Marathon Monday

Last night, I noticed how my teeth were the slightest tint of yellow and how the edges of my central incisors  have ridges, little crooked ridges, from gnawing on forks when I was little. You’re ruining your teeth, mom would always mutter. You’re slowly wrecking yourself, slurping coffee and sipping tea and chewing forks. 

Self destruction was on my mind last night because it’s one of the few things I’m good at. I put things off to the last possible second, loathe my existence, contemplate dying, and then realize there’s things left in life to accomplish, although dying wouldn’t be half bad anyways. So I press ridges and stains into my teeth; onward, onward.

Then I thought about the ways in which life destructs us; when that power slips out of our hands and into the palms of the universe.

This morning, I was executing my normal rounds of procrastination and mindlessly gliding pixels across the blue-and-white abyss of Facebook, when a status caught my eye. A friend of a friend’s status — liked by enough mutual contacts to appear in my feed.

A man who dedicated his Marathon Monday run to the friends and family he had lost. A mile for one life, another mile for another. Strides in the memory of legacy.

Hours later, words of casualties and fatalities and injuries began to spring to the forefront of news media. Individuals who ran the 26.2 miles, then spun around and dashed to Mass General, to punch needles through their arms and donate their O-negatives and B-positives to rekindle the hopes of families and friends and runners and spectators. Strides in the name of legacy, in the name of names we may be familiar with, names we may have never heard of– it was two lives lost, 200 lives endangered, infinitely more friends, family, friends of friends, all just dying to know that you, you, and you are all okay.

It kills me that it’s these noble individuals– athletes with a cause– fell victim to this bombing. It tears me to absolute pieces, to grasp that spectating children and families, individuals with good will, have been forever changed by this atrocity. Boston weeps, Massachusetts weeps, the world collectively cries, as no city– especially not a city or event with as much historic pride and respect as the Boston Marathon, deserves to face such permanently irreparable damage to both an event and a place.

What nauseates me is that any sole individual could fathom placing detonators in the trashcans surrounding people’s legacies. That one sole individual could carry such hate, that it would be imperative to them to inflict such trauma on an entire populace. An entire culture.

Yesterday, I was fortunate to attend a speech presented by a well-known international journalist at a neighboring university. He spoke about mass shootings that had taken place in the last year, and how it shouldn’t be the man behind the gun who ever goes down in history, but the legacies of individual victims that deserve to live on forever.

Legacies within legacies went up into smoke in Boston on Marathon Monday; we’ve witnessed bombing atrocities on the news and given a sympathetic nod to those cut from communication overseas in times of crisis, but today Boston, and all of those with loved ones in the city, were forced to look from a different angle. For once, none of us knew whether anybody was okay or not, until another cluster of pixels rose to the top of our News Feeds, to allow us to exhale that sigh of relief and know that yes, we’re okay. We’re alive. We have no idea who else is, but we are safe. 

And what’s most infuriating to me is that American society by-and-large exists in total desensitization to these sorts of events until they hit us. Have we responded similarly to what Benghazi is currently facing? What Syria has been dealing with for nearly two years? Communities have endured perpetual fear of being killed on a day-to-day basis. Funding for international investigative news coverage has been gradually decreasing because we, the audience, have grown so desensitized to violence that it ceases to faze us, unless it sets foot into our personal realm of reality.

Of course, my goal would never be to draw parallels between genocide in third-world countries, and a series of bombing casualties in a small American city. I wouldn’t dare to undermine the severity of what happened today, as I– much like many others– had been anxiously waiting to hear from close friends who live in the city. I just wish that  it didn’t take such drastically close-to-home measures for American society to lose their overwhelming desensitization to violence.

I wonder why such an act would be committed, what sort of gains one would achieve from turning lives, dreams, and accomplishments to clouds of smoke and panic, what outcome could ever be good from such an act? What could ever drive anyone to do such a thing?  This very well could be the multi-million dollar question that would inch us infinitely closer to eradicating terrorism, and we’d never know the answer.

