Sidelines and Sessions


A Passing Thought

Filed under: UCLA life — spsukaton @ 10:42 am

I only have one regret for my first two years of college.

I applied to the Daily Bruin as a news intern fall quarter, got in, freaked out, and never showed up for training. I used Saturday training as an excuse. Then, I went to the Berkeley game one of those Saturdays.

Hypocrite. Spineless. I’d call myself an opportunist but that wasn’t even an opportunity.

I chalk it up more to a lack of self-confidence and an excess of priggishness than the presence of moral fiber.

The Bruin was one of two things that tipped the scales when I was a senior and kept me from going to Irvine or Santa Cruz. I give you my word, I was reading the DB in high school. I had wanted to be a professional writer since freshman year – I did casual freelancing for the Highland Community News for three years, and I was getting much more serious about writing.I was thinking about USC for journalism, but I decided on UCLA after they accepted me, my teacher (a Bruin herself who I adore) praised their history program to the skies, and I got sucked in by quality work – Katie Strickland was probably my favorite. (I came to UCLA almost by accident – ask me about it sometime!) I even annoyed the hell out of my Orientation group by bringing up the Daily Bruin in every conversation I had. Seriously.

Of all the things I will do in this life of all the praise and blame I will ever hear, I can never say I was a four-year DB staffer. (Well, I could, but then I’d have to take a 5th year, and my parents would flay me, then nail me to a door by my partially-flayed hide.) I can’t say I was a student journalist all my college life – and while I enjoyed my work with CAC and SP freshman year, it feels like a lost year.

That’s the only regret I have. Everything else I did, every lecture I missed, every party I went to, ever questionable decision or act of total idiocy – I don’t feel the need to apologize for. Most of them were great fun, anyhow.

The one regret I have is for when I forgot the reason I was even at UCLA, when I gave in to my insecurities, when, in a moment of weakness I threw away the whole reason for my presence in LA…and I had the audacity to claim it as standing on principle and self-denial for my faith and convictions.

I don’t know what makes me sicker, the realization I hid my own weakness behind beliefs I couldn’t back up or the fact I was so coy about something I could have and should have grabbed with both hands.

I got over it and I’m now content (I love my job and I feel at home – “Most Eager Intern” indeed!) but there is the regret at the timidity I had freshman year. I’m not going to let go of that, because I have no intention of letting it happen again. Whenever I waver, or get indecisive, I’ll remember what I’ve written here, how I mocked myself for a whole year, and the hollow justifications I conjured up for myself.

…but aside from that, college is going like a dream. Good (not decent, good) grades, a dream job, good friends, and the liberty of being a single man. Why am I complaining? In all honesty, I’m probably making too much out of this. Having only one regret for your entire college career – indeed, your entire adult life – is pretty good.

All that concede, I’m pretty sure I’m making a big deal of this so that it’s my only such regret. Make every mistake once – you don’t learn anything new if you don’t make new mistakes.

Is that, perhaps, the true explanation of the Fall? Knowledge of good and evil, death, redemption, and the whole narrative thereof? Interesting alley to walk down, but I’m no theologian, and it’s almost 4 in the morning out here. I need to sleep, pack, and plan. That alley of possible heresy remains unexplored this evening.

A word on regrets…keep them to a minimum. Grab the world with both hands. Bite off more than you can chew. Do it.

I suppose I ended up getting  “Most Eager Intern” at -29- because I felt like I needed to make up for lost time, and I did make up for it.

To the student who picks up The Bruin every morning the staff is an enigma. He or she cannot possibly realize that the paper comes out under the combined efforts of a staff of almost 75 students, . . . who through their love of journalism and their hope of rising on the staff, work as many as 30 hours per week in KH 212, students who work Sunday so that a paper can hit the stands Monday, students who work on holidays so that a paper will come out the day after, students who work until 2 a.m. putting the paper to bed when they have early classes the next morning. (Editor Martin A. Brower, DB, 2/14/51.)

We’re in Kerckhoff 118 now, but the same spirit holds true in the nine-decade old Bruin – at least, it does for this wayward staffer. The only reason I’m not working 30 hours a week right now is because it’s summer and vaca…er, travel-study call.

I wonder if there’s an award for “Most Eager Editor?” Heaven help me if there is. Come August, I have more lost time to make up for.

To the student who picks up The Bruin every morning the staff is an enigma. He or she cannot possibly realize that the paper comes out under the combined efforts of a staff of almost 75 students, . . . who through their love of journalism and their hope of rising on the staff, work as many as 30 hours per week in KH 212, students who work Sunday so that a paper can hit the stands Monday, students who work on holidays so that a paper will come out the day after, students who work until 2 a.m. putting the paper to bed when they have early classes the next morning. (Editor Martin A. Brower, DB, 2/14/51.)


Sorry, Abe.

Filed under: UCLA life — spsukaton @ 9:22 am

“Don’t Switch Horses in Mid-Stream.”

-Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 campaign slogan.

I thought that would be an apt introduction, since 2009 is the Lincoln Bicentennial. While I adore the man and myth of Father Abraham like every red-blooded American, that early GOP slogan brings up all sorts of questions.

It’s Wednesday of 9th week, spring quarter of sophomore year. I am, quite literally, halfway done with college.  What do I do with my summer? Where did the time go? What am I going to do with my life?

The first two questions have easy answers. This summer, I’m going to see my friend get married, study history in Hawaii,  get a job, learn how to interview, write every day, read every day, and run every day. Duh.

The time went by because I wasn’t disciplined. I frittered my time away living like a typical college student – vacillating rather than deciding, sampling rather than eating. While I’m definitely more sedate and bookish than the rest of the college-age population, I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted these last two years. I had a list of everything I wanted to get done in college. Half of those things are now impossible, and another eighth are no longer interesting. While some of the detours were pretty awesome, (SPCN) most weren’t (skipping out on DB News freshman year, not playing as much saxophone, not writing every day.)

