Wolverine Stew: Same Stars

This begins with a question

How to thread a handful of years

Through a thousand words

And at first, I went for that

Sunset over Palmer Field

Over the classes where I learned about

Bioluminescence and serpent hoards

And what to do when a screw’s

Let loose through the fan of your laptop

(Which is mostly panic, by the way)

But I couldn’t quite catch the wisps of

Orange giving way to the night

So down I walked past

Two theatres, tonight with no moon,

Halls formed from paper monsters

From which celebration echoes

A courtyard of black-feather leaves

Where first this all began

Where I found a world of

Strange music and a good few

Kind words of encouragement to

Try this all out in the first place

And I kept on going

Stumbling upon the

Pothole pock-marked path

Taken in a parade of maize and blue

Trying to keep the cold at bay

I ended up before the stadium

A family necessity when our weekend came

Where I realized that the screams of a crowd

Are quite contagious

And I smile with the static

Still singing in my ears

But this isn’t quite it

So I wander a little more

And the sky darkens in

The sweet scent of shadowy lilacs

As I turn my attention upward

And there it is

How do I write a goodbye?

How could it hold

Every last thank you for the

Laughter I was let into?

I think of every

Walk with a friend spent trying to

Rot each other’s brains when

They became too full of phantoms

Every evening spent shouting at dice

Made of benevolent stones and troll skulls

With the friendliest chaos one can conjure together

Every post-it note needed to make a

Smile that stood in a window for a semester

And maybe one more that stays a little longer

Every mask I carefully made

As I joined in the revelries of

The one night each year I start to come back

From the ghost I can make of myself

Every strum and song and

Wild of words hustling towards happier trails

Every moment before the lights dimmed

And showed their rising beams of dust

Because each scene was built beforehand

And sung of afterward, the words a flash

Across a screen we all crowded around

Scenes made of plastic trees and hot glue gun thyrsi

Pinprick green constellations and roses, real and parchment

And all the days spent

Going from forests to films

To markets to midnight vaults

To arcades and on across Ann Arbor

Always with those I will be

Grateful to call my friends

All of that

How does goodbye hold all of that?

Well, it doesn’t

So instead, I’ll thread a hopeful “see you later”

Through the thousand words above

And look to the streetlight

That we’ll pretend is a sunrise for now

Because no matter what

For all those memories and people

That a goodbye could never hold

I’m under the same stars as you

Study Hal: Week 43 – Celebration Time

Well friends, this is it! The final episode of Study Hal. On May 1st, Hal and I graduated! It looked like a beautiful day, so Hal tried to watch the ceremony outside (like he would have if he were at the Big House). Unfortunately, he ran into some familiar problems… I guess it’s nice to know that even when everything seems up in the air, there are constants that carry on.

I want to personally thank you for watching the Study Hal series. I started making these videos very nearly a year ago. It started as a fun way to engage with the arts and my school while challenging my creativity. Now, Hal and his world hold a very special place in my heart. Of course, Hal and I will keep in touch, but that sort of thing is always different after graduation.

If you’re new here, you hopped on just in time for the end! Hal is a U-M graduate with a degree in electrical engineering, but he worked and studied from home this past academic year! You can find the rest of the videos on the Study Hal tag. I am also a U-M graduate, but with a degree in art and design. If you’d like to keep up with me, you can find me on Instagram @lrmull!

From Beginnings to Endings: My Last Post

A golden retriever puppy on a boat wears a white Michigan Wolverines hat and licks the top of a bottle of Corona.
Photo from http://theberry.com/2015/08/09/sunday-brunch-51-photos-15/

My time as a student at the University of Michigan is about to come to an end, and as such; this will be my last post ever with arts, ink. For my last post, I’d like to write about how it all began. I’d like to write about how I got from a nervous-excited senior in high school to an equally nervous-excited senior in college.

I can’t remember if I received my acceptance to the University of Michigan a few days after most of my friends, or just a few hours, but I remember all of my friends being overjoyed about their recent acceptances while I was afraid I hadn’t gotten in. I’d like to say I was afraid because I really wanted to go to school here, but that would be a lie. I didn’t know where I wanted to go to school; I just knew I wanted good options.

When I did finally receive my acceptance, I did what any other social media savvy kid in 2011 would do, I wrote a Facebook status.

Screen shot of a Facebook status reading "Finally got my email! Accepted to UMich" with 60 likes and 28 comments.

Would you take a look at that? I didn’t even use proper punctuation. It wasn’t even my most liked status ever. People were happy for me, and I was happy for myself, but it wasn’t like I’d said I was going to Michigan. All I’d done so far was get in.

Then came the tough decision. I applied to four schools and had luckily been accepted to all of them. I had the options that I so craved, but now I had to actually figure out which school I wanted to go to, and while some might say I’m not great at making decisions now, I was even worse four years ago. My parents had very strong feelings about eliminating two schools from the running, so they were quickly crossed off my list. That left me with two schools, and one of them was the University of Michigan.

