Gustavus students provide insight to their individual stories
Nothing is so warm and inviting, yet as challenging and poignant, as a powerful story that is told well. They’re not always easy to excavate, but the cliché holds true that everyone has a story. The popular photo blog Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton emphasizes the power of an individual’s story with a single picture accompanied by a quote. This simple movement was the inspiration for People of Gustavus.
It’s easy to become accustomed to hearing the stories of people in the news and lose track of the fact that the strangers sitting around you also have stories about where they came from and how they got to be where they are. The sheer variety of paths taken in this world, from doers to thinkers, from college students to professors, is indicative of how much there is to learn from each individual. Sometimes the shy, soft-spoken person sitting in the back of the classroom has the most enthralling life story and the biggest dreams and accomplishments. It comes down to a matter of initiative and bravery to grasp the opportunity to sit down and explore their story.
Some people travel a path of wealth and privilege, while others struggle with only themselves to rely on, but both have great stories to tell. Each person learns lessons, makes choices, and develops a unique perspective, which only they can claim and share. Even two people, who have had very similar lives, will have slightly different experiences, leading them to different points of view. When we take the time to ask questions and listen, we find that every person has a fascinating story to tell and an utterly unique perspective from which to tell it.
Bearing this in mind, we have the opportunity to approach the world around us in a new way. When one retains the spark of curiosity and the warmth required to open someone up, they always have in front of them the makings of a great story. The key is simply to ask.
I really want to play in a punk band. When I write songs the biggest message I usually focus on is to be who you want to be but don’t get so wrapped up in yourself that you reject others for their differences. I think my taste for music came from experiences. I came from a very conservative town and that reflected upon the treatment I received in middle school. It was a lot of butting heads with other people and a lot of the time I was on my own so I had to learn to be strong. That’s where punk came in. I like the message of standing your ground and holding your own.
Well, geographically I’m from southern California but I’m a product of multiple cultures. So, I also consider myself from the Philippines, from New Caledonia, specifically the Kanak people, from Ireland and from Greece and Germany. Even though I’ve never been to these places, and I don’t know when I will set foot in these places, I’m very proud of that cultural heritage that I have in all five of those categories. Maybe I looked too much into that question, but I think that’s always been an important part of me.
I’m a philosophy major because I guess I’m just not satisfied that anything’s wrong or right necessarily so, in that aspect, to study how I can think about things is going to help me with my life. I haven’t always held those beliefs until I started going to college and met all of these different people and learned where they came from. I feel like when you get away from high school you also escape that one track mind because any college student you talk to will tell you that this s*** just got way more complex and there’s more to a story than meets the eye.
I grew up in Columbia in South America then went to boarding school and college in England. This was my first job out of college. In classics there’s a small group of jobs available in a given year, so I had no prior connection to Minnesota. I remember coming in February when it was really cold and snowy and not wanting to get off the plane, but then I came to Gustavus and just saw how warm and personal the interactions were between students and faculty and how tight the community was. I thought that I’d really like to teach at a place like this.
I love Gustavus, but my transition here hasn’t been all roses and daisies. There’s been a hate crime and several bias incidents. Coming from such a diverse place as California, I understand that Gustavus is primarily a homogenous campus. Yes, there’s alot of diversity, but it’s not that much when you look at it. I’ve been working with others to try to create programs that prevent cultural insensitivity, but it’s not just about race, it’s about so many other things like religion and class. But I’m enjoying my life at Gustavus, and I’m hopeful that we can work past insensitivity.
I play in wind bands kind of like the Vasa or Gustavus Wind Orchestra type stuff. I play tuba which is kind of obscure. I realize I don’t cultivate the image of somebody that plays something as stuffy sounding as wind orchestra but as a music major I listen to everything. Being in music a long time, you learn to appreciate good examples of music you don’t like and accept that there is music you don’t like that is still good. Classical music is certainly not the most played thing on my iPod, but I’ve learned to play it well.
Sometimes, as I’m naturally an introvert, my personality clashes with all of the extroverts on campus but I’m president of the Anime Club right now so that gets me out and around people. I know this sounds really angsty but it’s been a big challenge to get along with my parents because they are very conservative and closed-minded about certain issues and as someone who is more progressive since coming to Gustavus, I distrurb them with certain things about myself like the fact that I’m bisexual. So it’s been nice to work on that introverted side of myself.
One of my happiest moments was when I congregated over 200 people and led a seance for Paul Newman. I had started a club at my school called the Pie Club, where, basically, I would offer people free pie but the kicker was that I would put on some bizarre performance first because I wanted to see how much weird s*** I could have people sit through if I promised them free pie. At the end, like 100 or 200 people would show up every time. It made me happy that I could do weird things and get people to participate in it. Oh and every time you sit on Santa’s lap, that’s pretty happy, too.