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Humans of Rutgers

Starting tomorrow, I'll be teaming up with Mark Conference on Mondays this semester to tell the stories of those around campus who aim to leave their mark on the world around them.

The Mark Conference is an innovative leadership summit that engages students in a creative atmosphere to inspire and equip the upcoming generation to lead the world.

In meeting students and those around Rutgers, I have always aimed to connect with people who are passionate about telling their story. With this collaboration, we plan to highlight the stories of those around campus who wear that passion on their sleeve and who see themselves as agents of change and positivity.

"I went to Rutgers myself, so I've been taking my daughter to some of the games with me. She was born with a rare immune deficiency so last time we were out here, she was wearing a mask and we were in a special spot. She recently got new medicine though and it's working, so this is her first big game out and about."

"About a year ago, as my friends were getting jobs and getting experience in the workforce and as life was moving on ahead of me, I was so afraid that I would be judged for not having a job myself, or not getting an internship or not getting out there in the adult world. I was so, so scared of taking the next step. And last year, I was actually about to get a job myself, but then I chickened out of calling for an interview. I didn't want to change my life because I was so much in my comfort zone. Well it happened again more recently and all I had to do was call in, and I didn't do it. But I finally built the courage when my dog got sick. He had an infection in his liver which we thought was cancer at the time. The treatment cost around $2,000 and even more for testing and all that. My family and I were gathering all the money we could and I felt very useless in the situation as I had no money because I was unemployed. So while I was in the doctor's office, I walked out of the room and that's when I made the call to ask for the interview. And within a week I got the job. And that's when I found out my dog was alright and that it was just an infection. I'm not a religious person, more spiritual I guess, but it just seemed so special and in place for my dog to get better right as I got that job. That was really the final step for me transitioning into who I am today."
- Secrets from the Sole

"I'm struggling with my ability to balance passion with keeping a straight head. My dad is very passionate, but he lacks rationality. And my mom is so rational that she lacks passion. So I constantly feel this push and pull. I'm trying to find a balance because I really believe in being a Renaissance woman, but it's difficult. For now, I'm looking to find a job in my major after I graduate, I'll take the GRE's, and I also applied for the fire department in my city as a realistic Plan B. But then I'm just going to pursue my music. I'm just gonna go for it. I think this is the time to do it. Everyone says in their 20's 'Oh I have so much time, I'm so young,' but they never use any of their time. My greatest fear is to be on my deathbed with regret. Because at that point, there's no time left."

"As a little kid I wanted to play baseball. In my section of the city growing up they had baseball teams, and I lived two blocks away, so I would always see these kids playing ball. And I remember one day I was walking with my mom and I said, 'Mom I want to do that, I want to play.' And I remember her apologizing and telling me that we didn't have the money for it. That was one of the first moments when I realized that my parents are doing the best they can, and obviously they're doing a great job with what they have, but those certain extracurriculars were just not possible. I come from an immigrant background and we didn't have as much money as your average American family. So for me, moving forward, financial security is a very big incentive. I want to be able to afford my parents and my future family the opportunities that they deserve."

"A lot of the time, we get marginalized by concepts that limit us to a certain sort of characteristic based on our gender or our race, where we were raised, or our environment and things like that. But those things that limit us in saying 'You can't do something because you're this, or you can't be someone because you're that. You can't dance like this, act like this, pray like this because you happen to be this way;' it's that recognition that actually makes me understand that I can. I definitely can. And who's anyone to say that I can't? I feel like humility is very important. You should be a humble person. But right next to that humility, you need to be confident. And not confident in a pompous way, and not confident in an 'I think I'm the shit' way, or 'I think I'm better than you.' It's confident in the sense that you know that no one is better than you, and no one is under you. So you're just doing you to the fullest. And what we don't like a lot of the time, in our culture, is for people to be confident. When people truly understand their talents and want to show it forth, they get held back because they don't want to be called a kiss-ass or stuck up or showoff. But when you know yourself and you have this love for yourself, why not? The world is a better place because we're so different and because we're so talented and beautiful, externally and internally. So why not add that beauty to the world?"

"Before I graduated from Rutgers, I was in school for a while and I felt like a lot of my potential was based on my grades. If I didn't get a good grade in math, I was a poor math student, and so on. But it's important for every person to look around and find their strengths in life outside of class; to reach that goal and find satisfaction. At the hospital, I definitely feel like my potential is being reached and that's something a lot of people are always fearing while in college. They may not be doing so well in classes and may feel bad about themselves, but you'll really have a chance to reach your true potential once you graduate and get to a place where everything sort of lines up and you're doing what you're supposed to be doing."

"We're both on the swing dancing team, president and vice president. And we're dating too. Swing has a weird way of coupling people together for some reason. We met swing dancing and now we're a couple, and our treasurer and secretary are a couple too, among others. You get to know a lot about each other when you've got your hands all over them all the time."

"I grew up with my family, and mostly my mom, taking me to church and teaching me those values. She didn't force it on me or anything like that, but as I grew up I started getting more interested in it on my own. I started reading the bible myself just to see how I felt about it, and it just resonated with me so I stuck with it. I got baptized and everything as a baby too, but when I was around 14, I got re-baptized on my own. It's funny because my mom's family isn't religious at all, but as she got older she just decided to start going to church. And for me, it just always stood out as something special, because I see her as a good person and as a good role model with all the things she does in life. And whenever you ask her about it, she says it's because of her religion or her beliefs. So I always aspired to be like that."

"My grandfather died when I was young, and after the funeral, I went home and we had a piano at the house. So I went to sit down at the piano and made a song about him. And I ended up performing it at a piano recital. And my grandma, the only thing I remember her saying to me, was 'thank you.' I don't know if I knew at that moment that I wanted to do composition, but I always loved the idea of creating music that could impact people in some way, or touch people emotionally."

