Chapter 4.2: Owl Years

Next semester in the Spring I took an acting course. A course I wish I would have taken more of to fulfill my elective credits. Acting was something I always had an interest in. I had been in church plays throughout my youth. I would have auditioned for plays in middle and high school if I wasn’t so damn shy and afraid of things. I knew I wouldn’t get critiqued in a church play. So I never risked leaving that comfort zone. I was afraid so much back then. But when Sherry told me about the experiences she had in her Fall semester acting class, how free she felt to just be herself; something went off in my brain. I had to enroll into this course so that I could get over me, face my fears and start being myself.

Every Monday and Wednesday afternoon was a Journey into Self. But the fears I faced were less terrifying because all of my classmates were facing them too. This wasn’t a theater class for student majors. It was for students of any major who were interested in learning more about acting. A lot of us were petrified by the thought of making a fool out of ourselves. Yet together we grew and transformed.

It might have been a little easier for me to just open up about myself in the classroom because this class was sort of an unofficial beginning for me to take on activities outside of my comfort zone. I realized that for me, it was a lot less difficult to do uncomfortable things when I was around people I didn’t know. When it came to time to choose master scenes for our final, I picked the one that was the most “out there.” Simply because it made me feel awkward while doing it, as well as the audience who was viewing. In summary, completing this course served as a primer to my “I Think (I’m God)/I Can Do Everything” Summer of 2010, which I mentioned in previous chapters.

The next class to blow my mind was an introduction to communication theory course, which I took in the beginning of sophomore year. Me and my main man Brady, a.k.a DJ SYLO, both hopped on the Broad Street line southbound for Temple’s Center City campus. I had no idea what to expect from the class since I had switched majors over the summer, but was expecting it, like most night classes, to be cake. I didn’t think that by December I would have gained a better understanding of myself as a communicator.

The professor was really open about his personal life and in particular his homosexuality. Yet not in a pushy or uncomfortable way. He was open just enough for the students to feel like they could be open about themselves in the classroom. I wish I could remember the exact details of this class as vividly as I remembered that English class. Although this was a course on media communication, every class we’d get caught in some hour-long tangent on just about any subject. Society, science, religion, math, politics, art, you name it. But somehow all the tangents could clearly relate back to some communication theory. This professor had shown me how much the very idea of communication has influenced the world. Why I thought of myself a certain way because of the images communicated to me by the media. Most importantly, he helped me realize that, “No idea is original.”

Early on into the course we delved into three of the main theories of aesthetics: Classicism, Modernism, and Postmodernism. You’d think that aesthetics would be the topic of discussion in an art class, not media. But as we moved on from classicism to modernism and so on, I began to see these theories as not limited to the field of art. They were describing the cultural zeitgeist of the time period. Art, science, economics, everything was interrelated and influencing each other and society. As we neared the end of the postmodern era, we journeyed into the idea of the “remix” as communication. It all started to come together as we listened to samples of current music and the samples which they were derived from in older genres. And then the roots from which those originally sampled songs came from. It was as if nothing ever changed; no one was truly original. Just simply borrowing from a past which had borrowed from it’s own past. What was most ironic about this realization: the artists whom I personally found to be the most original were the ones which used sampling extensively in their work.

This changed everything about how I thought of creativity, and approached the creative process. Originality didn’t come from some weird planet in outer space. It was deeply rooted in the human experience. Taking bits and pieces from the past and stitching them together to create a new fabric in present time. Every creative person had at one point borrowed from an older muse.

Lastly, kudos to this professor for writing me a recommendation when I applied to study abroad at TUJ. If you ever come across this you know who you are, I hope lol.

So English, acting, and communication. What else? There was the Hip-Hop class which I think I already mentioned in a previous chapter. Oh yeah, one of the last media courses I took in the Fall of my senior year. With good ‘old professor I-Forgot-His-Name. (He was awesome though)

I also forgot the name of the course too. It was something along the lines of media writing. A crash course in the variety of writing styles in film, television, and radio. At least by name that was what the course was supposed to be about. As with most great teachers, the course took on it’s own meaning and direction organically as the semester unfolded. We kept weekly journals which could often be about anything. We also had prompted activities which we would write for homework and read in front of the class. Doesn’t sound like much of a college class, huh? If anything it sounds like a group therapy session.

With each passing week students would open up ever more in their writing presentations, including me. The professor noticed that his course was transforming into a safe haven for my peers and I to talk about very personal issues in our lives. The prompts he gave us brought out the secret writer hiding inside of everyone.

Having previously worked in advertising and playwriting, the old man would share with us his experiences in the business. He would also start every period with a quote on writing. Nowadays these quotes tend to resurface whenever I’m staring at the next blank page in my notepad. The professor had lived for more years than I could count, and had stories and advice on just about anything concerning life and living. A vault of knowledge and wisdom for all of us. If anything, this class wasn’t about media. He really wanted us to leave the course as better human beings than when we first entered those doors. I left that class in December a better writer, and more focused on what I wanted to do next: Japan.

It seems with all this talk I do about Japan that I might as well write a book on it, huh? Maybe, but for now there’s a little bit more about Temple that should be mentioned.

 

I’m not sure where Temple University is currently in college rankings for diversity, but at the time I went it was ranked on College Board as one of the top schools in the country for diversity. This unprecedented level of diversity was something I took into great consideration when choosing a college. I was from a fairly homogenous, entirely Caucasian boys prep school. There weren’t much people of my color around.

When we usually think about diversity among people the first thing that comes to mind tends to be color. But I learned to think otherwise in my four years at Broad and Cecil B. Moore. It was deeper than melanin. It was economic background and upbringing. It was personal ideas and philosophies. It was lifestyle, interests, and hobbies. Walking around campus, you couldn’t just judge a book by its cover. Nor by whatever groups you see a person associating with, be it on Beury Beach or Liacouras Walk. I myself was a walking example of that. I drifted…

Other than the Hungry Ghosts, I didn’t have a crew, a clique or anything like that at Temple. I was always floating around in the background. At the beginning of Fall semester I could float with ease. Everyone outside enjoying the weather, no one had schoolwork on their mind. If I saw a familiar face I’d cop a squat in the grass and strike up a conversation over lunch. As the weather got cooler and everyone started taking their courses seriously, I’d find myself eating alone at lunch.

I kinda took this drifting thing to the extreme though. That was sort of how it was at Temple. It was big enough, that I could slip into a house party full of people I didn’t know and leave at 2:00am with a few new friends. I surrounded myself with a variety of awesome and truly unique people. And I loved it because I knew it was something special; I was always around people who were unknowingly making me a better person, simply because they were being themselves.

But among this coagulation of creativity and awesomeness, real and true friends were few and far between. I had a bunch of friend-quaintances. People who had no problem with being themselves around me, or even telling me very personal things. But they probably wouldn’t be there for me if I really needed them. I severed a purpose in their life. Maybe I brought positivity, a new perspective, or an objective opinion for their life situations. Eventually whatever relationship we had would fade away. It wasn’t all their fault though…

My “lone wolf” personality at the time is partially to blame for my lack of super close connections at Temple. I wasn’t particularly good at keeping in touch, and I didn’t play an active role in the friendships I made. Still, I’m grateful for the ones that did come along and are still around. Temple was one wild ride, and I enjoyed just about every minute of it.

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