Shakespeare’s Hands

I nearly came in contact with the first ever portfolio of William Shakespeare’s plays, and history should be glad that I didn’t.

The University of Iowa had brought the folio to campus through a tour commemorating the 400th year anniversary of the death of a literary god Shakespeare, and within the month or so that the portfolio was on campus, I was beginning to feel Iowa City’s dedication as a “City of Literature” was only a charming title that masked the intense cult of bibliophiles walking the campus. I had been pressured told time and time again by several professors to attend the exhibit, and that this collection of his work was a rare opportunity not unlike an eclipse. How could I not go? The university was graciously keeping the stars aligned so that students like me could experience “The Wonder of Will”. (The tour touted its showcasing of 1 of 235 extant copies of the portfolio). Be that as it may, I put off seeing the 8th Wonder for a while because a collection of Shakespeare’s work didn’t quite seem like a once in a lifetime opportunity.

On some unfateful day, however, I found myself walking into the exhibit alone before class. The room itself was somewhat spacious with tidbits of additional information scattered throughout the exhibit and along the walls. From the grammar-school books Shakespeare used as a child to a Bible in which a priest had emphatically marked out “inappropriate” verses—there were definitely points of interest. But for sometime at the edge of the room, I orbited around the focal point of the tour twice before I even dared to approach it. After I made my final revolution and met the case in the center of the room, I peered at the propped book inside. I was finally gazing on the object of historical obsession, and in that moment—

I had the uncanny desire to crumple its simple pages in my hands.

Interestingly enough, I don’t feel as though I have anything pressing to say about the New Year or the old one for that matter. However, I feel it’s expected there should be quite the long list of triumphs and failures to analyze and distill into some lyrically hopeful post about taking 2017 by storm. In other words, I should be writing a “2016 in Review” essay detailing the year that’s both blinked and schlepped by. Yet here I am instead thinking about the fact that in some alternate universe I’ve been arrested for defiling a historically integral part of the English language because I wanted to know what it felt like.

With its lightly yellowed pages bordering an orangish hue (a sign of its age no doubt) and its crisply mint appearance, the portfolio truly demanded the obsession my professors had so readily succumb to. I could clearly make out Hamlet’s iconic monologue in the lines “To be or not to be” which were written in some beautifully archaic serif font of the time. It was just so striking, and while I gazed at it, it seemed to continue to grow both bigger and more influential than all of what I currently hope my life will achieve. I could only imagine what that significance feels like to hands that are so soft and clammy because they’ve only ran across the plastic of a keyboard and nothing more.

I wanted to touch it.

Since that moment, every now and again I think of that spike of primal desire—mostly when I look at my hands. They reflect countless lapses into anxiety more so than any trying days of hard work and grit, and since I’m no farmer or wood carver, I’m left wondering what painstaking work is supposed to look like on the hands of someone who aspires to work with words. Seeing how smooth and unblemished they are makes it all the more easy to believe that I’ll only be turning twenty this year. Some part of me feels they should look different—more aged and accomplished. I guess I’ve had it somewhere in my mind, tucked away and seeping, that by now I would have became this thing I’ve always imagined—a more supreme Austin that apparently doesn’t translate that well into the reality of the present of what’s now become 2017.

After this past year, I can’t even tell if that Austin is more of a goal or a rigid fantasy with origins dating back to high school. Simply put, I’m unsure if whether or not this apparition I have of myself can ever be achieved or if it will only loom over me and scoff at the soft skin of my palm…

I had the privilege of meeting many inspirational figures this semester who helped me better understand myself and my aspirations. For one thing, I heard the poet Robyn Schiff, whom I’ve never heard of before this fall, read from her poetry collection Revolver, and I was awestruck and inspired like never before just from listening to a poem. Her work represented so much of what I never knew poetry could be to the point that I view my own work entirely different, and it’s that very moment of pure revelation that defined much of this semester. I’ve gone from simply wanting to write to fully intending on being fluent in Japanese, a professor of both English and Japanese literature, an avid reader, and being wholly dedicated to my craft. Above all, however, I intend on writing truth.

Because of this, it’s now my firm belief that I am a habitual hoarder mover of goal posts. If I’m ever near a goal, I’m likely to reset it farther away to a point where I can barely make out its silhouette, and thanks to this past semester, the amount of distant goal posts I own has dramatically increased. Now, I can’t help but feel unaccomplished in the far off faces of my goals. I can’t help but bemoan the fact that I am so young—that my hands still have this awful novelty to them.

So here I am in 2017—wondering about what Shakespeare’s hands looked like.

