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September 10, 1998: The Year in Review

What I learned last summer
by Sage Pitkin, BU class of 2001

I was sitting with my friend Eric at lunch the other day, and he says to me, "You know, Sage, you’re almost done with that sandwich." And I thought, "Wow, he’s right. I am almost done." And it’s like, you never look at it that way.

Like, this summer, my uncle sent me two boxes of nails and some snake meat. And at first I was like, "What am I going to do with two boxes of nails and some snake meat?" But then I remembered, I’ve got an empty jar. So I put the nails and snake meat in it.

‘Cause that’s who I am. That’s my identity. No one can ever take that from me. Oh, people have tried. Judy, one of my Mom’s friends, tried to make my left leg Catholic. She said, "Come on, just for a month." I said, "No, that’s not what I’m about. That’s just not me."

Once I tried to learn Spanish. I didn’t get very far. Turns out it’s another language. And that’s not what I’m about.

That’s what I learned this summer: Be yourself. I know it sounds clichéd, but it’s true. I learned it the hard way.

In early June, I wasn’t happy with myself. I didn’t like certain aspects of my identity. I thought I was "too passive."

So I went to South America and tried to be a conquistador. Oh, I tried to conquer a village or two. I tried to instill my values. But I had to stop pretending — pretending I was a conqueror, pretending one man could change the world, pretending it was the 16th century.

I thought the experience would make me a "take-charge kind of guy." It backfired. I was deported. My pride was badly bruised. But then I thought, "That’s not my pride. That’s the pride of a conquistador trying to make it in the high-tech, dog-eat-dog world of the 20th century." I felt a lot better. I learned some important lessons, lessons I will never forget.

Lesson one you already know: Be yourself. Lesson two: One man can change the world, but he needs more than just charcoal briquettes and gumption. Lesson three: It’s not enough just to want to marry Maria. And all I can remember about lesson four is that it had something to do with Odor Eaters.

For the rest of the summer I lived by those four tenets. I did what I wanted, what I thought was right. I dropped all pretense of being a minimalist and bought a toaster oven and 12 pairs of rubber gloves. It felt great. I abandoned religion. (God was a crutch I would no longer lean on when that big kid made fun of my mole and pulled down my pants and laughed.) I removed everything from my life that I was not 100 percent sure about, including my invisible hammock. I stopped talking to my socks. (I just did it to ingratiate myself with the "popular" girls at my school. But that era was over. They would have to like me for who I was on the inside.)

Why am I telling you all this? Because I care about you. Because I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did. Because this is what being human is all about — sharing. And what do I want to share with you? My experiences, my thoughts, my dreams. And what do I want you to share with me? Your money, your collection of rare fluids, your late grandfather’s secret handshake. Basically, I want you to share with me anything that I can exploit or use to enslave the insect world. Because that’s what being human is really about — you giving me stuff and me using it to become sole monarch over all of bug-dom.

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