special occasion speech.

(background music: Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man)

A toast.

The following statements are true. My name is Daniel James Araujo.

I go to college at SDCC and I am studying English and I also play soccer.

I am about to be 20 in a couple of months and I have only had one job that lasted 8 months.

I barely remember getting a 4.0 in middle school, an A minus on one of my papers in high school and I also passed Empowered Reading last semester with an A, where we learned exactly that: empowered reading.

I like to play video games for extended amounts of time, I still have my Gameboy with a Silver version and on Saturday mornings I like to start my day with reruns of Hey Arnold and Friends.

I also have a mild obsession with dragons, Avatar the Last Airbender, Spider Man and Harry Potter.

I drink tea, I can quote Elf, and I drive a van.

On another note, I run a couple of miles every now and then, I lift weights when I remember to and I’d rather be at the beach than at soccer practice.

In short, I am an average guy doing less than average things.

(cue music) But sometimes the extraordinary happens to me:

Like one time, when I liked this girl that was way out of my league.

When I first talked to her, I got nervous and started sweating in places I didn’t know I could sweat and I then I told her that I couldn’t be her friend because she wasn’t on my flag football team.

Then friend requesting her later on Myspace, apologizing in a comment.

I remember when she called me, how excited I was when her name appeared on the caller id, then answering and it was actually her best friend calling me asking which aisle the ice cream was at Costco.

I remember my limit of 150 text messages per month, counting ingoing and outgoing texts, that was utterly destroyed by the 5000 texts I did in that one week to her, only to find out later that our conversation had been deleted, instead of saving it, like I had.

Then at youth group, our youth pastor asked us to form a circle and I quickly sped my way right next to her so that we could hold hands for prayer. I prayed for a lot of things that night. Nice.

Also later, I remember her introducing the guy she brought to youth group as her boyfriend. Sweet.

Even then, when I said goodbye, I remember giving her an extra squeeze when I hugged her while his back was turned.

I wish I could forget that night, staring at the ceiling a little more than hopeless.

But I could never forget the time that I went to youth camp that was three hours away; I told my best friend that it would be more fun if he sat in the front seat, next to my dad, so he could pick the music for me while I sat in the middle seat next to her.

And then, while I was at camp, I faked being really, really sad, during an emotional campfire moment, just so I could have an extra long hug and get my back rubbed.

Another time when I made her my first pick for flag football and ended up losing.

I remember my secret joy when I saw that she put me in her top 8 instead of the other guy.

And again, my texting bill reached 200$. I remember that.

Then later when we sat by each other in the movies, I was so nervous and couldn’t stop worrying about HOW I was gonna hold her hand, that I didn’t at all.

Finally, a while later, linking her small pinky with mine, in secret and excitement.

Then one time that I once ditched my math class so that I could drive my friend’s car from school to Taco Bell down the road, pick up a quesadilla with no sauce, drive to her private school across town and almost get the cops called on me while I was delivering the food.

Then finally getting unlimited texts.

The late nights falling asleep with the lamp on finishing a letter to her.

The two hour phone conversations that made me late for school the next day.

Making sure to text her good morning, every morning.

Making us Facebook official to finally holding her hand, for reals.

And on Valentine’s day, when I rushed into class room, fearful of cops again, quickly handing her a single rose on bended knee and telling her those fateful, three words for the first time.

Our anniversary, spent at my house.

Our two year anniversary, when I could finally drive, a picnic in the park.

And our three year, that was spent apart.

Looking back, almost four years later, I remember thinking that was the most I could feel for person.

Now, it is more than I thought it could be and then some.

But the crazy thing is, I will be saying that tomorrow, too.

“There are three things that are too amazing for me,

four that I do not understand:

the way of an eagle in the sky,

the way of a snake on a rock,

the way of a ship on the high seas,

and the way of a man with a maiden.”

 

To perseverance, to romance, to love.

 

until the last minute.

I have been afflicted with this disease. Although no doctor has diagnosed me officially, I know that I am sick. This illness, procrastination, has always caused me serious health and life problems. No sleep, exhausting days, switching grammar and other clauses, using the wrong words as spell check corrects my lazy typing, not to mention this growing addiction to coffee.

The earliest I can remember of procrastination was in sixth grade when I had my first project ever in the history of my education. It was the infamous A to Z Egypt book all the sixth graders did at my school, where you find something of Ancient Egypt to matching letter, like A for Anubis, B for… something else… and P for Papyrus.

I had put off this project for the entire month it was due. I literally did zero work on it for the four weeks we had to do it—even during the trips to the library, I would find something else to read instead of researching. The night it was due, I started my frantic internet Googling from A to Z. Even enlisting the help of other family members did not hide the truth that I would not be able to get my project done that night. Upon this realization, I decided to take a personal day. My parents, however, shut that idea down pretty quickly. I begged, pleaded and even cried and had a small panic attack on the horror of not turning in my project on the first day. Still, they were resolute, stone monoliths. I cried myself to sleep and woke dreading, apprehensive and resentful the next morning.