Most of my friends had gone to visit and tour the schools they were looking at, but I didn’t do that. I had no idea why I liked or didn’t like either school left on my list. I had people telling me their opinions left and right, and none of them were very partial. I became stressed, and the week before my decision was due I began fainting from my anxiety about having to make a decision, which only added to my stress.

My brother tried to make life easier on me, so two days before my decision was due he took me to his alma mater, the other school on my list, and showed me around. I loved the campus. It was big and green and beautiful. There was a living-learning community that I had been accepted to that I liked very much, and it really seemed like the perfect place for me. However, many of my other family members had a different opinion. They had all gone to Michigan, and they believed, in order for me to make an educated decision, or in their opinion, the right decision, I should see both campuses. So, the next morning, the day before my decision was due, my mom took me to Ann Arbor to see Michigan. Her tour was a little briefer. We walked around campus, but my mom isn’t the best at directions, so we didn’t go far. I thought the town seemed nice, but it didn’t really feel as much like me, and I couldn’t really get an idea of what to expect since my mom’s experience would be very different from my own.

That day, I don’t remember why, my sister was having a party. My whole family was there, so after returning from Ann Arbor we went straight to my sister’s house. Everyone knew my decision was due, so one by one they each asked me what I’d decided. I got sick of the questioning, and I still didn’t have an answer, so I went outside and asked my mom what to do. I felt pressure to go to both schools, and I didn’t know what to do. My mom told me to try telling everyone I was going to one school to see how it felt, but I was afraid that idea would backfire terribly. So, I decided to go a different way.

I found a 1994-penny (not even a quarter, I was cheap) and flipped it, heads for Michigan, tails for the other school. I had hoped I’d know where I truly wanted to go as the coin turned in the air, but instead I found myself just as undecided, but happier that I’d finally have a decision. The coin landed on heads and I told my entire family all at once that I would be a Wolverine. They cheered loudly, hugged me tight, and broke into a round of “Hail to the Victors”. Somewhere between the first and second verse, I couldn’t take it anymore. I left the house crying and didn’t stop crying until the next morning.

Of course, I calmed down. I joined the Residential College. I attended orientation and wore my MCard around my neck the whole time. I began to like the fact that I was going to the University of Michigan. I wasn’t one of those people who fell in love with the school right away; it took me a little bit of time. But soon, I began to embrace the maize in blue. With each passing day, I became more and more proud of my school. Now that I’m leaving, I’m so glad that penny landed on heads. If I didn’t come to Michigan, I would be an entirely different person. Sure, that person could’ve been cool, too, but that person isn’t me. That person wouldn’t have made the same friends, taken the same classes, gone to the same football games. That person wouldn’t have made awkward Matrix-like motions to avoid walking on the M on a busy day. That person wouldn’t have gone to the same parties or the same restaurants or the same bookstores.

So, thank you Michigan. As bittersweet as these last few days before graduation are, I’m glad to have been able to call you my home for the last four years. It might have been a rocky start, but we made it in the end, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And don’t worry, wherever I go, I’ll always go blue. Hail!

University of Michigan students waive yellow pom noms into the air at a Michigan vs. Michigan State football game.


Virginia Woolf Tattoo

“we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself”

And so my body is tattooed (again).

Growing up in a religious culture that frowned upon tattoos, I was always hesitant if not judgmental but also intrigued when it came to people with tattoos. They looked dangerous, sinful, hip, and I loved people that wore their masochistic art like a manifesto for the world.

After coming to college and transforming into the magical being that I am now (*humble*), I now have four tattoos, although in my mind they are only two (since they are in pairs). My first two (“Yes.” and “the”) are a testament to my love for James Joyce (Ulysses and Finnegans Wake (Shem), respectively). My newest one, split between my two forearms, is a testament to my undying love for Virginia Woolf. The quote is from Sketch of the Past, which is her autobiographical/memoir essay that she wrote a few years before her death. It was written during the beginning of WWII where the entire world and her life started to deteriorate and fall utterly apart.

To me, the context and the quote itself are almost a summing up of my entire college career–this is why I got my tattoos a week before graduation, that, and I had to have it immediately.

There are moments for Woolf and I that we call moments of being. It can be an extraordinarily good or bad moment that shocks our reality into letting us know that we are alive. For Woolf, writing is a way to keep herself alive, mentally healthy, and meditating on life, existence, and reality. Something that I do with writing but also, more generally, thinking. She calls into existence a type of ontology that is foundational to reality itself (something I just wrote about in connection with Deleuze and Guattari). But, interestingly enough, she takes it all back by proclaiming, “But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven, certainly and emphatically there is no God.”

We are it. ‘We’ remains ambiguous, which is beautiful and perplexing and why I love Woolf’s identifications. We are language (which I take to be a later meditation on Lacan and psychoanalysis at large), we are the music (something that Deleuze and Guattari theorize about that has important metaphysical implications by destabilizing us), and we are the thing itself (and every philosopher rolls over in their grave because Woolf just layed down some truth).

