thought bubble

I didn't originally intend to come here. While I may have found that Michigan Tech is a wonderful school; with many friends, challenging courses, and chances to actually figure out who I am; and that the Keweenaw is a beautiful area; filled with crystal clear snowy nights, days green as an emerald, and sights  more picturesque than anything I've seen before; I did not originally WANT to come here. The school was a frozen, conservative engineering wasteland in my view, far from any chance at the dreams I'd have of college, as a renaissance for the mind and soul. Simply put, I was wrong.

            I originally came from a small town just north of Detroit about an hour or two. The actual town was little more than a gas station stop, a small church, a few stores, and little else. My own house is a bit away from it all, surrounded by fields and trees, with a dairy farm across the road; out of which the cows escaped at one point resulting in my brother and I cleaning up cow patties left on our lawn during the night. I loved nature when I was younger and for the longest time I wanted to be a veterinarian or biologist, zoologist or just about anything ending in -ist. School changed this though.

            School was not exactly the most nurturing environment for me. Thinking back on it now, I simply wasn't comfortable. I spent most of my time reading; Poe, Twain, Verne, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Horror, books on gardening, science, and even instruction manuals. I still do, but not as much, these books were good for me but they were also walls I'd built up  to keep people out. It's amazing what a little freedom can do to change that. Books, though, they are good for one main thing though; more than anything reading made school easy and I graduated well. 4.0, valedictorian, 32 ACT's and 1450 SAT's. Impressive and good for the future, leading me to getting accepted into a number of schools, ranging from U of M to Rose-Hullman, and most importantly now, Michigan Technological University. I realized though at my graduation day, when I was speaking in front of my class, my parents, and the my teachers, I was missing something. I'd spent the last 12 years in that school and I didn't really know a single student, had never dated anyone, and really had no 'good' friends. Standing in front of a couple hundred people and I felt very alone. I hadn't really fought against the feeling of discomfort I'd had for most of my life, I'd embraced it instead, hiding inside books.
           
            I think I had a turn of Luck. I hadn't even originally intended to apply to Michigan Tech. It was done randomly due to a mix up in a request for information from the school. I wanted information on the Math department; they sent me an acceptance letter. Just a result of a mix up, I receive an application with the fee waived a few weeks later, so I applied. Later, when it was coming down to the wire, I had to pick Tech; U of M was giving me nearly nothing, Rose-Hullman still would cost a fortune, Tech was the only realistic option. I simply accepted that I'd be going here, regardless of the fact that from, like I'd said, I'd heard it was a frozen conservative wasteland. At the same time, it had one great benefit; it was 10 hours away from everyone I knew, 10 hours away from anyone I had to worry about, and 10 hours away from my parents. I love them, but there are just certain things you can't figure out with your parents around. Freedom comes not only in actions, but in thoughts.

            I really met my first friends here at tech due to more Luck. I came here as Computer Engineering (Currently Mechanical Engineering with a Secondary degree in Scientific & Technical Communications), but didn't really meet many people during Orientation. Once again, the same things in highschool that were holding me back, were holding me back here at first. Its hard to be open with people when you're hiding things about yourself from everybody, including yourself. Luckily, my brother was going to tech and he had a number of friends who were Computer Science majors, namely members of the Linux Users Group (LUG), Permanent Floating Riot Club – a geeky science fiction club – (PFRC), and Computer Aided Engineering Labs (CAEL) of the MEEM.  I originally was stuck in a two person room in East McNair with 3 people, neither of which I had much in common with. When I was given the option to move into Wadsworth Hall, I jumped at the chance. This was about three days into classes though, and my parents had left, leaving me a room full of my stuff and no-one to move it.
           
