Be on the lookout for the February issue of The Blue & White, on campus now! Bwog will again honor our heritage/amorous affair with our mother magazine by posting features from the upcoming issue. Such treats include the first part of a discussion on the Columbia School, an investigation into Columbia’s animal testing practices, and a talk about, well, self-pleasure. Here, Carolyn Ruvkun introduces you to someone whom you may not know—but should.
“I want to perpetuate good feelings,” exclaims Erik Nook. A certified massage therapist, bartender, ballroom dancer, cheesecake baker, scarf knitter, and classical saxophonist, the Columbia College senior radiates happiness. “Or I could just be crafting myself into the perfect wedding planner,” he jokes.
Born into a “family of healers”—his dad is a chiropractor and his mom is a veterinarian—Nook grew up in an 800-person town in Iowa, where, he recalls, “everyone was white, Christian and straight.” His father’s job sent the Nooks to Kloof, South Africa, and Perth, Australia; their itinerant lifestyle resulted in the “Nookism,” “Hey, we’ve been there!”
Nook speaks reverently of his parents, who promote the self-care and balance he treasures. After getting his requisite eight hours of sleep, Nook wakes up to family photos and inspirational quotes decorating his dorm room walls. He upholds the maxim “life is good.”
But you often affirm an idea once you have been forced to challenge it. “The mantra came from my coming out experience,” Nook explains. After graduating from an Australian high school in November 2006, he decided to take a gap year. “I had this compulsion to rework my understanding of the universe,” Nook recalls. He spent the year reconciling his “previous me and present me” before realizing that, “you can nuance any identity to make it exactly what you want.”
“I take balance and wellness very seriously,” the compassionate confidant continues. He credits psychology and philosophy, his eventual major and concentration, with helping him reach this understanding: “if I can’t heal myself how can I heal other people?” Nook’s friend, Hannah D’Apice, CC ’12, marvels, “I think he has done really great things to improve the wellness on campus before this whole wellness movement even started.” A Peer Educator in the Sexual Violence Response Program and coordinator of Stressbusters, Nook remembers prepping for the dog-therapy study break last semester as a favorite Columbia moment. After receiving one of Nook’s massages—complete with his signature move, the Russian effleurage—one girl felt so relaxed she curled on the floor and fell asleep. “I took that as a compliment.”
“I try to cultivate gratitude in my own life,” he adds. Until pressed, Nook does not even mention his induction into Phi Beta Kappa academic honors society or membership in the psychology honors program. “He gets very bashful when others praise him,” says D’Apice. But Nook would argue that external forces are enabling him to achieve because “there is no ‘I’ doing anything.” Instead he reasons, “there’s the energy that has come to me through my parents, the things that I have learned, and the experiences that have allowed me to do stuff, and stuff has been done!” Personal success is the product of “something greater that is interested in things going well […] That makes the world much less scary,” he laughs.
A conversation with Nook leaves you feeling full. After reflecting questions back on this reporter, he listens actively, gesticulating emphatically and responding with understanding “mmhmms” in his characteristic slow soothing tone. “It just makes me feel good to spend time with someone, and leave with both people feeling positive.”