Out here on my own

A year ago today, my parents, brothers, two of my dad’s former students and I moved the entire contents of my childhood home into a moving truck. The next day, they were off to Bel Air, Maryland, a cute little town about 30 miles northeast of Baltimore.

I’d assumed that we’d eventually live in a different state, but I always figured that it would happen two years later, once I’d graduated from college, and that I’d be the one doing the moving. They were going to stay in the house in south Tempe with the Pizza Hut roof and the albino geckos in the backyard.

Since moving to Maryland, they bought a house that I haven’t seen yet, but that sounds great. It has an upstairs and a downstairs and a basement, which my mom always wanted, as well as a pool, which my brothers love. The pool’s only been usable for a week, and my youngest brother told me he’d already been in it five times when I called him on his birthday yesterday.

The house also has built-in bookshelves, which I imagine as looking like something out of “Beauty and the Beast.” That movie’s borderline pornography for bibliophiles.

It sounds like a great home, but it will never be my home. And not having a real home is kind of a weird concept to get used to, but it’s not quite so strange as the idea that I don’t have family anywhere nearby. During the school year, I keep busy enough that I don’t have time to think about it, but with the small amount of free time that summer brings, it really sunk in that they’re far away.

May’s always been a big month in my family — along with the school year ending and various promotions and graduations, we also have Mother’s Day, my mom’s birthday and two of my brothers’ birthdays within two weeks of each other. This year was the first year I wasn’t there for any of them, and there’s a lot that gets missed when you’re just talking on the telephone.

I had to grow up a lot this year without having the safety net of knowing my parents were just a few miles away and able to help if I needed them. There weren’t any more lunch dates with Dad when the semester was rough, and I couldn’t call Mom for a ride or help without checking time differences.

I couldn’t watch someone’s Little League game after a stressful week or just hang out in that familiar living room with the people who’ve known me longest and best, and when I move next week, there won’t be a trusty Chevy Venture and a 16-year-old intent on showing off his strength to help out.

Overall, I think we’re all probably doing better. My brothers are making friends in the new town, my mom loves being back among trees and greenery and my dad really likes the new job he has. I’m learning to be more independent and handle problems by myself without asking for help unless I absolutely need it.

In the end, home isn’t a house. It’s knowing that there are people out there who I love more than anything and that they feel the same about me. We won’t all be back together until sometime in August, but at least that gives something else to look forward to this summer.


This I Believe

For a while in the 2000s, NPR ran a segment called “This I Believe.” The show brought in famous guests like Amy Tan or Muhammad Ali, as well as regular people, and challenged them to express their deepest beliefs in an audio essay.

A few months before my sophomore English teacher decided he no longer wanted to teach and would instead go hike the Appalachian Trail from bottom to top, he had our class write our own “This I Believe” essays. It was a difficult assignment, but it forced me to evaluate my beliefs and values, something I think is healthy for everyone to do from time to time.

A lot’s changed since then. I’m five years older, one day and two finals away from finishing my junior year of college, about to begin the job I’ve wanted since I first realized I’d be attending Arizona State and if anything, more terrified and unsure about I’m doing. It’s worth going back and quantifying those beliefs again.

I believe in horizontal loyalty. I believed in the concept long before I had a name for it, but Caitlin Cruz, who first hired me when I was a freshman, is responsible for that term. Basically, horizontal loyalty is recognizing and promoting the talents and skills of those around you.

I’ve been extremely fortunate the last few years to have worked in the newsroom of The State Press and been constantly surrounded by absolutely brilliant people. They go on to do amazing things — our online editor from this semester was accepted into the Fulbright program and will be teaching English in Taiwan, our outgoing sports editor is working a summer internship with Sports Illustrated in New York and our outgoing A&E editor is headed off to D.C. with the McCain Institute — and whether they’re here for just a semester or for years, each of these people has taught me so much. I truly believe that they are among the best and brightest people, and I would do anything in my power to help them succeed.

I believe in treating everyone with respect. Like many millennials, I learned a lot of lessons from the Harry Potter series, and one of the most important of these comes in the fourth novel, “Goblet of Fire.” Harry’s godfather, Sirius, says to him, “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

I don’t believe in using words like “inferior” or “superior” because nobody is anybody else’s “inferior” or “superior,” but I do believe you can tell a lot about a person from how he or she treats anyone who could be considered inferior because of things like material wealth, age, gender/gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, intelligence or a whole host of other factors.

I believe in continually pushing yourself and never settling for good enough. An editor with whom I once worked created a saying, “just be better,” that sums this up pretty well. It’s still hanging in our newsroom, along with reminders that the students need their watchdog, that we are bold, risk-taking journalists and that no bad day can continue if you just look at Sam Claflin’s beautiful face.

But being better takes more than just saying it — it takes long nights and early mornings. It takes closely following competitors and peers, seeing what works well and what could use improving. It takes trying and failing and trying again; it takes asking for help when you need it and being there to help when you’re needed. Most of all, it takes hard work and real passion, and if nothing else, I believe in that.