            Not too long after I called my brother, he and his friends showed up with a group of people. Jon, Pyro, Dark, Mary, Xobes, Caitlin, and Rachel, they showed up at my door, grabbed my things and started walking. My only option was to follow; you don't argue with a group of CS majors when they're walking away with your stuff. I moved into my room and started going to LUG, started attending PFRC, and started meeting people. The attempt the school makes for people to meet people didn't quite work with me; in the three years that I've been here, I've never really met the people in my hallway, despite the various hallway events, dorm fun, and general group activities by the campus. Instead I met people my freshman year by going on cruises through the Keweenaw, swimming with members of CAEL out at the Waterworks (I still remember Christian running out of the water because Dark ripped off his shorts), blowing up things in microwaves, hiking up Hungarian Falls, and taking walks out to Nara Point at 3:00 AM (If you haven't seen Nara Point, you should, its just an hour or so down the bike trail by the portage towards Chassell, and its beautiful, whether its pouring rain and you're so depressed you want to die, its burning out and you can barely keep your clothes on, or its a moonlit night, and you still can barely keep your clothes on.)

            There are different sides of things though. While I may have been doing the whole student thing, meeting new people, taking classes that interested me ranging from my “Individual versus Society” Perspectives class (Be warned, they misname these classes), to Introduction to Computer Science (the reason that I've changed my major twice), I still was trying to find something else. I thank Christian for that. See, while most of the members of LUG, CAEL, and PFRC were just your normal geeky (but still cool), straight tech students, Christian was gay. He was the first gay person I'd ever openly talked to or even really met, and I still consider myself incredibly lucky. If I'd met some of the gay people I've met recently, ones who are less geeky, less similar to me, I'm not sure if the following years would have developed as they have. He's been if not my best friend one of my more loyal ones, and he introduced me to gay.com. (Isn't the internet great?)

            See, like a small portion of this campus, reportedly 10% but actively far fewer it seems, turns out I was gay. Surprise to me. Turns out this was what was confusing me in highschool, confusing me here when I was trying to make friends, and generally holding me back. I told Christian, once again through the wonder of the Internet (Never try to talk anonymously to someone on Internet Relay Chat and gay.com chat unless you actually want them to figure out who you are), and he told me to go to Keweenaw Pride, the GLBTQA (Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian, Transgender, Questioning, and Ally group on campus.) Of course, I didn't, at least not right away. Regardless of realizing this about myself, its one thing to realize that you're gay, its another thing to be comfortable enough to have other people know it, to have your friends or family know it, and to go to a meeting filled with strange people who you've never met before and have them know it. So, it took a little bit.

            A few things helped the process. First off, Rachel, Caitlin, Stephanie, Ashely and Teaz. Rachel realized that she really should be an Art student and is currently going to St. Olaf's (I miss her, I'm not certain if she understands she held my life in her hands for a few minutes). Caitlin and her were the first two straight people I told I was gay, on a cold October night. I partied with Stephanie, Rachel, and Ashley, and told them after a party. This resulted in me in Ashley's bedroom, yelling for a hickey (ended up with one, but not from the girls), and messaging my friend Jon online and making him the first straight guy I told. Luckily, he forgot and went back to his computer. I work with Teaz now and its thanks to her I have my current job and have experienced a number of things I wouldn't have otherwise that would be better left untyped. I do not know if they realize it, or ifs the same for others, but I would do just about anything these five girls.  They were the first people who knew, and their reaction determined whether I would end up stuck in the closet like many of the gay guys at tech or accepting it and enjoying it.

            So I was having fun. Going to classes, going to LUG, meeting guys like Aaron (our alumni are quite attractive!), and generally being...bored out of my freaking mind. See, it turns out the energy I put into reading in highschool couldn't just disappear.  When you spent the last 18 years reading books and generally being introverted and bookwormish, and then you realize that you can still do this but to a far lesser degree and actually SOCIALIZE and have FUN, well, there are suddenly many more hours in the day. Aimless fun though, it loses its fun eventually when you don't have a specific goal. From this concept came a second mental transition. The desire to do things that make me uncomfortable! Most of my first year at Tech, and my first summer, were spent simply finding college and having fun. My second year and summer were spent finding my goals.

