Chandler Collins: Living in the Prism

I was told I’d grow to long for the growing purple shadows on the Lawn and that I’d find a 2nd family and that by Christmas I’d be calling this place home. As I reach the halfway point of my first semester here I begin to reflect on if these promises would hold true. I’m happy to report that they have. I lay on the perfectly kept grass of the lawn and see that this place is a prism. Thousands of disparate beams follow their trajectory and are refracted through this place and sent out in a new direction. I see a small girl, chasing after dancing leaves as her parents slowly trudge along behind. The mother, her left hand cocked against her hip for support, lilting under the weight held inside her stomach. As the girl grows tired, her father swings her up and places her on her shoulders. She raises her arms and gives a yelp – a battle cry of a tiny warrior riding her chariot.

I see a couple that doesn’t yet know they are. They toss a football under the elms.

I lay in the middle. I sit in the prism watching the beams bounce around me and change shape. A cold wind blows and snaps me out of my musings. Thankfully the wind reminds me to take a trip out of my mind every now and then.

Breathe. Breathe. I live in my mind too much. It’s cozy in there and I can rearrange memories and can pick and choose what version of reality to inhabit.

I think I love this place, but I don’t know if I’m actually in love with it or in love with the idea of it. I’ve always had a problem that. Why do I write this? I’m not sure. I like to think of this musings as mental milestones – relics of how I approached life in a certain time period.

Chandler Collins: Accepting Rejection

Today, along with ~3,200 hopeful students across the world, I wasn’t accepted into Princeton. When looking at other people’s problems, we have a tendency to diminish their effects on the person. While this isn’t the world for me or for the other applicants, it can still be difficult to feel as if your future has been swept out from under you. For me, I’ve had my heart set on Princeton since touring it in June. So for six months I’ve hoped to be able to call it home, but now it seems that I won’t be able to.

A key part of accepting rejection is by approaching it differently. I’m trying to view my rejection not as a lost opportunity, but as a sign that I should look somewhere else. In my mind, I view colleges like travel destinations. Imagine you’re standing in an airport and someone says gives you a free ride ticket to any destination you choose. How do you go about choosing where to go?

While there are certainly travel destinations that are worse than others (I don’t imagine I’ll be taking a family trip to Damascus anytime soon), once you get to the top there really isn’t a way to go wrong. If Princeton was Reykjavik, Georgetown was Paris, Auburn was Vienna, Alabama was London… how do you choose between them?

So, upon reflection, I’ve come to be grateful that my future has been made clearer. While my original flight has been cancelled, I’m now able to pack my bags and get going towards a new destination. Paris here I come.

Chandler Collins: on originality

Nearly everything that I say or write isn’t original. It’s influenced by the people, media, and possessions that I encounter. I struggle with trying to “find my voice” when I sound like so many other people.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth trying to “fight the system” and have a unique opinion when my opinions aren’t as articulate or as worthy as the others that I read. I feel like a recycling bin. Churning out other people’s thoughts and giving my opinions on them.

One of my favorite quotes from Birman is about this idea of constant criticism. “A thing is a thing, not what is said about the thing.” I often feel like a labeler that provides nothing constructive.

I’d like to voice my own opinions, yet I don’t know how to filter out the nuggets of my truth from the constant barrage of other people’s (better written) musings. I don’t want to give up, because admitting defeat in writing feels that I admit defeat in becoming unique.

To end this piece, I’d like to steal a nugget from e.e. cummings, ““To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

Chandler Collins: On Direction

I’ve been having a difficult time lately figuring out whether or not I’m moving in the right direction with my life. I think back to myself in seventh or eighth grade and it feels that then I had more purpose than I do now. In seventh grade, I programmed my own encryption application in Java by myself. I had only been programming for a few months at that point and simply fell in love with it. I remember I would stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning working on my website. has certainly been through quite a few iterations.

My first website, t3ch720, focused on technology and programming. I wrote articles on apple products, reviews of gadgets, and posted my predictions of what I thought the tech landscape would look like in the future. All of this from a 13 year-old, pretending to be an expert. “fake it till you make it” certainly fit me to a “T”. I lost my passion for t3ch720 after a few months and I needed a change of pace. Shortly after I founded the nexus experiment. I was terrible with naming things at this time by the way. The Nexus was similar to t3ch720 except focussed more on programming and the philosophy behind it as opposed to the consumer side of technology.