What was the exact moment when his fingers captured a thrashing, resounding truth and locked it in language?

Are mine too weak to perform that kind of fingerwork?

When will I know if my hands have told the truth?

I don’t know.

But if there’s anything I’ve come to realize about myself at the cusp of my twentieth birthday, it’s that I have a very quiet yet intense determination about myself, and looking at Shakespeare’s portfolio betrayed the existence of that drive—that longing to work words…

Who knows though? Maybe my work won’t ever manifest itself in calluses or bit nails on these hands. Maybe, after a couple of decades of typing, it will instead be reflected by an arthritis diagnosis…

College a.k.a. Changes

I’ll admit.

It’s still a work in progress—taking on the role of Atlas. Holding a strained position, head cocked to the sky, back arched in accepted pain—all while looking to the stars in an attempt to divine some pathway to take other than this revolution of past transgressions. Even so, I’ve found myself taking steps—sort of feeling out a path even while blind.

For starters, I added a new major, so as of now, I am an English, Theatre Arts, and Japanese Language and Literature major. This was all conceived behind a curtain opposite you all, yes, but it’s been a long time coming. I suppose when you get a high from learning new grammar rules or the meaning of a word you’ve heard before that the love for that language must be real; and if that be the case then, while I may be married and devoted to the English language, I’ve taken up quite a steamy affair with Japanese.

From a more positive standpoint though, learning a new language is very humbling. For someone who thrives in the complexity and diversity of the English language, being forced to revert to a sort of linguistic childishness—hanging onto new words, sputtering like a defective faucet—is incredibly satisfying. Becoming fluent in Japanese has also taken a hefty space beside the rest of my goals—right next to winning a Pulitzer Prize and earning a PhD…

You’re not the only one who’s been blind to the alterations I’ve undergone, though…

I’ve been caught unawares by them myself, and what I thought could be worms rolling about beneath my skin were actually changes I myself couldn’t recognize—most of which I still can’t properly identify and comprehend. With that said, I’ve taken to searching within myself—revisiting old mental spaces within and bearing witness to parts of myself I no longer recognize. Not because they’re not me, no, but because I can’t for the life of me understand why they were there to begin with—almost like old clothes that faded to the back of the wardrobe.

In fact these pieces of me were almost like costumes themselves.

While they were made in the image of Austin, there’s only so much you can create with sticks and stones or needle and thread, and while I don’t necessarily fault myself for utilizing these masquerades, it is difficult to realize you’ve hidden yourself for so long. Not because you were scared. Not because the cloth was soft and warm, and not because you didn’t know yourself.

Only because it was difficult to wriggle your way out of something so comfortably restrictive.

It doesn’t help that people are attracted to costumes as well—drawn to their flagrant personalities and “authenticity”—and while I made these austins with Austin in mind, they never quite came out right—failed alchemy of self—which is why I decided to do away with the needle and thread and opt for the pen and pad instead…

Simply put, I became too busy attempting to be genuine that I neglected to actually and freely show myself to the world. So that’s what these words are.

These words are me.

I thought I lost them, I really and truly did, and there were weeks on months that I felt my time as a delicate, passionate, abortive weaver of words had passed and that worms had taken residence within me instead—praying on the remains of past successes, errors, words, me(s)—but now I realize that these words—this me—never goes away. It only changes.

Like me.

I changed. I change. I’m changing.

I don’t know why or how, but it’s happening, and it’s terrible. Terrible because mistakes are made in growth. Soil, concrete, stone—it all shifts the same when a root decides to be strong, and mine are flexing alright. Coiling, wrapping, twisting as they stretch out for my sake—searching for more reasons to change beneath the soil of my skin.

It’s wonderful though.

Wonderful because the costumes fade away—the pretty leaves and flowers and distractions—leaving the beauty of unapologetic existence—gnarled and twisted insides my roots have worked so hard for.

Wonderful because I am reaching for something. Death impending, impediment impending—somewhere somehow, I am stretching towards something greater I could not reach a moment, day, month, year, ago.

Wonderful because it’s me…


I didn’t die.

Although I’m sure that for a time it felt that way what with my break from feeding the starving masses posting about all of my endeavors, but unfortunately college happened, and I must say that I’m not terribly proud of that. There are quite a few things that I can do, but college reminded me that my most valuable talent is my ability to go through the motions.

I’m not one to shy away from work, but I am one to despise a job’s ability to drain every ounce of joy from your life. Is that what happened to me this past semester? Most certainly not. However, there were many times that I welcomed the monotony of homework and tests because of course—despite the fact that I moved across the country—it turns out that dejection isn’t a beast native only to Texas. I found it in Iowa too, and when it comes to my own spiritual ecosystem filled with anxiety, drama, and past regrets I am always at the bottom of the food chain.