            I think this might be the biggest goal to learn in college. Find what makes you uncomfortable, what you don't like, or what just generally makes you feel funny, and do it. So, I finally went to Keweenaw Pride rather than just chatting randomly with people online or meeting them every once in a while on campus. That led to going to my first Midwest GLBT College conference, which led to my brother finding out I was gay, which led to me dating my first random person, which led to me telling my parents that I was gay. Four things that made me incredibly uncomfortable and were things I would never have done on my own down, any number more to go! Its amazing how easy giving a speech in class can be when you've had to tell your parents that you like guys or how stress free an exam can be in comparison to standing on a door step and asking someone if they'll go out with you.

            With joining Keweenaw Pride came joining Mu Beta Psi and starting to do volunteer work, two more things which I'd never done before. Once again, I never thought I'd join or like a fraternity, having worked from the previous misconception that fraternities simply partied and trashed things. Now, well, I know thats wrong. They're a good way to meet people, to socialize, but also to help the community. They're what make connections to this school for many people, including me, and they are what help build secondary families for people. I feel torn at times though now. I started school here enjoying the more random bits of fun that exist at Tech and have gone now more into the bits of fun that are organized and formal. Things like selling programs at Hockey games, making and distributing posters as Public Relations chair for KP, asking businesses for donations, going to reportedly skill building things like 'Leadershape' or becoming an Orientation Team Leader. These are all fun in a different way, in, well, a more resume building way.

            This isn't to say that everything is freshness and light. Depression, its a major issue up here at times. For a gay guy, between the weather, lack of realistic dating prospects, and classes, its hard to stay happy all the time. Counseling Services has helped me a number of times, along with friends in each of the groups I'm in. The major thing thats gotten me down at times has been relationships. Its hard to give advice on this, and the words will generally fall on deaf ears, but don't take them too seriously up here. I've tried dating three times up here, and only one could be considered a success, with actions through the others landing me in pretty dark states. It would be nice to say dating guys up here as a guy is easy, but its a better preperatory statement to tell you that its better to be a little tough and not try to hard.

            So where do I stand now? Like the rest of my college experience, things are still changing. My major rests comfortably at ME with STC and I'm attempting to join the Aerospace Enterprise. I have a co-op with Kimberly Clarke in Neenah Wisconsin next fall and hopefully have work lined up for the summer in between up here in Houghton. I've had more experiences in the dating realm, which is still quite hard at Michigan Tech, but at least I've had some experience. I sometimes think about what my life would be like if I'd gone to U of M, or another university, and I think I made the right choice by coming here. Michigan Tech has been a major growing experience for me, and I am a better person for having come here. Overall, I'm happy...that may not sound like much, but compared to highschool, its a world of difference. I've been my saddest in college, but I've also been my happiest at Michigan Tech.

            And its all because of a messup with the Math department and an acceptance letter.

 

*(I realize as I finish this, that I have failed to mention much of my academic accomplishments. While I focus on the continuing theme of finding who you are, finding what makes you uncomfortable, and finding what makes you happy, REMEMBER! You can't stay here unless you keep your grades up. I'm not an A student, I decided it wasn't worth the stress that I went through in highschool to go for strict A's, but I'm an AB-BC student. As much as some time is spent having fun, more is spent in the labs, going over lab reports, checking papers, reading books, and trying to figure out my calculator. Find yourself, but don't lose your oppurtunities!)

 
 

 

 

 

  putting up a drag show banner

 

 

michael

 
   
   
 

 

 

 

   
michael and elsa  
   
   
  fraternity
   
   

 

 

 

 

 

 
   
 
   
   
kday  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
  nada
   
   
   
   
snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gay conference

   
jon  
   
   
 

 

 

cutge

   
   
   
   
dancing

 

 

 

 

 

 

picture of michael swing dancing