And I wonder why runners, why dreamers and legacies and the most aspiring and inspirational of all, fell victim to this all. Violence becomes the most real when it hits close to home– that, I learned today for sure. I am fortunate that those  near and dear to me in Boston are okay. But for many, such is not the case.

I’ve always had an image of death, as a pebble being dropped into a placid body of water. It gracefully makes its way all the way down to the bottom of that pond, lake, swimming pool, ocean; but it creates a ring of ripples that vibrates across the surface. I’ve always imagined those little ripples to be those impacted: friends, families, teachers, coworkers, acquaintances  the impact of a life lost extends much further than the life itself. And perhaps the missed connections, the shy peers, the eye contact that never bloomed into anything more, they’re a distant ripple as well.

Two pebbles were dropped into that good old dirty water, then; the water we defend so proudly, that surrounded an event that has re-contextualized the entire meaning of the Boston Marathon. The legacies of these two victims deserve to live on forever, as all those injured deserve to recover quickly to good health.

And so, Boston, just know that Massachusetts cries for you, the United States cries for you; the entire globe’s fixated it’s eyes on the aftermath of Boylston Avenue. We never realize how destructive the power of violence can be until it edges this close to us; we are fortunate to be alive and to keep the legacy of humanity running. We deserve life; to value it and cherish it, and to realize that not all those are as fortunate as those of us who breathed a sigh of relief upon receiving an ‘I’m safe‘ message on this Marathon Monday.

I want to go volunteer in Ghana this summer for 3-4 weeks. I found this amazing education program for teaching English, Math, Compsci, or Science to kids. I’d teach English because I’m probably more illiterate than any of them in anything that isn’t in the humanities.

I want to spend five weeks on campus during the summer, being a research assistant for a project on economic development in western Europe. I want my name on the research project, I want the stipend and housing accomodations that come with it. I’m okay with staying in the valley for five weeks.

I have to leave home early to go back to school because of my new position as an RA. We have training and whatnot for like two weeks. I’m out by like mid-August.

The more I do, the more I feel guilty for not spending time home with mom. But it’s like she knows. She knows that I don’t want to stay home and sit around with her and drink coffee and help her manage her emotions. But I feel guilty for it. I don’t want to be home all summer though, and I feel like mom’s taking offense to it.

Maybe I won’t apply to volunteer in Ghana. Maybe I won’t get the research assistant position– maybe I won’t even accept it in the slim chance that I actually get offered the position. I’m happiest when I’m not existing to please mom, but I’m guiltiest when I’m not existing to please mom.

1) Academic advisor. Save me, please. What am I doing this summer and how is it April yet I don’t have an internship lined up for this summer? Rather, why is it April and I’m in too much of a slump to apply for an internship, and have at least twenty bookmarked on my computer but shudder every time I go to apply for one?
2) The further I get into college, the more I fear law school. I don’t know what’s going to happen with my life after I graduate in two years. I’m not sure if I have the grades for law school, or if it’s even the right path for me. Maybe I want to get an MBA afterwards. Maybe I want to do a fellowship and work towards a PhD and be a professor. I know I want to pursue another higher degree after I’m done with my undergrad, I’m just not sure what to do. Or where.
c) Let’s say I do go to law school (if I’m fortunate enough to be accepted). Where do I want to study? That literally determines where I take my bar exam, and consequently, where I work in the future.
d) What if I’m just never going to get accepted into a postgraduate program whatsoever?

e) As a side note, I’m really digging Emory University’s law and MBA programs. And a cool fact is that in the case that I can’t decide (or rather, still want to have an MBA on hand in case the job market for lawyers is actually as screwed as it is now, by the time I graduate), they offer a joint MBA/JD program. In addition to which, taking the Bar Exam in Atlanta wouldn’t be bad. Living in Atlanta wouldn’t be bad. My dad’s friend’s son works as a huge litigation lawyer in Atlanta and he’s already said that whenever I need summer placement or an internship while in law school, or even a job after graduating, he’s willing to take me in. I want to get out of New England though. I need to get out of New England.