Good morning. It’s been a while.
I write to you behind relaxed eyes, finger-smudged glasses and a lazy stature settled into a curved and comfy rolling chair. It’s Seattley outside my window, and I find myself rockin’ some high-school branded sweatpants and a 2009 Judas Priest summer tour tee. Twenty nine hours ago, I scratched out the final exclamation! point of this semester and walked away a soon-to-be senior at CU Boulder. The most obvious and expected response is holy shit, so let’s say it a few times together.
Holy shit. I’m 365 days from the end of my academic life.
Holy shit. I can’t believe how much FUN I had this year.
Holy shit, I’m in so much debt. Dammit, Grandpa was right.
Holy mierda is right. I can’t even tell you how fast it all went because it’s still trying to catch up to me. Time flies
when you give it Red Bull when you’re having fun, and I can claim these past four months to be the most fun I’ve had since High School. It’s easily been the same amount of work and effort since my senior year as well. So many times I’ve looked around and thought “jeez, it’ll be all over soon enough.” and I still have a year to go! But for some reason lately, my feelings have been reminiscent of those when I was 18, closing a familiar chapter in my life and jumping into the unknown. And, thanks to the internet, I know somebody across the world who is going through the exact same thing.
I’d like to tell you the story of Scott Claessens.
A few years ago, I decided to start making videos of myself playing guitar on YouTube (because I heard that makes the ladies hot and bothered). In these videos I mainly played Coheed and Cambria songs, and I developed somewhat of a following from the tightly-wound Coheed community. After about a year of recording myself dancing a fool in my bedroom, I began a cover song project that caught the attention of a boy in Britain who found my work inspiring. He wrote me congratulations and decided to start filming drum videos of himself. And after a few months of video exchanging, we became what was later coined by his grandmother “21st century penpals”.
This continued for a couple of years. During my freshman year at CU, I had the idea of covering a Coheed song with a full band. Thanks to the wizard magic that is the internet, I came into contact with three people that I only knew on a screen in pixel-form, and together we created music without ever having seen each other’s faces. One of these phantoms was Scott, and this little online project yet again bonded us in a very unorthodox way.
Then I had a dream.
No, goddammit, not an MLK dream. An actual I’m fuckin’ sleeping but I feel like this shit is so real Inception kinda nightly ethereal mind-fuck experience type dream. While I was sleeping, I was in Scott’s house, running up and down his stairs. He asked me if I’d like to go to a buddy’s house for a party later that night. Of course, I said. The next vignette from dreamland was all of us sitting on a couch, upstairs, in some creaking wooden building. Some kids were drinking. And because Scott and I both were impaired, we had to stay the night. The next morning, we walked across a rocky path next to a sunny highway back to his house. I kept thinking “dude, we’re going to get hit! we’re on the wrong side of the road!”. Then I woke up. And when I woke up, I was so upset that it didn’t happen. It felt too real. I felt cheated from a real life experience. But the thought remained only a pipe-dream.
Fast forward to my semester abroad, Fall 2011.
It’s November. I’m comfortable with foreign airlines at this point, and suddenly I had a realization of the potential to travel to England. Oh man, I said, this is cheap to fly! Oh man, I can speak English again! Oh my god, SCOTT lives in England. Wait, if I saw Scott, that would make shit real. Like, really real. I contemplated contacting him with the proposition of such an absurd plan. Hey dude, could you come pick me up in London? Also, mind if I chill for the night? But it’s now or never, Sam. It’s time. So I sent the message.
Not three weeks later was I greeted in my hostel lobby waiting room by a cheery faced, taller-than-expected strapping young lad by the name of Scott Claessens. “Hey man, holy cow, it’s you!” (he even gave me a hug!) He also gave me a full-day’s tour of London, and in retrospect I realize the magic of that day. He could’ve been anybody. We didn’t have to get along. There are no promises in events like that. But we bonded, almost like friends that finally had the chance to really be friends. And as we walked around the British town, he popped the question that nearly sent me to the floor:
“Hey man, some buddies of mine are having a party tonight, would you like to go?”
I can’t even make this shit up.
Not six hours later, I’m sitting in a room full of half-drunken Englishmen playing King’s Cup, and they’re picking on the American kid. “Never have I ever lived in America. Never have I ever said ‘no’ to a cricket match. Never have I ever said the word ‘popsicle'”. Sweet, guys, thanks. Later that night, I took my first Jägerbomb with some of the most welcoming and enjoyable strangers I’ve ever met. And as I walked around that house, I thought to myself “this is why I travel. This is beyond surreal. This is living the dream”. We then caught a ride back to Scotty’s place and went to sleep. The next day, we played music. We played loud. We played in the same room. And for two kids that had never seen each other before, our connection was affirmed in the chemistry spoken through our instruments.
That weekend will be one of the most memorable and unbelievable moments of my life.
