It’s funny that I had more enthusiasm towards taking advantage of my sister’s Sam Club membership this week to buy myself fruit and snacks than I did towards participating in Black Friday shopping. Whenever the day pulls around each year, I can never seem to muster any form of interest strong enough to actually get me to shop. Perhaps it’s because I always associate the day with electronics and I never think I am lacking a certain electronic product or that I absolutely need something that I don’t have.
When the moment came around this year, I briefly thought about giving it a try for the first time. I scanned some websites to see what they offered. I thought, maybe I could use a TV. Then some friends began uploading mobile pics of other people already in large lines outside of stores and my interest very quickly started to decline. Suddenly, the cost of the lines and the swarm of people seemed to outweigh any benefit I could possibly receive. As Black Friday is coming to an end, I don’t have any sense of having missed out on anything.
I was much more excited two days ago when I went around Sam’s Club with my sister and stumbled upon the produce section. I picked myself up pomegranates and blackberries in bulk and happily carried them in my arms to the check-out line, knowing that in that moment that was truly what I wanted and loved.
It is humorous to see some of my interests changing. I can’t imagine caring about purchasing fruit as a child or a teenager. Now, as I am becoming an adult and trying to provide for myself, things as ordinary as pomegranates and blackberries excite me, and I know when Trader Joe’s starts stocking Pink Lady apples I will celebrate again. I wonder what else will change as I age. Maybe other interests that I already have will become even stronger.
On this Sunday, September 11th, we stand here as testaments of the enduring American spirit. It is difficult to believe that time has passed so quickly, especially in light of how vividly the memory of that day remains in my mind. I was just a young child sitting at my math class, confused and unaware of what had really happened, piecing together information and sifting through misinformation from others, trying to understand this event that had thrown the entire day off.
As a child, and perhaps as an American in general, you don’t expect your well-being to ever be seriously threatened. Serious violence exists, but not in the United States. At least that was the mindset. The attacks on that day showed each one of us that our country was not invincible, and it did so in a most horrible way. But what is truly amazing is that even on that very day, we already had American heroes. From the efforts of the courageous passengers on United 93 to the paramedics, firefighters, policemen and others who responded to the needs of others at the World Trade Center, we were quick to defend our nation and support our fellow brothers and sisters.
We took what could have been a debilitating and paralyzing event and we responded with an overwhelming display of patriotism. We showed our support for our nation, whether through small acts of bearing our flags or tremendous acts of defending our country on the battlefield. Though we may have our different opinions on going to war, I think we can all agree that those who have given their energy and heart to defending our nation are some of the bravest men and women that we have. I am thankful for their efforts.
As I look at the present, I see how things have, for the most part, returned to normal. We still face many challenges coming from numerous directions, and the threat of terrorism has still not been completely extinguished, but there is a sense that we can still get through them. We move forward even amidst these obstacles. Is this a distinctly American quality? Perhaps. It’s wonderful quality, though.
I was born in Merida, Venezuela to a Venezuelan father and an Iranian mother and I am grateful to be a participant in this American experience. Life affords you many opportunities and this is one the best opportunities I could have ever received.
My grandfather would have asked me this over the phone, talking to me from Iran. I would respond, “Yes, they’re good.” Then he would modify his question slightly, in the way of a person with a very limited grasp of English, asking me “Your body is good?” To that, I would respond similarly. This week, I paid a visit to an optometrist for an eye exam, as I have decided to give my eyes a bit of a rest from wearing contacts. Despite my attempts to live a healthy life, laziness had stopped me from taking care of one of my most important assets: my eyes. I have spent far too many days sleeping with my contacts on, infrequently removing them and cleaning them. Fortunately, the optometrist found that my eyes were in perfectly good condition. So in about a week, I should be receiving my new glasses. I’m not sure how often I will wear them. I guess I will have the summer to adjust.
This past week has been great. Even though final exams are approaching, the days have provided me with a good balance of work and enjoyment. On Tuesday, I delivered a final presentation for one of my classes, wrapping up the course in the process. Following that, I attended my friend Garrett’s Senior recital, where I got to listen to several of the amazing pieces he had composed over the last four years. On Wednesday, I attended another event meant to commemorate Vanderbilt students in their efforts of enhancing campus life. Friday involved assisting a friend in shopping for a gift for a bridal shower.