With that said, I did pretty well for myself to start things off with. Classes were going well, and I met a group of what I believe to be very trustworthy individuals, but naturally flowers need rain and shine to grow. However, if I had to consider myself any type of plant it’d be a cactus because I’m resolutely positive that I’ve had my fair share of precipitation with the thorns to prove it, but of course when the sky cries we just roll with the droplets or drown.

And what brought on this perfect storm, you may ask. My former roommate who, at the end of a very dramatic course of events, had to be removed from my residence hall.

I’m not detailing the events surrounding my previous living situation, however. The point and crux of the story is that my first semester of college is over, and I’m not sure just how to feel about the blur of events that makes up the first half of my freshman year.

A part of me believed—hoped even—that I would go through life changing events, and that everything would be morphed into something unrecognizable after my three to four months of being a mockingHawkeye, and that somehow nothing would be the same but in a good way (whatever that is).

Another part of me thought college would end what little life I’ve been living with tests and grades and all of the anxiety that social interaction tows around, and there were times when that school of belief convinced me it was the only school I had actually been accepted into…

And of course there’s the fraction of me that thought I should transfer; along with the bit of me that figured that money shouldn’t be my Babylonian Finger.

But there was always the slither of me that felt—and continues to feel—that perhaps college isn’t for me…

I want to write.

That’s what I keep telling myself, and part of the reason I neglected the brainchild that is this blog for so long is because I was doing that. Writing.

I took a playwriting class this past semester, and one of the assignments I had been tasked with was writing a one act. Of course, my idea had to be uber complex and a completely foreign concept to even myself, and on top of that after everything was said and done I had written a full length play—not just an act…

But in order to even finish the rough draft, I told myself I was not allowed to write anything else—including this blog—which is why my updates ceased.

So now, here it is—the amalgamation of all the things I’ve felt and thought these past few months—and as I sit here I still couldn’t tell you what all I learned these past few months. I could tell you that I can hold a decent conversation about a variety of topics all in Japanese, or the proper posture for singing musical theatre, or even a few writing tips, but I always imagined sharing something more exciting—something more personal.

But I dreamt of a lot of great things for myself in college—things that I think take more than three to four months to come to fruition…

However, that’s just me being hopeful and praying that something grand is already in the works for me.

There is  one great thing I learned about though:

The Color Purple

I had seen the movie quite some time ago, but—having been fifteen years old at the time—I didn’t really glean anything groundbreaking from it at the time. On top of that, I had always known that it was a book originally then a movie and musical, but very recently this story was brought back to my attention in a revival of the musical which is now on Broadway. Having never paid it any true attention, I heard the music for the first time; and simply put—it’s beautiful. So while everyone is losing their mind over Hamilton, I’m somehow ecstatic about and discovering something new in The Color Purple years after it’s publication…

After listening to the whole original Broadway soundtrack, I really put my life under a microscope as silly as that may sound. It turns out though, Celie and I have a lot in common, and once I realized that her journey and my own had very blatant similarities I saw my own story a lot differently because The Color Purple isn’t just a “black story”. It’s a story about spiritual oppression and learning that it’s okay to love and to be loved, which I’ve struggled with for quite some time now.

If I were being honest, that’s the most important thing I’ve learned all semester. I’ve been sitting here and racking my brain about what it is that made all of my choices and mistakes worth their while, and it’s all because I want to be sure that I’m living and learning and changing for the better; and yes—part of me has felt that growth was put on the backburner. However, in retrospect, I really and truly believe that had I not experienced these past months as I have—I would have never seen this story or parts of my life in the way that I do now…

(Which is an incredible thing for a book to do. The only other book that made me feel that way was the Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.)

Now, that it’s winter break and I’m trapped within my house with nothing to do but read The Color Purple, make cookies, and write, you can expect a more detailed account of the recent past. This was more of a testament to my life which I assure you all goes on, and now that I’ve established my credibility as a living human being once more, enough of all that.

I really have to get back to this book…


I take comfort in the fact that Jesus had twelve disciples.

Yes, Judas betrayed him, but the twelve we’re more prone to mention are basically the original “squad” if you will. However, I feel that by today’s standards—Jesus’s social life would not be considered so grand.

Only twelve?

That seems a bit odd for someone who can turn water into wine and feed a multitude people with a single overwhelmingly pitiful meal unfit for the average man. Yet a dozen is all he had—all he actually required—and at this hopefully early part in my life, I can’t help but envy, yet revere all the same, his small social circle.

