains, and you will come out flexing with new perspectives and stories.

Because what is life, but a grand story. A story of how we seek to find utopia – the perfect state of being – and fail so much along the way. But we must keep believing, because if not, we cannot move forward.

hooah.

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reflecting sunior year

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I think it’s safe to say this year has seen me develop myself. Doing a 3 year program means that I’m cramming two years of experiences into one, alongside pursuing my passions and maintaining that tricky 3.8 GPA. Sometimes I’ve asked myself if I’m cheating myself of a proper undergraduate experience by giving up the fourth year to pursue a Master’s instead, but looking back at what I’ve done, I think I’ve done as much as I could to have the best damn time.

Freshman year was all about finding my place in this school; about finding my families and friends. This year was about finding my purpose. I naturally got drawn to work on communities, to see how to build them and make them more cohesive. My experience with The Hidden Good had exposed me to the power of community activism, and I was excited to get back into the fray of finding ways to improve the way some of our communities function. My work on IFC saw me vastly transform the notion of community and how we need to educate ourselves on topics related to it. Mayfest allowed me to be part of one of the biggest community building events of the year.  ISO gave me the platform to set the stage right for the international community as they entered into Northwestern. And there’s so much more – either in the works or under wraps – that I’ve been found myself working on, that I truly feel like I’ve identified my purpose on this campus.

The concept of purpose is a complex one. Most would identify purpose as a milestone i.e. my goal is to become a lawyer. In college, that’s all too common. Many are here to strive for the degree, and eventually get a job. But purpose in that form does very little for the soul. The soul is an engine, full of fiery powers that connect to adrenaline, lust and happiness among others.  Purpose is the fuel. Good fuel is purpose identified as a state of being i.e. my purpose is to build communities.  With that, there’s always some new way to achieve the purpose even as multiple milestones are hit. It’s also more connected to your daily habits and ultimately, your values and principles, effectively molding you into a better person. This past year helped me realize that.

I think this year also saw me vastly reconsider how I approach friendships. While I love meeting people and growing my circle, I’ve found myself developing multiple core friend groups that I’ve just wanted to stay strong and secure in. I’ve made an effort to appreciate the people in my life, and I’ve felt the love back. Through the work I’ve done talking to seniors and alumni, what I’ve learnt is that keeping those core groups precious is extremely important, because those are the people you’ll want to remember past college.

One of my few grievances of the past year has to be with how little I’ve seen my family and how much of a crucial year I’ve missed. My siblings are going through transformational stages of their lives and I’m limited to how much I can be a big brother to them because of distance and time. More than once now, I’ve not been able to make it to family gatherings around the world simply because of logistical frustrations. It’s difficult, seeing friends who are from the US, constantly go for dinners with their families, when I know I have wait a whole year before I can experience that.

My biggest joy for the year past though, is how much I’ve developed my photography skills. I started photography as a hobby to complement the videography I wanted to do for The Hidden Good. Yet, over time, I learnt I had a natural eye for settings and also a tendency to put myself in dangerous but prime positions for amazing shots.  I loved being able to capture a mix of emotion and reality in a single frame, and translate that into beauty that I could reflect on. I’ve gone out on multiple projects just to keep the trigger finger happy, but every time I’ve completely enjoyed being a witness to the world around us.

So much has happened this past year. And yet there’s so much more I want to do. Senior year is next. And you know I’m not going to let it rest.

hooah.