Short. Sweet. And I’m a sucker for the piano. (Believe in The Kingdom)
this one is a bit longer than usual...but hang with me:
Sapphires are the second hardest gemstone on the planet. Their strength follows diamonds, and their color is a perfect accident. Sapphires are part of the corundum family, and, without any impurity, these stones are clear. Lucky for us, Nature is a bit careless at times, and impurities find their way into the molecular structure of corundum during formation. Impurity creates color, and in the case of Sapphires, trace amounts of titanium (TI) and iron (Fe) leak into the crystalline latticework replacing what should be aluminum (Al). (Yes, that cheap atom that covers your left over food is actually quite remarkable! #science)
Blue. A calming, whimsical color that often elicits imagery of water or sky. For someone who has their head in the clouds 99.9% of the time, the symbolism relating to the sky is certainly fitting. I've always got a grandiose, "pie in the sky" kind of dream churning in my mind. And to put a neat little bow on the package of meanings associated to Sapphires, I'll mention that they are the gem of 5th anniversaries. And so we begin...
This past June, I attended my 5 year reunion at Boston College. Shortly after submitting my RSVP, I promised myself that I would not over think those precious 48 hours on campus. I would not dream of seeing particular people or have my heart set on certain activities. I tried my hardest to keep that June weekend hidden away in the back of my brain. Why? So my imagination couldn’t touch it.
My imagination is both a gift and a curse. It holds the key to my creativity, but also has the code to launch devastating disappointment. My imagination consistently hums in the background of everyday life. There’s no “off switch.” It’s a 24/7, 366 kind of machine. One that is constantly dreaming and scheming.
Rarely has an event in my life played out where I haven’t compared memories from reality to my imaginary fieldnotes. More often than not, that comparison game leads to disappointment. Some disappointments are greater than others. But a feeling of disappointment nonetheless.
I tried my hardest to protect that reunion weekend from my over active mind, but found myself playing a video reel of what it would be like to stand on the top deck of Alumni Stadium’s parking garage watching the sunrise again with my best friends.
If this sounds random, that’s because it’s one of the senior traditions that has no explanation. At BC, the senior class stays up the entire night partying before graduation. At dawn, the entire class (or those who managed to survive the bender) gathers on the top deck of the Alumni Stadium parking garage and welcomes the sun together one last time. We watch the anchor of our solar system rise over the Reservoir, knowing this is the final day we will call “The Heights” home.
Bottles of champagne pop, “we are BC” chants echo, and friends snap photos to last a lifetime.
If it sounds magical, that’s because it is. Or it should be. If you actually get to see the sunrise. Unfortunately, the Class of 2011 enjoyed more of a “hey, the sky seems a bit lighter now” kind of send off. Thanks clouds and weird rainy mist.
It was that anti-climatic moment that haunted me as the calendar inched towards my reunion weekend. I thought, what if we could recreate that moment and actually enjoy a final sunrise together. Before I could catch myself, my imagination already had the idea and was running.
I told my best friend about the grand plan hoping to set some wheels in motion. Shooting it straight, he told me to “Stop. Just stop.” I felt a twinge of disappointment right then and there, but knew he was right. The feeling would be far greater if I allowed my imagination to add more details.
Despite my best intentions, the seed was already planted. Wouldn’t it be nice…
Two months to go, and it took everything to keep that weekend hidden away.
But it finally arrived:
Friday, June 4th. The Class of 2011 descends upon the BC campus. Throughout the day friendly faces reappear and tentative planning for the next 48 hours begins. It’s a bit stressful trying to locate everyone and get on the same page, but friend groups manage to make concrete plans by dinner. Thanks to social media, we avoid most of the “what are you up to now” conversations and dive back into our usual groove.
That night we cram ourselves into Mary Anne’s, the local dive bar that no one other than a BC student would ever consider stepping foot inside of. The 70’s décor is worn and tired, the brown floor tile has a perpetual stick, and the smell of stale alcohol, axe body spray, and God-knows-what-else is the kind of thing that elicits memories just by mention let alone standing in its presence.
The night ends by regrouping with my “brothers” back on campus. These are the boys I met my Freshman year, and over the course of a decade, they’ve become an extension of my family. A fr-amily if you will. Together we survived BC, and now we are tackling life’s milestones: marriages, grad school, and careers. Spread across the globe from London to San Diego, we don’t get together often, so this “forced family fun” was a special moment.