In college, everyone wants to be friends—at least that’s how it seems. With that said though, I really and truly do think everyone wants to connect to someone one on one level or another. Even before I was thinking about college and was still a reticent 14 year-old, I’ve heard time and time again that “You’ll make lifelong friends in college!”, and some days I believe this. For the most part, everyone is incredibly outgoing and willing to make conversation, and it almost seems as if there’s no logical reason I can’t be friends with any and everyone here. But if I were to be honest, I’d say that I almost dislike the idea of that.

Don’t get me wrong.

I love people—I really and truly do—but do I trust people? Now that’s another question…

It’s not that I have an idea in my head that people only want out of a relationship what they can get out of you because I’ve already been up and down and all around that street. And while I can say that I’ve moved on from that travesty of a relationship, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect the way I perceive others in some way. However, that’s not the complete source of my hesitancy to befriend others. If anything it was water to the plant.

The chief reason behind this is simply the fact that I’m not from here.

I come from a place where I’m understood quite well. I can say the most with the least, and I can be myself without much fear of misconstruction, and while this can be true of most anyone—to a certain degree—the fact that I come from Texas and not Iowa plays a large role in people’s willingness to form relationships.

Before I continue, however, I’m not looking for fair-weather friendships—something I’ve never been a fan of ever since high school. I don’t see the point of engaging in another person with having no real intent of following through with the relationship itself. However, I feel that people naturally have a bad habit of making abortive connections as it is, and I’ve seen this play out quite a bit. Someone’s friends with someone they don’t even enjoy, or someone just doesn’t treat someone else how that person would like to be treated—but I could write a whole sermon about this, so I think I’ll stop now because I’m certainly no James Weldon Johnson.

I only get the phantom feeling that many of the people that come to the University of Iowa already knowing a great deal of people aren’t pursuing relationships with new people past what I described above. And I understand that the first semester of my first-year is only half over, but again, as long as I am a first year—this blog shall chronicle (to the best of its ability) the freshman experience from start to finish.

What’s harder for me personally, however, is that I am an open book—an open book with several big words that is. While I am open and honest, it’s difficult to gauge what all I should explain to people I’m starting fresh with, and because of this I do question not the value of making new connections but my capability to do so—and on some levels the point of it all. I am outgoing and like to laugh, yes, but I want more out of a relationship than an exchange of gilts. Moreover, I’ve been through nothing with these people. All of the good friends I can count on my hand back in Texas followed me through some incredibly complex and, at times, nightmarish moments, and to be told that I will meet people here that will rival their loyalty and support almost makes me indignant—as if anyone could be as much a friend as they have proven themselves to be…

And then I think of Jesus—who had the tiniest social circle imaginable by a 21st century technophile like myself—and naturally I can’t help but be jealous of him in a non-Judas, I’m-going-to-betray-you type way. It’s just nice to know that a small circle is all you need, but to settle for the veterans in my life and undervalue the 5,000+ students here would be a disservice to not only them but myself as well which inevitably defeats the purpose of the university’s mission.

We’re supposed to meet new people and make new friends—“lifelong friends”—and it’s easy to go the Jesus route and proclaim that what I have is all I need, especially for someone like me. However, where things stand now, I do believe there are potential relationships here that are worth it. I just don’t know which ones yet, which I feel is natural(ly unnerving). Or maybe it’s simply a feeble hope I’m holding out for someone to justify and confirm?

Nevertheless, I believe everyone will go through this How-Many-Friends-Would-Jesus-Have dilemma, whether they’re aware of it or not, when they begin to consider the value of their relationships—even the Iowans who come here with their best friends and 95% of their graduating class. This social crisis of biblical proportions is only happening to me now because I came knowing and, in some ways, trusting no one.

I’m a brave boy, though. I’m used to discomfort and putting myself out there. (Boy do I have a lot of stories about that…) And while I can’t say the same for everyone, I believe I’ll be fine in the end (at least that’s the hope) even if I do choose to defy the Jesus paradigm…

Austin Says

So I ran.

Because I told myself to run.

Any by run I quite literally mean running—along the lines of jogging and cross country—and what a very thin line it is since it’s so easy to fall off of. The thing about running for more recreational or personal reasons as opposed to competition is that you can stop whenever you want. If you get tired, you can stop. If you get a cramp, you can stop.

But I ran because I told myself to run—several months ago… And now, in hindsight, I’ve realized that I was smarter than I thought.