For me, this quote means that we are it in the most positive way. We are transcendent, we are immanent, we are the best, we are the world, we are existence, we are it and that is beautiful and comforting and earth-shattering.

And it just so happens that this is my last blog for Arts,Ink. I start my rounds of graduation next Thursday and I’ve never felt more alive. Not because I’m graduating, not because of UofM, not because of any of this.

But ever since I was in 7th grade I was planning my college experience. I planned out college applications, future course plans for high school, course plans for college (that all fell through . . .). And I realized three days ago that I had just successfully completed and lived one of my longest dreams that I’ve ever had.

Every day now I try to remind myself that no matter how lost or sad I am that I am living my dream. I am living my form of happiness.

And today, April 25th, my favorite date, is a day that’s not too cold, not too hot, all you need is a light jacket, umbrella, Woolf tattoo, impending graduation, and being surrounded by existence, loved ones, and infinite poetry.

Writing to you all has been such a blessing, a treat, and something that I will always cherish. Thank you infinitely.

The Art of Graduating in 2 Weeks

It’s at this point in my life—second-semester senior, post-thesis, part-time student, burnt out, uber-queer angst land, etc.—where I think it’s appropriate to reflect and teach others the senior-year lifestyle, or as I like to call it, “so you’re graduating and are no longer able to give a f**k.” So yeah:

1. Attend less class this week than days you consecutively visit bars.
And I’m not talking about just skipping class (I am, partly) but  look at your schedule and notice that the sheer number of classes you have is dwindling and that the nostalgia for meeting up with friends, lovers, mentors, and those who can pay for you is at an all time high. In short, I am now friends with all the bartenders at Savas and I’m more than OK with this.

2. When someone asks you what are you doing after graduation, outline EXACTLY what you will be doing everyday:
“well the day after I plan on having an existential breakdown to be met the next day by getting together for brunch at Sava’s with my friends (Brian, Audrey, etc.), and then I’m planning on starting ‘House of Leaves’ the following day but maybe ‘Paradise Lost?’ And when people get bored and ask you, “NO, what are you doing professionally or educationally,” just reply, “well, it really needs to be contextualized within my daily routine all summer long because in isolation everything is meaningless.” Basically just be really sassy and blunt with everyone you come into contact with. It’s not like you’re going to see any of these people again possible ever again.

3. Invite academics to campus and get excited about preparing questions that “destroy” them, either:
i) call them out for being problematic, or ii) interrogate their methodologies and bash their disciplinary location. “So I see you use ‘LGBT’ as the realm of discourse you’re analyzing on a national level, but the evidence you cite blatantly excludes trans* folks, how does their exclusion and your implicit blame onto a highly marginalized community fit into your argument? Don’t you really just mean ‘gay and lesbian’?”

4. Wear every pattern that you own so that people will know and be visually convinced you are graduating.
Look i) hip, ii) hip not in the hipster way or appropriative way but like in the damn cool and stylish way and so so “out there,” iii) a little bit out of your mind eccentric, iv) not to be tested, v) ready to leave. There’s no use in pretending that I’m not COMPLETELY ready to start a “new chapter” (chapter 22) of my life that is not located in Michigan.

5. Get really frustrated when people don’t want to hear about your term paper on Deleuzoguattarian metaphysics in conversation with Woolf’s “The Waves.”
I’m at the point where my schooling is something I’m both frustrated and in love with, similar to other folks in my life, and so I talk about it all the time because it is my life. Those that don’t get that don’t always deserve to take up all my time.

6. Say ‘no’ to everything you can because this is the last chance, at least in my opinion, where you have the privilege to prioritize self-care to the max.
My job lets me say no, my classes let me say no, my friends let me say no. But come a year from now I’ll be in a different community, a different job (that I have to keep in order to live), and a different location. I know that ‘no’ isn’t always an option, especially in the foreseeable future; so say ‘no’ and love the time you can self-create.

7. Be direct, be open. 
After living life for 21 years, I finally realized that I could be direct with people while not being rude. Saying that you don’t want to be friends isn’t rude, it’s honest on both a time and personal level. Telling someone that you need to talk isn’t a passive aggressive move or a manipulative move, it’s letting someone know you need better communication and that you value both parties to find a time that works for both schedules.

8. Fall in love more often and deeper.
Granted, this is EVERYONE’S advice for growing older but seriously. Tell everyone you love them. (Ask before you can do any of the following:) Hold on to everyone’s hand. Hug everyone for minutes not seconds. Kiss everyone you can on the cheek. Start conversations with strangers. In all of the ups and downs that I’ve been on and through for Ann Arbor I love the space and I love many of the people. And I’m so thankful for my life and the lives of others/places/things. I show my gratitude through my love.