“Courage is grace under pressure.” – Ernest Hemingway.
Organizing, John Delloro said once in class, is where the “story of me” meets the “story of us” to form the “story of now.” He also said that it was difficult to hate someone once you knew their story.
I’m not sure if I believe that completely, but you can certainly admire someone once you know their story – the stories I’ve heard since DC have convinced me of that.
In the months since junior year ended, I’ve had the good fortune of connecting (and in many cases, re-connecting) with people whose talent, character, and tenacity absolutely floor me. I knew some of these people well, others in passing, still others not at all. Yet all of them have strength I wish I had – and, during the first half of this quarter, pushed me to work harder.
I can’t go through all the names; it’d take forever. I will also not attach names to situations without prior permission.
One friend of mine, a brilliant young woman, has recent come out as a non-believer, moved away from devoutly Christian parents and is running a business.
Another, an undocumented immigrant, slept in the library because he couldn’t afford to live near campus, but was still organized and tenacious enough not only to thrive in all his classes, but sit on the board of directors of a national student organization.
Still another, currently using a wheelchair while struggling with a slow and painful recovery after spinal surgery, went out to DC to learn more about empowering people in similar conditions.
…and that’s just three.
Earlier this quarter, I was a commuter and a couch-surfer; something happened and left me cash-light and apartment-less. I panicked. I considered withdrawing for the quarter, perhaps permanently. Being broke is never easy, and it’s kind of periodic for my time at UCLA for me not to have enough something to go to school. But, I hung on.
Studying on the train was easy; on the bus, not so much. So, instead of reading, I told myself these stories, rolling the names in my head as if I was passing prayer beads.
Ashley. Diego. Gel. Ernesto. David. Shuchita. Max. Russell. Chris. Isaiah. Greg. Sarah. Alex. Catrina. Myron. Jan. Cris. Lizz. Audrey.
These last six months have been, in a word, insane. From leaving the Daily Bruin to getting swept up in USSA to speaking on the Lincoln Memorial in DC to sleeping on commuter trains to sitting in this messy, cozy apartment, I’ve have highs and lows like everyone.
But it’s the courage – Hemingwayesque courage – that my old and new friends have shown that keep me on the straight and narrow.