A few months ago before coming to college I recorded a video of myself. No, not my Convocation audition video, something much more simple, and I had forgotten all about it until I decided to open it up due to the divine silence I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Now, having watched it, I must say:

Past-Austin was a genius.

He pretty much foresaw how I would feel and already had counter-measures in place to combat whatever negativity I was experiencing, and as if giving a prescription, he told me to run. To laugh. To spend time alone. But the final thing he told me to do was to write—

So here I am.

It’s quite ironic though… I’ve suffered quite a bit for being in touch with and familiar with myself, but watching that video reminds me that sometimes people don’t know what’s good for them, but it’s even rarer for a person to actually recognize what’s good for them outside of cheat-days and shopping sprees. I feel that people will try to fill a chasm with water and not dirt, and I speak from both observation and experience. However, I’ve gotten quite better at self-care, and it’s simply because I know myself and strive to learn more; so while I may bear consequences from the knowledge I have about “Austin”, I think the repercussions pale in comparison to the good it does me and even others at times…

I should let you know, however, that I recently ran a 5K, as per the instruction of my past self, for Dance Marathon, an organization that provides support to young cancer patients and their families; and while there, I had a very interesting encounter with Herky…


While Herky is mostly silent, his frustration and concentration were plain to see. I quite literally watched him play two whole games of Jenga because for some reason I was completely engrossed. To be honest, it was quite like watching a bear walk on its hind legs, maybe even on a ball, and through my extended period of observation I’ve learned that Herky only has four fingers. I did not know this…

Also, one more thing—


He stared at me for a good minute or so. I told you they were friendly!

Divine Silence

Divine intervention is a thing of literature.

The protagonist’s journey is often spurred into action because of a sign or an inevitable storm that will come without fail. In the Odyssey Athena strings Odysseus along his path to success, and for a more biblical standpoint Moses happens upon a burning bush that charges him with the emancipation of an entire people—straight from the bushes mouth. And as ludicrous as it may seem to agnostics or atheists or as sacred and finite as such events may be to religious zealots—

I’m wishing I had a burning bush of my own at this moment.

I am a slow and deliberate thinker. I’m the species of person who will question every choice they’ve ever made even after said choice has already brought whatever consequences it warranted. I’ve regretted things I foolishly said when I was in 6th grade just as simply as I’ve mourned the lack of common sense I had just a year ago. The point being, I’m incredibly envious of Moses and Odysseus and any other divine celebrity that’s ever had their destiny written out for them by the best adviser in the business—God.

I, however, recently had to meet with my own earthly adviser, and while I appreciate her services I doubt she can give me the answers that I seek.

It’s somewhat laughable that people can tell you all day long what you’re good at, but no one can tell you what to do with your overwhelming prowess at any given thing, and it’s not quite as simple as:

“You’re good at football? Go out for the NFL!”

At least not for me. And while I admit it takes a certain amount of skill and dexterity to smash into other people and throw a ball with a perfect spiral and hell, catch said ball (all of which I cannot do), I feel that football is slightly less open ended than say being a writer—or not even that really. Further breaking it down would be saying that I love English and communication, and when one loves English they go to college to earn their bachelor’s in some sort of liberal art. They then become a teacher and attempt to spread their esoteric love for the subject to a group of people who are overwhelmingly unenthused by the alphabet let alone a 400 page long Charles Dickens book. When one loves communication they become a speech teacher, right? They coach the debate team and teach kids how to form arguments and ensure that they all know how to properly talk over another person who may have a valid point. And when someone loves English and communication, they become a thespian which I don’t believe needs any elaboration whatsoever.

But personally, it delves so much deeper than subject or major. Breaking it down further would be saying that I don’t truly love English or even communication really. I am captivated by having something to say. But no, that wouldn’t be quite right either in the end. Hitler had a lot to say. Charles Dickens had a lot to say. Abraham Lincoln had a lot to say. Even Dr. Seuss had a lot to say, but clearly they all had very different affects on people at wildly different times in history.

So if that’s not right, then I am forced to break it down further and say… I love emotion. I like to feel, and I like to make other people feel… But that can easily be the case of a therapist or perhaps even a serial killer, and I’m positive that I have no affinity for either of those things.

So, what am I exactly? And what is it that I like to do so much?

If it’s not English, and it’s not communication or saying something or feeling, then what I want to do all day and what I’ve gone to college to improve upon can basically be equated to marking a whole bunch of meaningless scribbles on dead trees that I want to be spread to other dead trees.

But that’s not quite right either and—


I don’t know.