Friday night: Reality 1: Imagination 0
Saturday, June 5th. A full day of shenanigans. It starts with a class BBQ, and will end with a huge party in the Mods. (A section of senior housing worth a post of its own.) It’s quintessential summer weather in Boston, which creates the recipe for the perfect lazy afternoon. Campus is in full bloom (Boston College is very serious about their landscaping), and it’s one of those days you replay in your head when you need a smile.
Squad Goals. These three amazing women carried me through my best and final year at Boston College as roommates. Our suite – Voute 200 – was (aptly) named: The Secret. What happened in Voute 200, (has mostly) stayed in Voute 200.
It’s one of those days where time stands still, but moves so fast. A complete mind fuck. You’re savoring every moment as you coast through the afternoon, but know with each passing hour you’re losing time. Soon we will be packing our bags to leave.
Fast forward through pre-gaming, a shoe dilemma, amazing snacks (hello churros!), and a feeling that we never actually left, and the giant party in the Mods is beginning to die down. It’s just past midnight, and little do I know, but the Universe has heard my plea. The wheels are in motion.
But I am blissfully unaware. I am scooped up in laughter, debauchery, and walks down memory lane. It’s a night where a typically cliquish BC becomes one. “For Here All Are One” was our class slogan, and wandering the dorms to find entire hallways lined with desks hosting epic games of flip cup the Class of 2011 lived up to those words. Everyone was family.
Fast forward a few more hours and a group of us are sitting in the O’Neill plaza admiring Gasson Hall.
Side note: this building is the hallmark structure of the BC campus. Constructed in 1913 with a Gothic style architecture, it’s the tallest building. The BC community has immense pride in Gasson, so much so that its spires are referenced in our fight song, For Boston:
For here all are one
And their hearts are true
And the towers on the Heights
Reach to Heav’ns own blue.
The tower holds four bells, and just above their home is a deck. A deck that boasts a stunning 360 view. Standing beside those spires is on the bucket list of nearly every BC student. There are several ways to accomplish the goal, but few ever lay eyes on the hidden staircase.
Exhaustion is beginning to set in and my buzz is fading fast. It might be June, but that means I’m getting cold and ready to call it a night. A BC police cruiser does its routine spin around Gasson and parks on the opposite side of the plaza. My friend Bobby is part of the BC police unit, and walks over to chat with his colleague. Suddenly, he’s shouting, “Guys come on! We’ve got the keys to Gasson!”
Cue 10 of us who were just contemplating bed, sprinting for our lives to the door of Gasson Hall. Within minutes we pass through the secret threshold and are climbing a never-ending spiral staircase. (Okay, it’s actually four stories, but it’s narrow and we are still a little drunk.) We finally reach the platform that is home to the bells and take a moment to catch our breath. The view is already stunning, and there is chalk scattered about the floor to write your name among the legends. We know there will be time for that later, instead, our eyes are fixed on the final staircase.
We ascend the final flight and emerge on the top deck of Gasson Hall. We made it. Bucket list item: check.
It’s 45 minutes before dawn, the officer snaps a few group photos, and tells us to behave. He exits to continue his patrol, leaving the group to enjoy this moment few are privileged to know.
One social media storm later, and the gravity of the moment finally hits. Phones disappear as we wander back and forth admiring the views. There are brief conversations to acknowledge the crazy turn of events the last hour just handed us. The consensus: this was epic. We had literally taken it to The Heights.
Looking out towards the Reservoir with downtown Boston in the background, it hit me. There I was. Standing on top of the world in my own dream. My closest friends with me to watch the sunrise. (Well, kind of. Damn clouds.) This was the moment my imagination had attempted to create. Only, better. Something born of free will and spontaneity, free from planning and expectation. This moment was pure, unexpected reality.
Saturday night: Reality: ∞ : Imagination: 0
That night was a fleeting moment of complete presence. Something that so rarely happens for me. More often than not, I go through the motions of the day with my head in the clouds dreaming of someplace else. I’ve realized this is one of the main reasons why I love routine. Routine means autopilot. Autopilot means extra fuel for my imagination. Imagination means escape.
I spend a lot of time escaping. Dreaming of all the ways life could unfold, or re-living the past through memories. While I have no intention of giving up my active imagination, my 5 year reunion was a realization that I should let it slow down. A wake up call that I should stop letting it rob me of precious gems that only exist in the here and now.
Like Nature letting titanium and iron replace aluminum in corundum, I’m trying to let reality replace imagination. With a little luck and a lot of hope that more gems like the one atop Gasson Hall will form.