A portion of Merriam Webster’s definition of evolution reads: a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state. I recently had the pleasure of being home for a weekend and having dinner with my parents before heading out for drinks. Over the course of dinner my father and I had a long discussion about death and dying. Not literally being dead, but the idea that in a cognitive sense, it is entirely possible to die once, twice, hundreds or even thousands of times over a lifetime. In that sense, when juxtaposed to the definition of evolution above, a nonphysical death and the idea of evolution are technically one in the same. Correct?
My favorite movie, at current, is A Bronx Tale. It came out in ‘93 and was directed by Robert De Niro. I stumbled upon it in my youth while sharing the couch with my mother. We couldn’t stop watching. It is highly recommended. In the movie, the protagonist is a young Italian city kid with the nickname “C” who, essentially by accident, winds up befriending a feared mobster. One lesson, among many others, that he learns from the unlikely mentor is that he’s going to meet three great women in his life.
In theme of this farewell article and my currently favorite film, I am going to selfishly take the time to thank three influential events, things, people, etc. while doing my best to provide an arc of my own evolution to this point in my life.
Playing lacrosse was something that I had done for as long as I could recall and it was an honor to be recruited and play, albeit very sparingly, for Springfield College over the course of two spring seasons. For that, among other things, this is weird, because I need to thank…my kidney. I’ll spare the particulars in public, but I had a major surgery the summer after my sophomore year and was entirely unable to perform physical activity for a little over two months. This, unfortunately, intertwined with strings of other events, resulted in me being cut from the team in the fall of my junior year.
It’s always unfortunate to be lied to, and it was common information in that community that I was having the surgery, but alas, I was struck the harsh realization that the world doesn’t necessarily care about what you might want or desire at the exact moment. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t fair, and it was downright dishonest; however, better than most other things I’ve experienced in my time, it taught me to let things die and evolve in one flight. It is not in request for pity that I write, it is in honest thanks. If I had not been cut, I wouldn’t have turned my academic behaviors around, which to that point had been awful, would not be writing this column, and would certainly not be graduating on time. The door was rudely slammed in my face, and for that I cannot say thank you enough.
Secondly, I would like to thank the Humanities Department as a whole. This is to include teachers and peers alike, all of whom I learned invaluable bits of knowledge from: a professor who cancelled class at 3 a.m. after spraining an ankle tripping over an ab machine, one who successfully and beautifully compared Poe to a dentist, another who believed in my ability to tell a story when I was a lost and secluded soul struggling to find a new niche during the latter half of my time in college, department heads who understood my desire to stir the pot and talk about issues that stood just around the corner and barely out of sight, and an editor-in-chief who literally let me write about whatever I wanted this year. To people who always took things at face value, I cannot thank you enough.
Third, finally, and most importantly, I must thank any and all friends and acquaintances, both young and old alike that I’ve met over the course of my time in college. It is sickeningly cliché yet fantastically true, to quote David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, “Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
This includes an old friend who convinced me to go to my first Pretty Lights show, one who taught me that lifestyles are your own or no one’s at all, a professor who fervently spoke that “you’ll never know if you don’t swing the bat,” and a particularly memorable friend who was finally able to convince me of Kurt Cobain’s genius. The list continues, again, thank you.
The muse for this piece was inspired by a tweet from a girlfriend of mine who’s made a cameo in my columns before. It was a picture that reminds me of some of my younger years, careless freedom and assumed lifestyles. I laid in my bed sans partner and fiercely awake as I chanced to scroll across it. I thought of lives that I’d known and loved and lost and have died and evolved over the course of these quickly crawling four years. It reminded me of letting go of childish things, and that, if you don’t want to, you don’t need to…you know, “grow up” or “stop being f-ing dinosaur.” You always have a choice in the matter. It’s just going to be dressed a little differently as time moves forward.
I deeply fear that I could be wrong about all of this and in that lies the vulnerability I feel creeping up my throat as I type these words. I’ve got some plans for immediate action post-graduation, none of which have given one way of the other as of yet. I suppose it must be about finding what you feel you’re supposed to be contributing, and finding a plausible way to contribute to that world before you depart your own. That or, as my father eloquently put it during the aforementioned dinner, “Jake, a lot of people find passion in their lives and try to pursue that, it’s great, but you’ve still got to pay rent along the way.” He’s right, and, to fellow graduates, you’re not doing this alone, you know.
In partial reference to Chuck Klosterman, should I ever become marginally famous for my ability to write, I will be incredibly glad that I published this piece. If I fail, at least it was considered, believed and attempted. You can too.