Not anymore at least. Yes, I want to write. Yes, I want to feel. Yes, I want to make other people feel with my scribbles and dead trees, but:

What am I supposed to say?

For one thing, there’s an overwhelming amount of “things to say” in my head, but they’re so rarely released into civilization due to their wild and at times exotic nature; but on the other hand, I don’t want the wrong thought to escape either. One cannot change or persuade without the correct language, and that’s what I’m fascinated by. That’s what I’m interested in—involved and invested in.


The type of change that happened when Moses abided the bush. I want to set spectacular things in motion that supersede my own life. I want to be a mover or shaker and change languish into action. I want to tear things down and raze what holds me—and maybe even others—back, and if I destroy something in the process then let it be known that my destruction is in the name of creation—it’s me going back to the building blocks to improve faulty architecture.

Simply put, I want to be the change that I pray for. However, if I do that—if I do commit to change—then I’m at the mercy of my own words…

This is all very lovely and existential, yes, but let it be known how I conceived such thoughts in the first place. Just yesterday, I saw a one woman show called “Truth Values: One Girl’s Romp Through M.I.T.’s Male Math Maze”. Simply put, it was beautiful. It was simple (I mean, it was a one woman show) but complex all the same, and the one, simple line she said that continues to resonate with me and that I remember so fondly was:

“This is me… Telling my story.”

And in that moment, I was reconnected to everything I have ever thought I wanted to do since I was a child because as of late, my vim and vigor for and of writing has been rather weak—fading even. I was considering simply turning away from word-smithing—if the mental-atrophy lasted long enough—but you can’t turn away from who you are, and that’s what college does. It either teaches or reminds you of who you are.

So who am I?

I’m not a writer. I’m not a lover of English. I’m not a thespian.

I’m Austin Hughes, and that’s what college has taught me thus far.

I’m just me, and while the University of Iowa may have reminded me of my incredibly rare identity, it can’t tell me what to do with who I am; and if I don’t meet any burning bushes or small girls with water jugs to tell me where it is my life belongs in the grand scheme of the world anytime soon, oh well.

I’m simply going to have to tell my story—the story of me and my beliefs and my hopes…

And that’s going to have to be enough for now.

Yes Man

“Yes—Sure—Of course—Definitely—Not at all—Yep.”

These are the words that have slowly climbed the top of my “Most Used Words” list, and with good reason. College, as many have put it, is full of opportunity, and they are most certainly correct. College is indeed full of a variety of opportunities, and while on campus it is impossible to forget that very fact because said opportunity is constantly thrown in your face the moment you set foot out of your dorm.

With this in mind, I’m thoroughly convinced that Dante Alighieri failed to mention the 10th circle of hell:


College is full of walking infomercials yearning to prey upon first-year students who are so ready and raring to go that they say yes to anything—like me. The word “No” and I are natural enemies, and it seems that whenever a truce between the two of us would save me from a very uninteresting spiel—I, instead of quoting Rosa Parks, say yes out of the social anxiety kindness of my heart. While I would not be performing civil disobedience by rejecting their subtly desperate search for members, I still find it increasingly difficult to tell these eager beavers that I don’t like wood that much.

Because of this, I now:

Support both Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul, am on the email list for the men’s rowing team, own several unfilled applications, have sat through enough uncomfortable conversations to bore sloths and turtles alike, and possess an overwhelming amount of pens.

And the worst part of it all is that I have yet to find a single interesting group to join, so now I’m stuck with this feeling of watching commercials that advertise something I will more than likely never purchase. The only thing is, I have purchased these things in a way.

I’ve spent my time listening to them.

I understand that I have quite literally been in college for less than a month, but somehow I’ve managed to neglect myself already. I may not be joining these various groups and organizations, but I’ve come to realize that I am almost scared to do so.

Am I afraid of free pens? No. (See? I did it!)

However, I am afraid of losing time—time to study, time to relax, and time to be myself—because in the face of all these new people and groups I rarely remember to check in with myself due to my preoccupation with Hillary Clinton’s College Affordability Plan which only further cements my fears.

Am I scared of affordable college tuition? No. (I’m two for two.)

I am scared, however, of losing the money that is keeping me here. All of the money I received is directly tied to my academic performance, and my time is—almost literally—money, and I don’t know whether or not I can consider myself a temporal Alexander Hamilton just yet. Once upon a time, I managed my time effectively, but now, having heard that college is so much more difficult and having money at stake, it’s almost as if I’m attempting to do the bare minimum. Heck, I’ve never even had stakes before, and now my entire education rides on whether or not I can keep steady grades even if they don’t live up to my standards.