Additionally, I had a surprising moment when I picked up Friday’s issue of The Hustler and saw two of my photos featured in the lacrosse article. That was awesome. That was my first sport assignment, so I was intimidated, having had no prior experience shooting any games. Thankfully, I had the help of a new friend, who gave me tips and guidance throughout, so I managed to produce a few good shots. Still, seeing the pictures in the paper made my day even better. I was eating a cup of froyo outside of Rand, flipping through the pages of The Hustler, and then I saw the pictures. I look forward to taking on more assignments next year.
I guess the last significant event of this week was a conversation I had with my sister. We started by catching each other up on some of things that had passed since we had last talked to each other. I told her about my usual college activities and she told me about how she had completed the test and interview stage of the naturalization process. I’m really proud of her for finally going through the process to become a U.S. citizen. It’s something that we had put off for so long, for reasons that in retrospect do not make much sense. I think we always assumed the process was too difficult or abstract and removed. I’m not sure, but we always brushed off the idea until a later time. Apparently, though, it is actually very simple.
As we kept on talking, we moved on to more serious topics, particularly about relationships, our family, and some of our values. Having been raised with only our Iranian relatives living in the United States, I would say we developed more of an understanding about Iranian traditions than Venezuelan traditions. We have the memories of the events we attended in the past involving our relatives. We remember the expectations that were placed on us. To be a child of Iranian descent meant showing utmost respect to anyone who was older than you. It was an idea ingrained in our heads and put into practice at every function, as we would walk across a room and individually greet each family friend. Now, I think this tradition is somewhat flawed. Today, I no longer see age as such a great determining factor of how I should regard others. While there are indeed older individuals who carry the experience that warrants them a level of respect, there are many other individuals who are simply older—they are not wiser or better at handling situations, as we might expect them to be. It’s okay to step back, look at a tradition, decide that it’s not for you, and choose a different course.
With the passing of time, we may have to decide who we want to remain close to and who we truly value. The person I am closest to in my family is my sister. She will remain the person I have the strongest bond with. I think that was the outcome of our conversation—that realization that in this world in which we do have a very small family, it is even smaller when we consider who is truly by our sides.
Today marks 1 year since Mom’s passing. I thought that it was appropriate that we spent yesterday at Radnor Lake, among the beautiful sights of nature. I had been raised in that type of environment. I have the memories of day trips to Mammoth Cave National Park, having walked the trails so many times with my mother that I can still map out the various routes in my head. To return to nature yesterday felt right, because I have always associated nature with my mother. It was one of her greatest interests and I was usually just a son who simply went along. Yesterday was a day to pay respect while in the company of my sister, my brother-in-law, my niece, and my nephew. Yet it was also a day to keep spirits lifted high and to strengthen family bonds. Neither my sister nor I explicitly reflected much on the reason for the occasion, being cautious with words, knowing what was enough to say. We enjoyed our day, and I think that is something that my mother would have wanted.
To continue living without the greatest influence of your life is somewhat of a challenge. I didn’t know how to approach this week, because, of course, I want to be strong. There have only been a few moments that have gotten to me. There was an instance a few days ago when I suddenly remembered how fast her heart was beating in her final moments, and how I was sitting to the left of her bed when it happened. What an unusual thing to remember. I couldn’t help but cry from the memory of it. I loved her so much.
Knowing her own deteriorating condition, and being a ridiculously wonderful woman, my mother somehow managed to leave me a present this Christmas. It was a letter….
I have been so blessed by the courage and strength that you have shown me in these very tough days. You are a strong man and you have such great gifts. You have made me so proud. I have told my friends and family how much God has blessed me by your support and love.
I have been praying that you finish school and find the work that brings out these gifts God has given you. I also pray that you follow Jesus all the days of your life. I love you and want to see you again, but more than that, I want you to see Jesus and know perfect love!
She also attached a prayer from the Bible, but her words are really the only things that matter to me.
I can’t write more for some reason. I wish I could…
I’m nearing the end of the year and final exams are finally completed. I think the exam period took a toll on me. I justified every poor dietary decision I made by pointing my finger at the difficulty of the exam period. That translated to multiple trips to Quiznos for cheesesteak sandwiches and chicken carbonara sandwiches, snacking away on bags of Reese’s Pieces, gulping down NOS energy drinks, and sometimes just flat out eating peanut butter out of a jar. It was funny talking to other friends during the week and realizing that my behaviors were not so unusual. A lot of people had the same justifications running through their heads, which is both reassuring and troubling in the sense that we are collectively ruining our bodies for an entire week.
This past week tested my interest in writing. After writing 40 pages in one week, spread across several classes, I really disliked writing. As the number of pages increased, I saw myself writing with exhaustion that turned into annoyance and impatience. For the very last assignment, I couldn’t help but feel that I was simply splattering my thoughts onto the pages as fast as possible in eagerness to finish. Even my hands began to hurt, which added to my distress. Maybe it was from typing, or the cold, or it might have just been psychological.