"It's my first day of classes here, so it's a bit hectic. It's high school all over again, except like 10 times bigger. But I'm honestly here for the big community. I really admired that; considering how anyone, no matter how diverse they are or what skill sets they bring to the table, can join something or get involved here. No one is left out and if someone is truly left out, they can always make a club. You know, it's a state school so it's huge, and that's the aspect I love most about Rutgers; there's something for everyone."

"If you could give advice to a large group of people, what would it be?"
"Don't let anybody tell you what you can or can't do, and don't ever tell yourself that you can't do something because that's when you limit yourself. And you'll never find out what you can or can't do until you actually try. So no matter how much you struggle, those struggles will make you so much stronger and you'll find out that you have this strength you never knew you had before."

"We met at the student accounting office here at Rutgers. I was in line talking with my roommate, speaking in Portuguese. And she speaks Spanish, so she couldn't understand it, but said that something sounded familiar. So we started talking and before I left the building, I realized I hadn't gotten her name. I looked back at her and at the same time, she looked back at me. We've been together for almost a year now."

"I came out in high school as a trans person and started hormones and everything and I got these to symbolize everything I've been through. I was born in New York and always saw these bridge cables around. But then we moved to South Jersey and it was completely different. It was horrible, so intolerant. It was so homogenous. I got beat up all the time.
I put 'try to smile' on there because it's really hard to smile sometimes. It's helped me through some bad times. For me, it means that everything I'm faced with now, I can overcome. And that I can climb over anything that comes my way."

"I am a survivor of childhood abuse and I have PTSD and I've been working on that a lot recently. It's just been really important for me to try to communicate to other people how difficult this is, and how kind of strangely shaped it makes you. And that it's something much more common than we imagine. And so, none of us should have to continue to believe we need bad treatment from people. Just because it may be people that are close to you, or people that you care about, you don't have to stick around for that. And none of us should assume that somebody who has some kind of problem or difficulty is just being whiny. You know, just because it doesn't look like what we imagine trauma to look like, or unhappiness to look like, doesn't mean it's not a valid thing."

"What's something you've learned from your mom?"
"To keep moving forward, never give up, always have faith, and to always put in everything you've got so you can succeed in anything you do.
In high school, during my sophomore or junior year, I took an English class which was very difficult for me. And she didn't tell me to switch classes or give up, she said to keep working at it and that I would keep learning and it would get better. And it got better.
Now my goal is to be a nurse or a physician. In India, where she's from, the medical field is traditionally very acclaimed and a lot of students study that; where in the future, after all the years spent working and studying, it pays off. So she told me to go for it."
"After all of this hard work, how would you give back to your mom?"
"I would help financially support both my parents after all the years and money they've spent providing for me and for my education."

"I'm worried that people now rely too much on technology. Originally, the web was set up so that people could share papers as a way of getting around all of the differences in operating systems they had back then. Now, they want to do everything online. I can't imagine for instance, personally, teaching a poetry class online. I think that if you couldn't look into the other people's eyes and see the response, you would lose a great deal. And I know the push for things like this, registering online, this and that, some of it gets rid of what was once tedious work, but it starts to lose some of the personal quality that goes in. You know, the idea of hearing my favorite professor, this fellow named Denis Donoghue, this guy from Ireland; He had this wonderful voice and he would spit out long sentences. That would be completely lost online. It was the drama of being in the room with him, and it helped you to be a better writer, just to experience something like this. And I'm worried that we're going to lose that."

"I've always tried not to judge people. No one's ever given a fair shot. We always look at someone by the color of their skin, by the clothing that they're wearing, or something like that. We make assumptions, and it's not fair. And a lot of the time, these judgements aren't accurate. And I've been trying to do this thing for years where I try to go into meeting someone without any preconceived notions about who they are, or how they think, or what their background is. But some of the nicest people are the ones you'd least expect. But on top of that, when you're not judging, you open yourself up to actually getting to know someone. And you can change yourself a lot that way as well. It allows for connections with a lot of different people outside of yourself, and it takes you outside of your comfort zone. And you get to trust people that way, and people trust you and listen to you too. To me, character is a lot more important than appearance, and the only thing that you can get without talking to someone is an appearance as opposed to character or who they are inside."

"I had a rough childhood. Coming from a bad town, growing up around poverty, I kind of realized that I don't want to have my kids grow up like that and I didn't want to have to grow up like that anymore, so I moved out. I wanted to be different from the kids that are over there because, you know, they didn't necessarily go to college. They may have went to high school, they may have dropped out, went to jail, done drugs, you know, in the streets. And I looked at that, and that's not for me. So I kind of used that as motivation.
Honestly, there are some people that I've grown up with who are still in the streets not doing well and they see me when I come back and visit and they ask how I'm doing and what I've been doing and I tell them, you know, playing sports in college, studying this and that, and they say now they want to go back to school and, you know, I have some younger kids look up to me too so that keeps me going. And it kind of puts pressure on my shoulders to have people looking up to me, so I know I can't fail, I can't let them down. And I definitely can't let myself down."

"I'm really passionate about learning how things work. I'm a mechanical engineer here, so especially things like machinery and cars and stuff like that. My dad works on cars himself, so it's something I've grown up with and really got into after seeing what he did, but I've decided to take it one more level and go with engineering. I'm really into outer space too, so I'd love to work with NASA and work on rockets one day, but it's a dream. And with everyday things, everybody needs bridges, everybody uses cars, so the better we make them, the further we move into the future. And I think that's pretty cool."