Senior Wisdom: Zach Levine
Written by Bwog Staff
Name, Hometown, School, Major: Zach Levine, Fresno, California, CC, Anthropology
Claim to Fame? Columbia’s gayest salutatorian since George Stephanopoulos. Sarah Camiscoli’s daughter. Really-wrote a thesis that is pretend-entitled “The Gayest Miracle.” Pretend-wrote a real porno entitled “The Gayest Miracle.”
Columbia’s most confusing salutatorian.
Where are you going? New York. My parents aren’t paying for me to fly home to Fresno. Taking the year off to sleep (on, with). Someone please hire me!!! Anything but musical theater and finance. Afterwards, hopefully a joint JD-PhD in cultural anthro. Then POTUS. That is when I will publish my political memoir, “The Gayest Miracle.”
Three things you learned at Columbia:
- Everyone is gay.
- The Hartley Computer Lab is the single hottest place above hell.
- It’s amazing how much more visible you become to some people when you weigh 100 pounds less than you did the year before. Amazing is not the right word.
“Back in my day…” The Hartley Computer Lab was at room temperature. Something happened the summer after my first year that I am still trying to get my head around. In 2010 Alana Schwartz and I saw someone getting CAVA’d out of the lab.
Justify your existence in 30 words or less: I throw a monthly temper tantrum in the EC laundry room. Speaking of, I recently took someone’s Gap Body lady-panties on accident. If they’re yours, I am currently wearing them.
Is the War on Fun over? Who won? Any war stories? If there were moments I wasn’t having fun at Columbia, they didn’t happen because I wasn’t drinking a beer on a library roof somewhere. Go to Sunnyside and Prospect Heights and Inwood. Do your reading at Outpost Cafe in Clinton Hill. Get the red sonja at Mundo Café in Astoria and the green curry at Sripraphai in Woodside (Andrea Folds, Claudia Sosa, and BQ Quigley, you still owe me dates). Email me or Zehra Hashmi and we will send you a running list of Queens’ best vindaloo.
Would you rather give up anal sex or cheese? I changed the question. Answer is still cheese.
Advice for the class of 2016:
- If after two years you haven’t met the soulmate-friends some propaganda promised you, hold tight. It probably means you’re a more complex person than the kind NSOP wants you to be for their photoshoot.
- “Interesting research is research on the conditions that make something interesting.” That’s a really unglamorous sentence. But figuring out why we come to be interested in the things we do is probably a more complicated and urgent task than mastering the things themselves. Spend your time here mining the source of your orientation to certain disciplines, areas of the world, friends, senses of humor, bodies, and sexual acts. The upshot is expanding your own world of possibility, loving things you once repulsed. I think that’s why the crying you do senior year is so much fuller than the crying you do your first year.
- You may not love the Core. I do not love the Core. I liked two songs in Music Hum. One is on my pregaming playlist. I also never understood why or how a pedagogy can appeal to someone in the abstract.
- Spend your summers doing uncomfortable, risky things, ideally abroad. Locate your intellectual and professional heroes and email them. Not their administrative assistants: them. Just a few months into my first year I sent a naïve but impassioned email to an anthropologist at Harvard I greatly respected, and it ended up landing me positions with Partners In Health for two summers, including one spent in Peru. Those summer experiences tell you a lot about what you don’t want to do, but what else can you be expected to learn as a 19-year-old?
- From an email from my psychiatrist: “There’s something called the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory that tabulates the impact of significant life events, both good and bad, on health and well-being. If you look at it, you’ll see that ‘outstanding personal achievement’ is roughly as stressful as foreclosure.” We all, at one point or another, become acquainted — sometimes all too intimately — with how miserable an experience living and studying at Columbia can be. Two of our classmates took their lives during our time here. That fact deserves constant pause. We owe it to each other, but moreso ourselves, to be upfront about what pain and shame and unbelonging feel like at 4am on a Tuesday. Someone is always awake, but someone doesn’t always know to reach out. Share suffering. Full-stop.
Any regrets? Not appreciating myself for things besides my brain for so long. Not appreciating other people’s brains for so long. Never eating an M2M cheeseburger. I know I still have a few weeks left to do that, I’m just realistic about it not happening. Especially if it means having to give up anal.