Am I terrified of failing? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. (I’d be lying if I said no.)

I mean, the stakes are higher now. What do you expect? But I suppose that’s what it means to become an adult.

But then I remember I’ve only been here for less than a month, and that there’s nothing wrong with taking my time. In fact, I highly recommend it. Sometimes time management isn’t just knowing when to do what. Sometimes, I’d like to think, it’s knowing when to slow down as well, and there are just some things you can’t see while in motion.

However, it’s not to say that I’m up to nothing at all.

I’m learning a new language, I’m learning to sing, I’m writing (clearly), I’m running a 5K in the coming weeks for a cancer research donation, and I’m taking college one careful step at a time because I certainly won’t be taking anymore hazardous strolls through campus where the club-buzzards lurk.

So, I’ve become quite the yes-man, yes. (I’m so punny.) However, I think I’m going to have to forge an alliance with “No” if I’m gonna make it out of here alive in four years, but I suppose I’ll have to take my time learning how to do that as well. I should probably start by leaving this “Hawkeyes for Hillary” facebook page…

I do, however, support affordable college, so yes to that Hillary!

Dinner with the Squirrels

I am not an outdoorsman.

Let this be known first and foremost. With that established, any mention of me out and about in the natural world is usually a daring escapade I only embark upon when necessary. I did take an outdoor adventure class in high school, however, even with all of that brief semester of knowledge under my belt, I would not survive because alas, I am a writer; and with no electricity for a laptop I could never go on, and even as resourceful as humans have proven to be in the wild as seen on Naked and Afraid I don’t believe Mother Nature has equipped us with a more primal way of creating college-ruled paper.

So now (in the relative-comfort of my dorm) I am penning my most recent journey into the mystery-scape that is Iowa City, and I must say:

Nature’s not so bad.

Apart from Mother Nature’s ever-burning desire to turn my skin from flesh to kindling, I’ve found that Iowa City is a pretty spectacular place—even with its vulnerability to the elements. It actually reached ninety-degrees here today which, thanks to my training sessions in Hell Texas, I was unbothered by. So despite the odious climate, I’ve been walking around quite a bit whether it be on the way to class or just to kill time, and I’ve never been impressed with the scenery of a town until now.


Everything here is incredibly green in every sense of the word, and it makes me scoff a bit at the peasants of grass back in Texas that are withered and yellowed with malnutrition. I almost feel as if I’ve stepped into a more wealthy and diverse part of nature, and it seems like Iowa City actually cares about its denizens—abiotic and all.

There are hardly any paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms (a fact that his caused me much grief at times), there are solar panels all across the city, and all of the nature on campus is relatively untampered with. Ducks, deer, and the occasional foxes can be spotted at random times around campus. However, Mother Nature seems to have a strange preference when it comes to other birds. They’re all tiny, fledgling-looking things, and they all hop around like bunnies who didn’t get the memo that they were birds. I have legitimately only seen this kind of bird on campus (apart from the ducks), and it’s starting to make me believe that there’s some greater conspiracy at work or a discriminatory regulation against certain birds only bypassed through an application process.

One of the many wonders of Iowa City, however, has got to be the squirrels.

There’s a term in Iowa called “Iowa Nice” (which I assume is the equivalent to Southern Hospitality) and it basically states that everyone in Iowa is uncharacteristically, almost disturbingly nice, and at first I thought it was some self-awarded accolade Iowans created, but after two weeks here I’ve realized that this “Iowa Nice” is a real thing because even the squirrels here are “Iowa Nice”.

Back in Texas, if you approached a squirrel it was either roadkill or fleeing the scene of a crime. Here in Iowa City, you can practically have a conversation with a squirrel—especially the black ones. I assume they’re the more talkative of the bunch because once winter hits they’ll be the main course of several predators. They sit, and allow you to approach regardless of whether they’re hunting for a nut or doing whatever it is squirrels do (surviving no doubt), and in that moment there is a mutual respect. (I kid you not.) One of my friends even told me that a squirrel had waited for her to cross the sidewalk before it did so itself. I’m sure that squirrel is pulling the ladies.

These squirrels are so approachable that I really and truly feel that I could have dinner with one of them, and no one would question it.

I recently read an article that said Iowa City is the 3rd best place to live in the United States, and I must say that it deserves that spot. Never having visited the campus before move-in day and coming from a large city with no public transportation system (@Arlington, TX) my expectations were quite low, but my mind has been fried every time I venture forth from my humble abode and into the outside world of Iowa City. I’ve been so smitten with my surroundings that I’ve already planned several excursions for this coming school year, and I’ll be sure to dutifully record them all—especially any dinners I have with the not-so-wild life.