But it’s finally over. I finished my last exam on Saturday at 5 PM. Immediately after, I rushed back to McGill, rested for a few hours, showered, and then got ready to go out and celebrate with Kalan Contreras, Yizhen Dong, Brandon Tobias, Matt Irwin, Stew Yang, Brent Baker, Harry Lopez, and others. I think that was a great way to finish off the school year, just laughing, dancing, and having fun. In true Vandy fashion, we weren’t just relieved but we were celebrating. Work hard. Play hard.
I’m still here in Nashville for a day or so, trying to get some things together. I still need to do Christmas shopping for my niece and nephew and also for my cousin’s son. I need to get them great gifts. Part of me really wants to make sure that they have good experiences growing up. At their age, it’s so important that they receive love and that we make efforts to encourage a good nature in them. This idea dawned on me a few weeks ago when I was visiting my sister and she made a comment about holding her four-month-old daughter Kalina. I realized that of all the contraptions that you could buy, like rockers and special seats, nothing transmits the same emotion and benefit like simply holding a child and giving her your attention. Of course, I’m saying this while still in Nashville and away from both my niece and nephew, but I think my sister had a really good point. She didn’t say it in those words actually, but that’s what I took away from her suggestion to hold Kalina more often.
Were it not for these positive thoughts towards my niece and nephew, I’m not sure how I would regard the holidays. In general, I have begun to approach holidays with a kind of hollowness, very much going through the motions without actually feeling moved. That’s how I was during Thanksgiving. It’s not that I’m emotionally void; instead, I now respond with a calm submission. I go along mildly and try not to think too much. I definitely know the underlying cause of my behavior. My mother’s presence and spirit made Christmas significant to me. Without her, events seem strangely lacking, like attempting to celebrate someone’s birthday without that very person being there. I wonder how long this feeling will last. In some respects, I have aged a bit more quickly than I would have liked.
Thanksgiving Break passed quite easily. It was good and I was calm and happy. It began with my cousin’s wedding on the first day of my break. Then came days of relaxed studying at Starbucks and Spencer’s Coffee, peppered with occasional run-ins with friends, followed by Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I didn’t do any Black Friday shopping, although I did buy a humidifier. I also got an oil change for my car. These are some of the exciting things I do as an adult.
I didn’t expect to see Kaleigh during the break, but I think it was a fortunate occurrence, one of those moments that changed the outcome of my week. Thinking about it, it happened somewhat organically and without effort, and we resumed things as if summer had only ended a few weeks ago, studying at Barnes & Noble, and eating at Cheddar’s and Montana Grill with other friends. I briefly considered something she said about her own future goals and I imagined the possibility of an overlap with my own goals. It was an amusing thought. I had never considered it before, but I’ll look into it now.
I enjoyed spending time with my nephew. While playing in his room, he impressed me so much when he described his train tracks as being “like a snake.” I thought that his ability to link two different concepts together by that one quality, their winding feature, was very impressive, especially consider how young he is.
Now, I have about another day or so before I return to school. I’ll probably head out on Sunday at 5 AM, because I want to avoid all traffic. One day, when my driving skills dramatically improve—one day—I’ll look back at this with a chuckle. For now, it makes sense to me. I should make it back to Nashville around 6:30.
I think that in these final weeks before the semester ends, I’d like to get back into exercising more vigorously. I did for a month or so leading up to Halloween, because my costume required it (and it turned out perfectly), but I’ve since eased up a bit. I have this unusual, growing desire to go swimming. I don’t know why this desire didn’t appear during the summer, but if I don’t listen to my impulses, they just magnify in intensity and increase in frequency, so swimming during winter will happen.
I have an event with the Vanderbilt Lambda Association that needs promotion soon. I’ll have to go around campus and post fliers everywhere. Then, party-planning will ensue; Kalan, Wendy, and I have a Hipster Party in the works. Details will be ironed out eventually, but it’s going to be fun.
What else? Well, finals loom right around the corner. Smile and trudge through them.
Rocío Dúrcal’s birthday passed this October 5th. A few days before the moment came, the memory of her was weighing heavily on my mind. I know it’s unusual to be moved by such a person, a celebrity and singer, and yet I truly miss her. It’s because Rocío Dúrcal somehow found her way into my heart. She is Mexico’s beloved adopted daughter and to me she is one of the souls of Latin America, even though she was born in Spain. I think it is a very beautiful thing how Mexico embraced her. They did so because she loved them and their music. To see that she is known as “La española más mexicana, la reina de las rancheras” makes me happy. She made some of the best ranchera music. She has sold over 53 million records worldwide.