While I’ve made noises about being “undisciplined” and “wasteful” before, it didn’t hit me until Monday, when I tried to run a mile with Arkae. I finished it – and took an extra lap as well! – but I felt weaksauce. No joke. Weak. Sauce.

I realized that I’ve been playing fast and loose in college – with my body, with my mind, with my time and my talents. That’s going to stop now. While finals are pretty much a done deal (and on the real, I think I have them sewn up) I start living with more restraint and direction this summer in Michigan, Hawaii, and Los Angeles.

Let’s be real – I’m not mentally or physically healthy. I’m lazy, I tend to eat wrong, work too little, sleep too much. I’ve been getting by on the seat of my pants – writing first drafts at 4am the day they’re due, cramming on tests, BSing the book I didn’t read. That needs to stop. I’m not a schoolboy working for the “oh, you’re so smart” and the award. I’m a grown-ass man working on his passions, looking for his vocation, discerning his calling.

In reference to the horse-and-stream metaphor, I’ve been riding a parade-ground horse. It has a lovely coat, glittering saddle and gilded accessories. This was fine, as most of my life has consisted of riding down Colorado Boulevard. While I’ve never been the parental conversation piece many kids are, I grew up with enormous privilege. Having a library card and a Ph.D father in the house are worth as much (if not more) than a nanny and a trust fund. I got by on smarts, without regard to work. Work was easy.

What happens when I enter a job market with a history degree and not much else? Do I have the ability to survive on my own? Can I find work? Can I find meaningful work? Will I be able to get my own bread and roses?

Not if I ride the parade horse. I’ll need a horse that can run distances, that doesn’t need too much upkeep, that’s well-bred, well-trained, and well-disciplined.

So, while I worship the memory of Lincoln, I need to switch horses in the middle of this stream because the one I’m on gets winded awful fast. I’d rather let it go in the middle of the river that is college. I may have to tread water until I can get on the other one, but that’s okay. I’d rather fight with the flow now than ride a tired nag through the brambles of a bad job market or into the desert of middle age.

I’m discipling myself, starting today. Sleeping less, working more, caring for my body. It’s not like I don’t have the resources, or the knowledge – Pathfinders taught me the basics, and UCLA is geared to the active life as much as it is to the life of the mind (if not more.)

Pray for me.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11, Am. KJV


Post-paper manic episode.

Filed under: UCLA life — spsukaton @ 10:21 am

It’s supposed to be a witty inversion of ‘post-partum depression.’ Late night blogging FAIL.

I always get a rush after finishing a paper, regardless of my physical state. For example, it’s 3am, I need to be in Kerckhoff for budget at 11, and I really need to pee. However, I feel particularly good. I just knocked out a 5-pager on Marx, Nietzsche, Hegel, and historiography. It’s not a topic I’m particularly strong in, but reading and writing is fun. And if I’m having this much fun writing about something I don’t feel an affinity for, can you imagine what I feel like after finishing something I like?

As Marielle would say: Oh, dang.
All signs point to write after college, sucka!

But they point away from grad school – my interests are far too broad for dissertation, seminar, and thesis committee. I suspect that I’ll feel the same why while researching and writing my thesis. Intellectual wanderlust has always landed me in trouble (usually in overcommitting myself) so I suspect that grad school will be a nightmare.

Maybe I should take the Nick Joaquin/Pramoedya route, play autodidact, and make a name for myself by writing in every medium possible while holding it down as a journalist? But newspapers are dying, and the American economy isn’t kind to autodidacts. The Third World is both kinder and crueler to its writers.

I mean, the whole “independent writer” gig is pretty cool, but can I pull it off, journalism becoming as professional and stratified as it is?

Maybe I should go to grad school. Ph.D status would drive me up the wall, law school would kill my writing, and J-school would cripple my credit.

But this is hella fun. Who needs school? I think I’ll try the Nick Joaquin newspaper/magazine gig after school. Or better…why wait? Land an internship and start now!


On Comments

Filed under: UCLA life — spsukaton @ 8:40 am

I posted a story to my Facebook profile about the Catholic prohibition on condoms and the AIDS epidemic in Africa. It’s still up, if you’d like to see it. While I posted another link on Shari’a and the UN (by Christopher Hitchens, who is a very good polemicist, though I disagree with a lot of things he has to say) right after, all the comments went to the Pope-and-condoms story.

It got taken over almost immediately by two acquaintances of mine: A former colleague from the UCLA Library who is an outspoken secular humanist and atheist, and a friend from freshman year of high school who’s a political conservative and traditionalist Catholic.

Yikes. Sam (the atheist) jumped in on Andrew’s (the Catholic) response to my first question almost immediately, and it just went forward from there. I won’t post it all here, but Sam took up a cudgel against what he saw as sex-negative and unscientific Catholic theology, while Andrew moved in to defend abstinence against a culture of selfishness, saying a condom allowed for pleasure without consequences.

Looking back at the intense comment thread, it seems like I picked a good topic. It’s really interesting to see how and why people take stands, and I like giving people soapboxes to do that. I think it’d be interesting to run a political blog, or the editorial/op-ed page of a newspaper, and dedicate myself to honing my own arguments and those of others, making sure points are sharp but clean, intellectually honest, emotionally gripping.

I like comments – making them, reading them, moderating them, even when I get caught in the crossfire. This was fun – I left to get dinner(breakfast?) at In’N’Out, and they were still going. That was cool. While I think I’ll pick something that’s not contraception next time, I want to try my hand at editing and moderating commentary – journalist as gatekeeper and referee of civil dialogue.


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