The Yellow Pages

Life's questions completely unexplained

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My Full Catastrophe Of College

Theme: Life to its Fullest

The first time I did laundry in college, I dried my dirty clothes before I washed them. The whole floor stunk of a locker room during pre-season, bringing my friend-making process to a halt. Earlier, I’d bragged about my laundry-doing prowess and even set up a “laundry date” to help a guy out. However, this illusion crashed down with the baking of my socks and underwear and thus began my full catastrophe of college.

Spiritual teacher Jon Kabit-Zinn speaks of the Full Catastrophe of Living: the human ability to transform the most difficult moments of life into the most spectacular. Living one’s full catastrophe is acknowledging the limitless potential in every single moment.

College always seemed like a dream—something to be thought up but never lived. It was that pretty picture on the horizon but not the ground under my feet. However, on August 31st I peaked my head out from behind this illusion and college hit me smack in the face. Bruised and star-struck, I stepped on stage—ready for my full catastrophe.

And it came like this:

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There were times when the things I had to do outnumbered the hours I had to do them; when my home was the library and my only friend Plato (see top left). There were rainy days and snowy days and days I wanted to go home. Times when I wondered what would happen if I just didn’t go that exam or just didn’t write that paper. Nights when I went to the dining hall alone, performing that uncomfortable quick-eye scan for a place to sit. And that time I laid down on the Main Green at midnight and questioned human existence, to which my friend answered—it was time for me to go to bed.

And yet, between the rain, awkward meals, and philosophic questions—college also came like this:

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This is my ‘yay college’ face I donned for the times I couldn’t get enough of life. From wearing a classy bear suit to slip and sliding on the Main Green to ‘party-shopping’ all the sports houses in one night—life was incredible. These moments infiltrated the rainy days and library nights and turned them into a one-person dance party with “I Love College” blasting in the background.

And yet again, between the embarrassing costumes and ecstatic selfies—college always came like this:

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These moments morphed the highs and the lows into a breathtaking sunset and a clear autumn day. They transform all those things I ‘have to do’ into one simple task: stopping and taking a breath. These are the moments I can’t help but wonder whether I’m still in that dream and I’ll wake soon in my bed at home prepped to take the SATs. These moments remind me of the full catastrophe that is Life.

College is a microcosm of life. It magnifies the highs and intensifies the lows, a constant reminder of the potency of the human experience. It’s the most dramatic change of my life, a dream turned reality. The most important thing I learned in college was that college was  actually real.

Perhaps college didn’t come to me but instead I came to it. It may have been that pretty picture on the horizon but it’s now the ground beneath my feet. I walked through its gates, arm raised, scared and excited, yet completely prepared, for the full catastrophe beyond.

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Unanswerable question: How is life, and not just college, a full catastrophe? 

look familiar?


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The Yellow Pages

Many who know me, some who don’t, and a choice few college admissions officers—know that my favorite color is Yellow. With help from my Yellow rain-boots, prom dress, bed sheets, TOMS, backpack, and the random streak in my hair, I came to realize that not only is it my favorite color, but Yellow is who I am.

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This conclusion struck me when considering how to approach a prompt on a college application. The question was “Who Am I?” and my answer was “How the Hell do I Know?”. This original answer wasn’t getting me any closer to that coveted ‘Congratulations!’ so I reluctantly considered a revision. After whining to my mom, planking on the floor, and declaring I wasn’t going to college, the answer came to me: Who am I?—I am Yellow.

I realize “being Yellow” doesn’t make much sense. I am not very blond, I don’t have cat eyes, and I’m pretty partial to brushing my teeth—so none of me is very Yellow. However, answering the impossible question “Who Am I?” with an ambiguous, and admittedly ridiculous, answer gives me the opportunity to change while always remaining me. I began my experiment in being Yellow in my senior year Euro Lit class. I posed my theory before blank stares and encouraging smiles and allowed it to become what it was. Over the next several months, I found comfort in my metaphorically Yellow shoes. Pretty soon I found myself squished somewhere between Orange and Green and was pretty happy to be there.

For me, being Yellow means having a chronically optimistic view on life. It means fully engaging in whatever moment I am in. It means being completely annoying in my over-enthusiasm. Being open-minded. Being stubborn. Being (somewhat) overwhelmingly friendly. It means lying flat on Rock Bottom knowing the only way out is up. It means waking up every morning excited for the day to come. Being Yellow means being me.

My goal here is to pose Life’s unanswerable questions and completely ‘un-answer’ them. I will ‘un-answer’ them in my most optimistic, over-enthusiastic, pseudo-philosophic, and ‘Yellow’ way possible. I figure since I’m always thinking about life I might as well write about it. These are my thoughts on what it means to be ‘Yellow’—these are The Yellow Pages. 

– j