As my teacher collected the projects, I feared the moment when he would come to my desk and proclaim judgment and death upon me. But when that moment came, I merely cringed as he looked over me, walking past my empty desk. Was that all? That was my torment, the extent of my punishment? I had begged for my parents’ mercy to be free from that? I came home lighthearted that day, thinking, “That wasn’t so bad.”

And that is when it all started. Procrastination had taken a firm hold on me, had me in its clutches. I realized that I could work hard on the last day to do it or even turn it in late, get a C on the project while receiving an A for the whole class. I wonder what my life would be like now if my parents had allowed me to stay home from school that day…

Because even now, as I write this, it is just another way that I am procrastinating a project.

 

familiar faces.

I have lately begun to realize truly how wonderful it is to be with people who know you, not just the people that you know. To know someone is a great thing, but to be known is even better. I can honestly relax with the people that know me, and I warm up inside at the comments like, “oh, you would do that,” or “you still do that,” or the “I knew it” sayings. While I like meeting new people, there is nothing like the joy of being with the familar faces of people who know you.

apologies and excess.

I have been in the ring a number of times lately. The regularity of these fights have made me a little irritable and maybe even depressed. I do not really know why they have been regular occurrences, because they used to come like rain in the desert, but I do know that I am ready for them to stop. Even to the point of simply admitting defeat at the first signs of an argument.

Is that so wrong?

If the other corner refuses to submit or even see my side and accept the disagreement so much so that it changes the relationship, victory—or proving my point—is not worth it to me. I will concede defeat, ma’am.

Hold on, a brief phone call.

And another argument.

Wonderful.

Maybe I am just that naïve and stupid and selfish and unreasonable. I don’t understand.

How do I fix this? It is all so very confusing.

 

harry potter.

The new Harry Potter movie came out on Thursday and as usual I was an attendee to this great event. I had high expectations because they are releasing the seventh and last book in two parts, which tells me they took more care in reproducing the details within the book and so it is going to be a lot better. If I had my way as director and producer, I would be filming the movie word for word straight out of the book. While it was not exactly the seventh book remade I thought they hit all the main points and did a splendid job considering how badly the other Potter movies failed at representing the books, especially the fourth movie. As a proud Harry Potter fan, I would give the movie a 7.5 or even an 8, out of 10, rating mostly on how it followed the book and how well they adapted the parts they did follow onto the screen.

I have read all the books at least twice and definitely read the last book more than a couple of times, but I would not call myself a Potter expert or anything but I do have a number of spells up my sleeve. I may have a mild obsession with the wizarding world but it is nothing too crazy. It’s more that I like living in that world of magic and dragons more than anything. I have always been that way with books and reading. I read and I am transported into the book and nothing short of a natural disaster or the voice of an angry mother can shake me back into reality. J.K. Rowling does an excellent job of painting the picture of Harry’s world, making it alive and creating characters that are relatable.

I think that those who condemn the books and movies as being Satanic or black magic are a little ignorant and rash on some level. I do agree that practicing magic of any kind should not be condoned but reading or watching Harry Potter does not equal spell casting and making potions anymore than eating an apple makes you an apple tree. In fact, through an objective lens when examining the books, Harry’s world does not even promote or advocate the use of magic really. Magic is merely one of the embellishments the text employs to make the story interesting. Harry Potter is not about becoming the most powerful wizard with the most spells or even solving problems life problems using magic. The main point of the stories are the classic good conquering over evil and even, I would say, love conquering over all. Very cliché but the books make it interesting by adding the rest of the story.

My main reason for defending Harry is that I think that if you have not read the books or been exposed to the wizarding world, you are missing out on an exciting read and wonderful and lovable characters.

And that would be my plug for Harry Potter right there.

Or perhaps in Slytherin,
You’ll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means,
To achieve their ends.

R.I.P. Severus, Dobby and Fred.

 

on the subject of nerf tag.

I have recently been a participant of a game of Nerf Tag. As of today, I am officially out of the game—or more exactly, I was killed today by assassination. I had a wonderful time playing the game, hiding and running and chasing and tagging. At the end of my life, I had lasted about 83 hours as a target and had an accumulation of 7 kills. By my account, a well spent three days.

First, an explanation of Nerf Tag: participants sign up, entering their names in a huge drawing. The moderator then picks names, glues a picture of the person next to their name and hands out the cards to a different person. Now, upon receiving the card, that person becomes your target. You must find them, chase them and touch them with a little plastic ball for it to be considered a kill. The killed target must then sign the card and give you their untagged target as your next assignment. Unfortunately, there is a catch. Among the other participants, there is someone out there with your name and picture, aka your hunter. This is where the thrill of it lies. In hunting, you are hunted.

