Archive for January, 2010

03
Jan
10

The 800 Pound Gorilla of ’09

So with 2009 done I feel the need to think back on what I did with my life (inspired by my awesome friend and musical co-conspirator Emilio Herce’s sick blog). 09 had it’s fair share of twists and turns but I’d like to think I had an easier time than the year of death that was 2008.

I got started with a  4 month study abroad vacation in Italy. Since I could really understand what my ethnicity was I’ve wanted to go to Italy so obviously living there was something phenomenal. Initially I was very happy to experience a culture I felt was more in-tune with who I was. Things don’t really operate on a set time schedule in Italy as any rider of the number 25 bus in Florence will tell you (The 25 often described how many minutes late it was). I found myself experiencing a sort of dual mind which has left me since I came back, I was thinking in Italian and English at points. Something I had wanted to feel for a long time, a feeling of belonging to a majority culture seemed real. But as time wore on I think I came to feel like I was just passing. Sure I could speak with a better accent and I knew quite a few more words than my friends but at the end of the day I wasn’t Italian. I was an American. A fake. My Italian skills somewhat stagnated after a return to the States due to laziness and a sub-par Italian course. My question for myself going into 2010 is to what degree do I want to pursue my dual identity? I know I’m going to finish my minor in Italian if only to not have an entirely useless degree but I don’t think I could consider immigration. So what use is this Identity?

The second trend of my year is how my obsession with death has influenced me this year. I’ve been grappling with the perceived meaninglessness of our lives since the tragic death of my friend Paul Fortini last year. Paul’s life was ended senselessly early in the fall semester. I felt anger and grief that I had been invited to be with him that night and not gone due to prior commitment. In my mind, I’d always felt I could have saved him, I would have been sane enough to take him home. I couldn’t handle the growing dread I had that all that awaited the dead was oblivion, nothing more. Italy gave me a momentary respite from this nihilism but I couldn’t escape it forever.

One of the best and worst things about Italy is that there is no drinking age and Italian bars are more than happy to capitalize on stupid American college students with drink specials and late hours. After doing community service on the other side of the Arno, I met up with friends at one such place for Jared, my closest friend in Italy’s birthday. The party had been going for quite a while and some people were absolutely ruined. I’d been watching myself after a disastrous night earlier in the semester; I had a few but was well within myself. By the end of the night the Birthday boy was not. Stumbling and swaying, I knew it was time to take him home. He had other ideas. I battled him out of the place and tried to hail a cab. Unlike their NYC compatriots, Italian cabbies respond to phone calls. Another difference that we discovered that night is they don’t pick up passengers who are drunk. So began a 45 minute battle up the hill back to the Villa la Pietra Campus filled with swerving and grappling. The entire time my mind was flashing back to the night Paul died. Was this what it would have been like? Did I have what it took to make sure another friend didn’t die? By random chance, quel cazzo di autobus, the Number 25 drove by 3/4s of the way into the climb. By the time we had gotten Jared into his room I couldn’t contain myself. I went into the courtyard, away from everyone and wept. I hadn’t at Paul’s funeral, I couldn’t look that way in front of my brothers. That night I realized maybe I could have saved Paul. But I didn’t, I wasn’t there and nothing could ever change that.

Coupled with my 20th birthday, this experience of death has made me think more and more about my inevitable death. What am I going to leave on the “White Walls” of my life? 2009 brought me amazing musical inspiration from bands like Mastodon, the Mars Volta, Between the Buried and Me and others. What will I do with this inspiration to create something truly my own before my expiration date? And can I believe in an afterlife in the godless universe that my experience has led me to see?

My last major trend of 2009 is my back and forth relationship with my fraternity. The time away from the chapter in the spring was welcome considering how consumed I felt by it in the fall after Paul’s death. I wanted time to grieve for someone who had been my friend first and my brother second. Over the summer when I returned I fell right back into step with my brothers, enjoying our time in the city. I felt further enthused by an amazing trip to Orlando for Conclave. I felt the confidence and passion of a zealot being surrounded by the best we had to offer. Coming to live with them in our chapter house however I began to feel something a friend Steve Romain had once described “this is not the chapter I left”. I began to feel the chapter was sliding into the type of frat boy behavior that had doomed Paul. I wasn’t a saint by any means but my nihilism made me feel as though my choice of ascribing to the core of what the chapter’s ideals stand for meant something. I tried to organize a food drive for our Phi Community service project that fizzled. I’ve never been the most organized and my brothers seemed to take every possible opportunity to remind me of this. However despite setbacks, the drive brought many cans to the hungry. After a harrowing interview I was finally ready for the Epsilon rite, the next stage in my development. But based on my reactions to the trials of the day, my brothers who I had journeyed with disagreed. I’ve had nearly two months to think back on the events of the day and I’ve grown weary of biting my tongue. I feel that one day of my life was used unfairly against me. One moment of anger at a desecration of our values overrode a semester of my attempts to change who I was to be a better leader in their sight. Today I feel a mixture of sadness, hatred, and resentment towards a majority of my brothers, a feeling that I am not “good” enough for them. While I count dear friends among their number, I’ve come to believe that the ideology they serve is as arbitrary as any other in this world. I’d considered going on in the background with my quiet resentments but after the time I’ve spent thinking o it this break, I don’t know how I can. Am I jealous because of my failure in the elections? Yes, it would be disingenuous of me to say otherwise. But, I do view them as a referendum of sorts by my brothers on how they view me. And the role they see me in is clearly not that of a leader, what I want to be. Weighed against my goal of a speedy exit from NYU it would almost seem beneficial to escape the distractions of the chapter house. I feel hollow to think that my time in the chapter has been a waste.

So as I look to 2010, the gorilla in the room of my nihilism stares back at me. Nothing in this world is of inherent value only that which we assign value. That which I have value has been shaken and destroyed in 2009 and the crippling problem of morality seems unwilling to let me alone. My question for 2010 is what do I truly value and how can I seize it. It is my resolution to devote the major part of my energy to this.

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