I romanticize other aspects about her too, namely her relationship with her husband Junior (Antonio Morales Barreto). He’s a good man. I can see it in the old pictures of them together. I can see it in a video of a live performance of “Amor Eterno” where he, sitting beside their children, starts tearing up and crying throughout his wife’s performance. He also had a music career, though it didn’t last nearly as long as hers. I’m not sure why. Maybe he intentionally ended it to support hers. When I thought about Rocío’s birthday, I imagined what her own husband and children were doing or how that day affected them. I wonder how it must feel like for Junior to grow up looking at his daughter, Shaila Dúrcal, who looks so much like his own wife in her younger years and even sings similarly.
It’s interesting how she has impacted my life. I don’t actually know Rocío Dúrcal and yet the story I’ve built in my head about her makes me love her. I have nothing but good thoughts about her. She was a very honorable woman and 4 years after her passing she is still very much missed.
I’ll end with two videos, the one of Rocío singing while Junior is fidgeting and crying in the audience, and the other of Shaila covering her mother’s famous song “Amor Eterno” while Rocío accompanies her on the video screens behind her.
I like going to a school where I can see my Iranian flag hanging on campus. It means a lot to me. Thanks, Vanderbilt.
Christen Parzych is….
I’m ready to be back in Nashville. I miss my campus and my friends. I’ve got some small ambitions tucked away in my head and heart for this semester. Some of them are really sweet. I hope everything works out. I’ve been scrutinizing my fall schedule intensely, even as of a couple hours ago, tweaking some details here and there.
I’m intentionally avoiding all classes from 11 AM to 1 PM every single day. I’ve given myself this luxury for the past 3 years so that I could enjoy my lunches without worries and so that I could be available to spend time with others too. Vanderbilt can get stressful enough on its own, so there’s no point in forcing myself to cram my lunch in between my classes. I feel slightly ridiculous for turning down a class because it happens to be scheduled for 12 o’clock, but at the same time, I worry that it could throw off my day. I know that this schedule works for me and that it keeps me happy. Plus, I really don’t like dealing with the line at Rand or Grins right at noon. Insane. Always get there a little bit early and you’ll save yourself from the turmoil.
Mondays will be intense. I’m not going to lie about that. Tuesdays and Thursdays should be fun. And Wednesdays and Fridays should be manageable. I’m so looking forward to another semester with Professor English. He’s the kind of professor whose classes you take because you know he will challenge you and help you grow. He’s like Mr. Zehner from AP U.S. History, minus the thrown dry-erase board markers when a student sputtered out something incorrect. In my high school, to take regular U.S. history without Mr. Zehner would be a disservice to yourself and the same applies to any class taught by Professor English. There’s a good chance I’m going to have my ass kicked again by Professor English and I’m okay with that. The same goes for Macroeconomics with Professor Buckles. I’m so excited about his class too. I’ve never met the man but I’ve heard he’s an amazing professor and that’s the main reason I signed up for his class—to have the experience.
I’m throwing a couple of extracurriculars in this semester. I’m doing more self-taught photography and I’m also going to take a ballet class on Tuesdays. My earliest days are Tuesdays and Thursdays—9:35 with Professor English. And the Vandy Rec opens at 5:30 AM. So I could workout early in the morning. But this last ideas seems a little over-ambitious at the moment.
We’re definitely going out a lot this semester. Not sure which group of friends I’ll go with, but I will have fun. I will try reuniting with my Berkeley summer gals: Cathy, Francesca, Karolina, and Four Loko. And, of course, my other sophomore friends who will no longer have to ask me why I’m always hanging around at the Commons (“Why are you always here?”). Now, they’ll be over on my side of campus, some even living in my same dorm. More time at Fido and Grins.
I’m going to try getting out and exploring the Nashville area a bit more. I think if I look at it in the same way as I did Berkeley and Northern California, intentionally seeking new places to visit, I might have a greater appreciation for Nashville. I feel as if I don’t know Nashville well enough yet.
And last, but definitely not least, I have my obligations with Lambda and HRC. I’m excited about the things both organizations will do this year. I’m definitely trying to give equal attention to both. I have a lot of faith in Suzie. I should probably spend more time focusing on programming for HRC.
There’s another plan I have in mind for this semester, but it’s under wraps for now. :P
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