Neither of these projects lasted more than a year, yet they showed that I was capable of making something entirely my own. I could design and edit CSS, register domains, use analytics software, SEO, etc yet I never published anything of value. I simply published what I thought someone would want to read. I’ve been listening to the Fizzle podcast lately and in the first few episodes they talk about this effect. They talk about the difficulty of finding your voice and why it matters.

My early writing and website design was done by me – yet not made for me. I did not care for those subjects. While I had a passion for them, they didn’t pull me in and make me care for them. I’m not sure what subject I truly care about except for myself. As narcissistic as that sounds, what do you know more intimately than you? I think this is my latest – and hopefully last – attempt at creating something that is truly Chandler Collins.

So, in conclusion, I don’t want to leave this Earth without having left something behind. To quote Banksy, “[T]hey say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” I understand that my flesh won’t last too long and that my name won’t last much longer, but a naïve part deep down dares me to try to last a little bit longer. Let’s see if it works.

Chandler Collins: Living a fifth-life crisis

Everyone is familiar with the mid-life crisis. Depending on who you ask, its either a transition into old age or a short term depression that occurs around the middle of someone’s life.

You may also be familiar with the quarter-life crisis. The quarter life crisis is similar but it takes place typically in someone’s mid 20s after college when they feel thrust into the “real world” and are unsure where to begin.

I’m not sure if much is ever talked about the fifth-life crisis. The fifth-life crisis, although rarer than the other criseses, is just as serious. The fifth-life crisis takes place near the end of high school when a teen is unsure where to go next. Symptoms of the fifth-life crisis include but are not limited to the following: an overwhelming sense of anxiety about life after high school, a need to have your life plans figured out by graduation, and a hunger for meaning in life.

To be perfectly truthful, I’m not entirely sure that the fifth life crisis exists, but I feel that if it did I’d be in the midst of it right now. I realize that around a fifth of my life is already up and it almost feels that I’ve wasted up. Most of my life so far has been spent building a foundation so that I can eventually build the rest of my life on top of it. I see know that there are cracks in that foundation and I want to repair those before the structure comes tumbling down.

I feel that much of this feeling of mediocrity stems from modern media. Glorification of the outliers is the norm. I’m sure we’ve all seen videos of parkour or bmx or extreme sports online or on television. The truth is that the people we see have dedicated years of their life to achieving that goal and we only get to see the finished product. No one loves to look at the scaffolding of a building as it is being assembled. No one cares to see the results of someone that isn’t quite there yet.

An excellent article that discusses this topic in further depth is Mark Manson’s “In Defense of Being Average”. I highly recommend taking a look if you what I’m describing applies to you.

I heard a quote once in a similar vein. “Don’t compare your behind the scenes with someone else’s highlight reel.” I often forget that I only see the best of other’s because that is what they choose to present. Many of us have this grand idea of who we want to become. Most of us want money, power, fame, happiness, or some combination of those four. Even if we achieve this how do we know that we’ve reached our goals? Am I happy when someone comments how often I seem to be cheerful? Or am I happy when I feel deep down that I’m truly content with my existence.

These goals become more vague when it comes to goals of perception. How does one truly know if they’ve become famous or if they’re perceived as powerful?

Perhaps my obsession with greatness comes from seeing a world around me that appears to be overflowing with talent and feeling that I don’t quite measure up. Perhaps my obsession with the idea of greatness is preventing me from ever attaining my goal. In the Japanese art of kyudo (also known as the way of the bow), there is a simple tenet that you must accept. If you’d like your arrow to hit your target, do not focus on hitting the target. Simply focus on aligning your body in a way that allows the arrow to fly where it wants to go. This is a small but important distinction.

Do not focus solely on what you want to become, focus on what it takes to get there and the rest will fall in place.

I’m still struggling with finding an area into which I should spend my time. From a young age, I’ve pursued the quality of “well-rounded.” I like to think I’ve finally achieved that. I can write decently, I’m not terrible with a few instruments, and my photography has finally surpassed mediocrity. Yet I realize that good all over =/= great.

Perhaps I’m losing the forest for the trees here and going hunting for an idea and not something tangible. Perhaps the type of greatness and satisfaction I’m hunting for isn’t out there just yet. Perhaps I should stop using so many rhetorical questions? Who knows!? I’ve got 4/5ths of a mediocre life left to discover these answers.

all posts »

20D.C. Metro [Poem]
26on dreaming [poem]
16L’appel du Vide

31Our Mobile Future
19Living in the Prism
7Endless Summer
7On Finding a Home

17Accepting Rejection
15on journaling
9on necessity
7on originality
5eating an elephant
5On Direction
5Living a fifth-life crisis