Chocolate Milk

Whelp, it’s official. My mission has finally begun, and I’ve somehow managed to move myself across the country with my psyche still intact. It’s been a week and a day since I’ve moved in, and I must say. So. Much. Has. Happened—so much that I’m overwhelmed with the several possible routes this post could take. However, I think I’ll start off simple, and just deal with something ever-associated with Iowa.

White people.

Rewind back to the days of my college application crucible, and I was busy considering places such as University of Texas at Austin or the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, but ever so quickly a sleeper arose—the University of Iowa—and after it quickly scaled the top of my list of priorities (practically stepping over all other college options and letting them fall to their deaths) I decided that Iowa City was most certainly the place for me—or was it? At least that’s the question that arose in my mind when I would tell people where I would be spending the next four (and then possibly two or three more) years of my life.

“You know, there’s a lot of corn in Iowa.”

Yes, I do know—except over the course of my entire thirteen hour drive to and through Iowa to Iowa City, not once did I lay eyes on a single strand of apparently quite secretive corn. I was initially under the impression that all Iowans were corn-fed, thanks to the lovely southern-prejudices I was instilled with, but now that I’m here I’m questioning what it is they do eat if not corn.

“You know, it gets really cold up there in Iowa.”

Yes, I do know. I just assumed that the closer to the North Pole I moved, the colder winter would be. I actually managed to escape the one hundred degree weather of the south, and I can most certainly attest to the fact that is indeed colder here. In fact, I don’t feel my skin is in danger of becoming some shade of charcoal.

“You know, there’s a lot of white people in Iowa. How do you feel about that?”

Well I… To be quite honest, I thought I knew how I felt about being a minority in a time when apparently minority is synonymous with inferiority, “ratchetness”, whiner, and inadequacy, and I must say that for the longest time I dealt with it quite well. In all honesty, I’ve never been a typical black boy. Scratch that, I’ve never been the type of black boy they show on television since nothing is really typical—only common. I’m not in a gang nor have I ever shot a gun, and I am most certainly a proponent of good grammar, and with these things in mind, I’ve never truly felt my skin.

Even my high school, one of the biggest in the state of Texas (where everything’s bigger), was pretty diverse—or at least I thought so. Maybe it’s because intelligence knows no bounds and in all of my advanced placement classes there were a variety of people of all shades. (Go figure.) But when I think about it, I was always one of two or maybe even (Lord be willing) three black people in an honors class. But even then, I never really and truly thought about it… until I came to a PWI.

Predominantly White Institution.

While my high school had its unfair share of W.A.S.P.s (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants) the University of Iowa seems to have had that entire population squared. Everywhere I go, I am a fly in milk. I have no real qualms with this fact (trust me this is not an attack on the white populace but statement of fact), but when you’re the only person of color walking down a street (trust me I looked both ways) it’s pretty hard not to notice.

The real discrepancy comes, however, when I interact with people that don’t look like me—specifically on the lighter side of the spectrum. A white girl can make a joke, and it gets a few giggles. But I simply add on to it, and I’m all of a sudden on stage in a Neil Simon comedy with a full house of bleached hyenas. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Maybe I’m just really funny. Well, maybe I am, but it gets pretty old, even after a week, when all people do is laugh at something you said and not bother to ask you your name.

Before I continue however, this is not me complaining, whining, crying, protesting, criticizing, passing judgment, fault-finding, accusing, addressing a grievance, or anything of that nature. I love people, and the last time I checked that includes the white variety. In fact, the majority of my greatest mentors have been, in fact, Caucasian.

However, I have been told that some students on this campus have quite literally never seen a black person before. And that’s okay—especially with me.

You’ve never seen a black person before? Okay, awesome, let me show you that (fun fact) we’re not that different from you. I may not rap or run track or be here on an athletic scholarship or even like Tyler Perry films that much, but I still love Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj and I’ll still take a class to learn the Japanese language because that’s just who I am, and contrary to (unfortunate) popular belief my skin is what I am not who I am.


So yes, there are a lot of white people up here, and how do I feel about it? I do not. There may be facts (i.e. I’m black and they’re white) but that doesn’t mean it’s affecting my college experience in a negative way. There are plenty of flies floating around in this milk, believe me. However, if I had to select a single metaphor to sum up the racial dynamics at this school, I would simply say some of us are chocolate milk and some of us are white milk. But the last time I checked:

Chocolate milk may be a little different (sweet, too sweet, etcetera), but at the end of the day—

It’s still milk.