I Hate Long Goodbyes But I Wrote One Anyway

| March 21, 2018 | 3 Comments

This post is dedicated to all my wonderful co-writers at Culture Shock – for all the support, inspiration, and wacky conversations we’ve shared around the meeting table these past three years.

And the pizza, of course. 

Three years ago, I applied to Culture Shock on a whim. I wasn’t sure whether I really could write for it; in fact, I wasn’t sure of a great many things at all. My freshman year self was never the sharpest tool in the shed, and perhaps the best thing I could say about him was that he certainly was a tool in a shed.

Fast forward to today, my time as a Boston University undergraduate has come to an end. And suddenly I find myself able to say, with complete and utter conviction, that my time with Culture Shock – with the people, the ideas, the wonderful stories – was easily one of the most essential chapters of my college life. I sent in a writing sample based around one of my numerous childish ideas, titled International Freshman: The Movie, as my application, and somehow our wonderful editors at the time saw something in me that I still don’t quite see. And I will forever be grateful for it.

The first few meetings, I acted as an observer, soaking in all the diverse points of view that our many writers had. They’d come from different places, they all had different stories, and my fears that attending a big university would mean less scope for in-depth conversation about the issues I cared about were suddenly assuaged. Each week brought with it a new topic of discussion, sometimes deep, sometimes distracting, but never disappointing. In the spirit of Howard Thurman, we truly did come alive around that meeting table – and some of my most cherished memories of BU will live on in that room.

The cake was the TRUTH.

The cake was the TRUTH.

When we were less informed about something, we asked, and we challenged one another. We all had little niches, little things we were known for, and though I was nervous at first, found that it was safe to own mine. My editors would cheer me on every time I pitched an absurd idea – a children’s book for adults, a brochure for BU’s odd “North Campus” plans, a syllabus for Procrastination – and I would walk home every day with a big grin on my face, because that kind of support, that trust that I would take on these projects and somehow make them work, was unfathomable to me until then.

It was unfathomable to me that my co-writers would ask me about the Deadpool movie and understand fully that characters like he and Sora had changed my life, pulled me through difficult times even though they were fictional – something that few people back in Bangladesh did not laugh at me about. Culture Shock cares deeply about politics, about opening conversations about race and gender and sexuality and challenging social norms, but I never felt pressured to write about my experiences as a brown immigrant. I felt safe volunteering them, and I did so whenever I felt that need, but outside of those dark times I was allowed to write why I write. We never just talked about real world issues; we talked about our love of stories, too.

And I love stories. I write to escape reality, to escape to my “better place” where heroes like Spider-Man, the X-Men, Simba, Harry Potter, Joel and Ellie, and Aloy give me hope and shelter, where I hope to create hope and shelter for other kids like me, too. As Charles Xavier puts so beautifully in 2017’s Logan, when Wolverine yells about falsehoods perpetuated by fiction, “I don’t think Laura needs reminding of life’s impermanence.” They constantly question whether the safe haven she seeks is real, but what matters is “It is for Laura.” Fiction is real for me, not in a naïve way but certainly a hopeful one, as it is for many others. And that’s why it is so important to both celebrate and criticize it. Here at Culture Shock, I learnt new ways to do both. I got to be the team’s Abed Nadir, and my college experience was complete for it.

Culture Shock became how I dealt with my own culture shock. Through my writing, through verbalizing my fears and frustrations and excitement and exhilaration on both my darkest nights and brightest days, I was able to express a smorgasbord of feelings I would otherwise have been forced to suppress. It took a while for me to get used to BU as home, to Boston as home, especially having come from a whole other country. But my friends were patient and always willing to lend an ear.

Against all odds, Boston became home, too.

Against all odds, Boston became home, too.

So for my last post I owe you all a thank you: to Grace who was as incredibly inspiring and funny as Editor-in-Chief as she was my RA, Vicki who was always ready to talk pop culture, media, and representation in all the best ways, Mackenzie who was the first to cheer me and my brand of satire on, Emily who came to my aid on social media when my hometown faced an unexpected tragedy, Mike who was the first person I’d met at BU as my tour guide and who went on to become one of my favorite people to talk videogames and comics with, Gaya whom I wrote my first collaboration with, Ellen who always had something awesome to say about my posts and even more awesome things to say in her own, Pedro who somehow got to me know me through my work before he did me personally (which for me, was an honor), and all my other incredible co-writers of whom there are too many  to name, but of whom it never felt too much to read. You guys are the best.

Thank you, Culture Shock. I love you guys, and I’m going to end on my last unnecessary pop culture reference by saying that I’ll be cheering every single one of you on as writers, champions, and humans – to infinity and beyond.

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Category: Art and Literature, Campus Culture, featured, Poetry, Prose and Comedy, Reflections, TV and Movies

Aaraf Afzal

About the Author ()

Aaraf Afzal is many things, but he's not particularly good at being any of them. He continues to work towards this goal, among others, studying Film & TV and Economics at Boston University. An avid subscriber to the belief that all forms of media have their own sense of artistic beauty, he is particularly invested in writing fiction and recently released his first novel "Re: Revolution" in Bangladesh. Alongside his pursuits at Culture Shock, he's currently at work writing an online series called "The Chosen Zeroes." Fandoms and inspirations include Neil Gaiman, Kingdom Hearts, Ratchet and Clank, Marvel Comics, and Culture Shock. Giggity.

Comments (3)

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  1. Mike Chan Mike Chan says:

    The pleasure is all mine, Aaraf! Did you’d ever think we’d ever be having this conversation a few years ago, whilst you were still wide-eyed and realizing how terrible Boston summers are? I’m glad that you stuck through, and I’m equally happy to hear that Culture Shock has changed you for the better. I think I speak for many when I say thank YOU for all the generous ideas, reflections, and comments that you have shared that helped us through our own hard times and nutured us into better people. Good luck with writing the next level of your story!

  2. Mackenzie Morgan Mackenzie Morgan says:

    Aaraf! This made me feel things! I am so glad to have been able to continue to read your writing. I love that your writing brings readers into your world and I love the creativity with which you approach issues or convey feelings. You leave such a unique stamp on everything you write and your personality shines through indefinitely. I can’t wait to see where that takes you in the future and to continue to cheer you and your brand on!

    • Aaraf Afzal Aaraf Afzal says:

      Thank you so much, Mackenzie! Your support’s always meant a lot and I’m glad you liked this one. :)

      Your articles and ideas were always inspiring, and of course I’ll be cheering you on too!

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