“My whole life, I have felt a connection with nature. I like this campus because I’m able to live in a farmhouse and connect with the natural world while studying physics and math. I think the two are connected—one is a great way to appreciate the other.
”There’s this common misconception that to understand something scientifically we have to step back and take a completely empirical approach divorced from personal meaning and beauty. People think that by understanding something, we‘re getting rid of its mysterious side. But I think that understanding something opens up completely new realms that we’ve never considered before: it makes the thing that much more beautiful.”
“When you go into a relationship, you have an idea of how you would like it to go, what you think is going to happen. Still, there’s that inkling: you don’t know. Sometimes that feeling grows until you have to address it—some people never do, and they’re unhappy, but I can’t live that way. I needed to clear the air, so I said, ‘I feel very deeply about you, and I’m starting to think that you don’t feel the same way.’ He was silent. I said, ‘There you go—there’s the answer.’
“I felt awesome the first week after the breakup. I was like, ‘I don’t care, I knew this had to happen.’ During the second week, I started getting the reminders around me. Third and fourth week, I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m missing it.’ Now I’m here for a wedding, so it feels like I just can’t escape it. It’s hard.”
“Four years ago, I left home with 50 dollars, and I’ve been hitchhiking across the country ever since. I find work when I need it, but I haven’t stayed in one place more than four or five months. I prefer the mindset of not having expectations, so everything that does happen is pleasant and positive—I’ve met some amazing, amazing people along the way.”
“What’s one thing you’ve taken away from everything you’ve experienced in these four years?”
“That maybe this place isn’t as broken as it seemed before I started to travel. Maybe we’re better off than I thought.”
“High school really changed me—it taught me to live in the moment. I ran track and cross country. I was better than almost everyone, but the elites destroyed me. I started beating myself up about it, and didn’t participate in races as much. Then I remembered: I started running seven years ago because I enjoyed it. So I stopped caring, and went back to enjoying the adrenaline of being in the race, in the moment. And if I came up short, so what? I was running because I enjoyed it.
“So I applied that philosophy to everything else: I realized that there’s more to life than stressing over the future. Everyone was like, ‘Oh, I gotta get into Stanford. I gotta get into Harvard.’ But in my mind, if you do your work and you come up short, it’s OK. There’s no point in stressing out—you did all you could. If it’s right, it will happen. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do anything, but if you work towards something and it’s meant to be, it will come true.”
“I just woke up this morning and thought, It’s cold—what should I wear today? Oh, I have those new floral jeans. Then, as I was talking to someone, I realized that I’m wearing so many patterns today that I look like a walking idiot. He said, ‘That’s OK—we’re all walking idiots.’”
I watched him open the door for her, and then wait until she was fully seated before closing it.
”Does he always do that?” I asked his wife.
”Yes. It took me some time to get used to it—we’ve been together for 32 years. I was married for 25 years during my first marriage, but no one ever opened the door for me. Now even our grandchildren do it for me, because they see him do it.
“We also go to sleep holding hands. When you don’t have it the first time around and you get it the second time, you treasure it.”
I-90 Rest Area, MN
I don’t even drink and I still wanted to join them.
“I was a freshman in high school and she was in eighth grade when the Beatles hit. There was just something about that time: there was folk music, the Civil Rights Movement, the sexual revolution, Woodstock, the Kingston Trio, the anti-Vietnam War protests, and a lot of excellent live music. Most guys wanted a guitar and to play in a garage band. It was a period of six or seven years that was completely different. I graduated from high school in 1967. The people who graduated just a year before us in 1966 were considered old—a whole different generation!”
“I recently went to our high school reunion. I ran into a guy who had a locker next to me, but we never really talked a lot back then—just ‘hi‘ and ‘how are you’. We sat down and talked for four hours! And he said, ‘You know, I don’t have as much in common with the younger guys I work with, than with you because we went through those times together.’ There’s definitely a connection between the people who grew up during that time. You meet someone, and—without even realizing why—you click right away because of that common experience: the history you share that you don’t have with a lot of others.”
“But I think—I can’t even tell you why, but I feel it—that the group of kids that are just coming in now will be like our generation. They’re not going to care about money as much as education, the person next to them, all the inequalities that exist, and bettering the world.”
Green Bay, WI
“I’m 54. No…56. No…53. Something like that.”
“We went to many, many, many doctors. They all said, ‘You will never have children.’ So I prayed to the Blessed Mother and promised to say a Rosary a day—ten days later, I was pregnant. Then I had another child, and then my husband left me. I didn’t have anybody to help me, but I’m blessed with a lot of faith—had I been married, I probably wouldn’t have as much faith as I do now.”
“In Korea, almost nobody sits directly on the grass—it’s considered dirty. We put down a towel or a newspaper first, or we just squat. Here, people sit everywhere—on the grass, in the hallways, on the ground—and they put their backpacks on the floor in the classroom! I never see that in my country: our parents and teachers tell us from an early age that such things are dirty. In Korea, no one ever enters the house with their shoes on. The first time I sat on the grass here, it felt weird. Now, I don’t care. But after three years in this country, I still hug my backpack if there’s no empty seat next to me to put it on.”
"The future? I just hope to have a place."
“Growing up, my parents did what they could to support me, but I never really had a lot. The hardest part was probably that, since neither one of them went to college, they didn’t know how to help my sister and me with school. We had to figure things out on our own and help each other.”
“Would you trade your childhood for one in which you had a lot more?”
“I wouldn’t change anything. I always had to work for everything and figure things out by myself. If we’d had a computer, I could’ve looked something up, but instead I had to find things on my own, so I became a good worker. That’s how life is: you often have to figure things out on your own.”
Eau Claire, WI
“I come from low-class background in a big urban area, where I was surrounded by people who look like me and have the same background. But after being around other people and liking what they do, I’ve changed, and now I’m not accepted in my own community: I don’t dress the way other people dress or speak the way they do, so people judge me and assume things that aren’t true. For example, based on my dialect—which some people deem as sounding ‘too white’—people think that I don’t accept other black people.
“So now I have to change the way I am based on the people I’m with: I have multiple identities, so I’m able to switch back and forth between them. Then I’m accepted, and I’m able to explain why I do this and why it’s not OK to judge.”
Eau Claire, WI