The game started with 70 people then quickly dropped to 25 in the first day. The second day brought more deaths with the number of people alive to 20. And when I got out, there were 12 and now as I type there are 10 alive still.

We are playing in an enclosed space and there are rules and safe zones to be observed of course but the rules are somewhat vague and the safe zones are few and far between so running and hiding and chasing is a constant. I expected to have fun which I did have fun. What I did not expect, is that anything would go wrong.

As I now think about it, I guess there is a lot that I should have expected to go wrong. I mean, once giving the objective “SURVIVE AS LONG AS YOU CAN” and “KILL YOUR TARGET” that just taps into the basest of all human emotion doesn’t it? Once I am fighting for my survival, I will do just about anything to ensure that. It is a bit different when it comes to killing, but if I had the opportunity to kill enough people so as to reach the person who was going to kill me, and then kill that person, I would work just as hard to achieve that end as to ensure my survival.

In real life of course. But this is just a game, not real life. I repeat, just a game not real life. No one is really going to “die” or get “killed.”

I suppose there is also the competitive spirit to consider, the drive to win the game. I guess now that I think about it, when you take the motivation to win with those two above objectives, give them to a grip of people then put them in an enclosed space and let them have at it, things are bound to get out of hand.

BUT that is not the problem with the game. In fact, I say, it has nothing to do with the game. The game does not promote any immoral actions or force participants to questionable decisions or to deception or any negative behavior. The game itself is not an evil monster, bent on the intent to spread disunity and disorder.

No, no, no. Timidly, at first but with increasing confidence, I say that the problem is with the participants themselves. In fact, I would go on as to say that one of the benefits of the game of Nerf Tag is to shed light on the character of the participants. And when I say character, I mean an overarching definition of who they are as a person, what do they value, their identity, their beliefs and also are they nice or mean, shallow or profound. The game poses difficult questions to each player exploring different ideas; ones that I think are very important are rarely explored, especially in the environment that the game is taking place in right now.

The questions cover an area of topics:

On the subject of determination, “will I really wait here for an hour for my target?”

On the subject of friendship, “who can I trust with my schedule of where I will be or who I need to tag?” “Who can help me tag my target?” “Who can I trust?”

On the subject of integrity “will I form an alliance only to backstab my allies?” “Will I lie to a question of the whereabouts of one of my friends?”

On the subject of sportsmanship “will I bow out humbly after I get tagged?” “Will I complain about my being tagged?” “Will I shake hands with my target or my hunter?” “Will I harbor feelings of animosity or any negative feelings toward either target, hunter, or non-player?” “Will I conduct myself honorably?”

On the subject of honor “will I be humbly about getting out?” “Will I take this game too far?” “Will I avoid those I love in order to win?” “Will I become so isolated in hiding that my life disappears?”

On the subject of mentality “will I keep trying to play the game until I am out or the game ends, or will I give up?”

On the subject of sacrifice “what am I willing to give up for this game?”

And more questions I am sure you or I could discover with more thought. But I do not want to go on and you don’t want me to either I think.

What I am trying to say is that this game really reveals a lot about a person as they play. I even have discovered a lot about myself while playing this game. The most important part of being able to do that though, is that the entire time I knew I was only playing a game. A game that would end and life would go on. A game not worth friendships, relationships, rude words, questionable behavior, any lie or backstab. It was and is only a game. And it is also a game I like and will continue to play if given the opportunity. I would also defend the game itself for what it is worth.

I think it is worth the friends I made while playing. I have now made something like an addition 10 Facebook friends from this game alone, not to mention the 25 or so real life friends I made as well, but Facebook is better (joke J both are good). These being people I did not share a common ground or have a way of really getting to meet them besides going up to them randomly and introducing myself. It was worth the conversations I had with people about the game and the ones I had with them after the game was over for me. The laughs about what was really happening while I was out back trying to find my target or revealing how long I really waited for them as they were walking or remembering the crazy near misses and the thrill of the chase and the agony of losing. I think it was and is worth these friendships and memories that will continue after the game. I think it is worth the lessons I learned about myself. Also, worth the stronger friendships and trusts I made and earned. It was worth the alliance I built which in turn built a bigger community that was looking out for me that is still something we can look back on as an instance that we came together for. I think it is worth all that and some more. I think it is worth doing again, with maybe some necessary clarifications and disclaimers.

I am not saying I was an angel or that I played perfectly and conducted myself to the standard that I am calling for while playing. I confess I did make some conflicting alliances to neither sides knowledge and maybe went a little overboard on hiding and hunting but not to the effect that anyone was or is hurt by it. In fact, I confessed of these things to them to which they laughed and shook their heads. But I will say that I always kept in mind that I was only playing a game, a simple game, not worth very much, and that when I got out I humbly bowed to my hunter, shook his hand, and went on with my life.

It has been said, “don’t hate the player, hate the game” but I think on some level, too, do not hate the game for the player’s conduct.