[and I made a bit of a compilation that you can watch here!: http://youtu.be/wN3R9_DXgRE ]
Since then, Scott and I have kept the relationship budding via Facebook, oftentimes consisting of little blurbs of updates or simple salutations. And when he caught eye of my blog, he asked if he could contribute to a collaborative writing piece. Seeing that our lives seem to match up perfectly (oftentimes even reflected in the weather), the timing couldn’t have been better. I present our second guest writer, Scottyboy!
So far, I have lived a very contained life. Of course, there have been various holidays to exotic and exciting locations, journeys to visit the family members who don’t live locally, and school trips with friends to different places on the globe. But, for the most part, I have been born and bred in the same country, same town, with essentially the same surroundings. I haven’t changed many of my friends, and I haven’t moved house very much at all – my last home is less than a ten minute drive from here, my current home. So, all-in-all, I’m pretty stuck in my ways.
Now, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Here’s an example: a friend of mine was born in Cologne, then came to live temporarily in England but spent the majority of her younger childhood years in Berlin. She once told me that when she came back to England, many of her previous friends had bonded and become closer in the time that she was away. She had a hard time integrating herself back into that group. Similarly, my cousins (who lived in Vietnam while their father was over there for work) have told me that they found it difficult when they returned to live in England.
There’s a concept in science called a ‘paradigm shift’, which is where some new idea (be it from a scientific paper, or from a revolutionary book) changes the entire way of thinking about a certain aspect of science – a perfect example of this is Charles Darwin, and his theory of evolution. Following the same sort of idea, I like to think that changing your environment drastically (like my friend or my cousins did) is a sort of ‘reality shift’ for any individual. You’re moving out of your own comfort-zone, out of what you know, and into a new, strange environment that you have to adapt to. It’s like a new way of thinking about… life.
I haven’t had a reality shift yet. Like I said before, I’ve lived in the same place my whole life. Nothing has really changed for me. I’ve grown up in parallel with the same people, and I’ve never really felt out of my comfort zone. Until now.
I think now would be a good time to introduce myself. I’m Scott Claessens. Male. Eighteen years of age. Single, if you’re interested. I like long walks on the beach, candlelit dinners, etc etc. And I’m currently in the lead up to my final exams of sixth-form college, which will be followed almost immediately by a hectic summer of parties, alcohol and general shenanigans, which will then be followed by an emotional, final parting-of-ways with my friends. Because then I’ll be heading off to University.
If I get into Bristol University, which I hope I do because that’s where I really want to go (I’m going to study Psychology), then my course will start in October. This year’s Reading Festival (an awesome British rock festival, for all you Yanks who have no idea what I’m talking about) will be pretty much the last time I’ll see all my mates together, and then we’ll all go our separate ways, and I’ll be packing my bags to go live in a new, exciting city.
I’m going to being living on my own, being independent, learning to cook, meeting new people, making new friends, going to clubs, gigs, and parties, having hangovers, sitting through lectures and seminars with hangovers, but I won’t care because I’m at University. The flipside to all of this, however, is that I’m absolutely bricking myself about it all.
That is going to be my reality shift. It’s coming; I can feel things changing already. There’s a sense of finality hanging across everything I do at the moment. Soon, I’ll have left sixth-form college. For good. And then it’ll be The Last Summer, so to speak.
But I’m not wasting energy getting depressed about it. This chapter of my life is coming to a close, but that’s a good thing, right? Human beings need change, just as science needs paradigm shifts to keep progressing. So, I’m just going to finish my exams, get through college, and then have the best summer I’ve ever had with my friends and family, before I head off into unknown territory. And, actually, that’s something to be awfully excited about.
How can I conclude this time? I’m moving on again, saying my see-you-laters, packing up and ready to find a new trail. It’s bittersweet, like a Lemondhead dipped in peanut butter. But shit, I love the change, and the end will never stop me from enjoying the juicy meat of the middle (that’s a terrible vegetarian metaphor!). Last week, as Dr. Van Gerven entered what would be his final Anthroplogy lecture before going into retirement, an auditorium of 300+ welcomed him with applause. Humbled, he took his normal position in front of his students and began to cry. “I love every single one of you. All 25,000 that I’ve taught over the span of 30 years here. You won’t understand how much this class means to me, and how much you mean to me”. And after one of the best life-inspiring speeches I’ve ever heard, 300+ stood clapping, roaring, cheering in respect and humility for one man and his words. I was overwhelmed. And what he said then will stay with me forever:
“Life is hard. Life is serious. But don’t be too hard, and don’t be too serious. Just do good. Be nice to each other. Don’t forget to skylark”.
And with that, he left his classroom for the last time.
So what’s next? Do we always have to know? I have one year left in college, then I jump into what is often called ‘the real world’. Scott is about to experience one of my favorite memories of my life, and looking back I remember the excitement of that imminent leap into the unknown. Who’s to say it stops here? Why can’t every transition be as magical and exciting as that one? Who makes the rules, after all? All I know is I have everything I need, and one thing I will always remember:
“Don’t forget to skylark“