May

18

Senior Wisdom: Steven Castellano

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castellano
castellano

Steven Castellano

To close out the night, we bring you the man who brought you the honor code, P/D/F policy, automated add/drop and online waitlists, and many more…

Name, Hometown, School: Steven Castellano; Middletown, NJ; Columbia College (Biophysics)

Claim to fame? For most of my time, I was a chill, friendly guy who encouraged everyone to relax,

But. This. Semester. I. Suddenly.

Became.  Quite. Incredibly. Enormously. Absurdly. And. Severely.

Yet. Shockingly. Accidently. And. Somewhat. Inexplicably.

(Sometimes. Even. Nationally.)

Controversial.

For. Very. Many. Reasons.

And. It. Actually.  Will. Not. Stop.

I’m going to greatly miss this place for both experiences.

Where are you going? I think Columbia makes you progressively know less about where you are going.  Isn’t the journey the destination?  Having said that, I particularly have no idea where I’m going in just a few weeks once graduation comes around.  I want to do something socially and intellectually stimulating that taps into a variety of my interests as effectively as this school and community do.  I’m not sure what that means either, but let me know if you find anything.

Three things you learned at Columbia:

  1. Śāntideva taught that we should view all people as inter-connected with ourselves, like limbs on a common being.  By aligning our goals with those of others, they not only become happier, but so do we.  If we therefore focus on radiating positive energy outward, we will not only be less stressed as we no longer try to achieve increasingly unrealistic and unfulfilling individual goals, but we also can share in our friends’ successes without feeling jealousy.  Columbia can be an alienating place, so I hope we can see the pitfalls in self-interested capitalism as a way of life.  Embrace your flaws, exchange smiles with those who make you laugh, say “hi” to strangers on elevators, and extend compliments to others even if you do not know who they are.  Your gestures will be reciprocated, and you and those around you will all be happier for it.
  2. You quite literally make yourself, so don’t feel that your personality is locked in place and fixed for life. Throughout my time here, I’ve intentionally experimented with being friendly, sullen, mysterious, oblivious, flirtatious, depressed, awkward, a dance machine, “that guy” who brings institutional racism into a conversation about desk chairs, and “that guy” who first opens the textbook the day before the final. Feel free to try what you haven’t tried and find not who you “are” but who you most enjoy being based on your mood and the people around you. Faust told us to experience the highs and lows of life, and we have the potential within us to catalyze these experiences.
  3. Bring on a quarter-life crisis now in order to mitigate a mid-life one later.  Ask yourself what brings fulfillment to you and those around you.  If you are motivated by “success,” then ask what that means, and remember there are probably many ways to achieve this meaning.  Carry this criticality into decisions about classes to take, activities to do, and friends to see.  Sometimes you might not want to have it all, and you will be more successful regardless if you aren’t just going through the motions.  Mix it up though: some of the people I admire most completely changed everything they did halfway through college.  Accordingly, always expose yourself to new ideas and view them with an open mind.  You might be surprised with what you find if you truly hear someone else’s perspective or experimentally argue against one that is familiar to you without a preconceived notion of what’s “right.”  You can then have fun with this and surprise yourself again by realizing that everything you now stand for is destructive until you repeat this yet again and realize you may indeed have had it right the second time.   Throughout the process, remember that why you do things is more important than what you do and that life should be unpredictable… That’s my ambiguous and generalized tip on how to have a well-live life.
  4. As Rousseau said somewhere, rules are generalizations.  Therefore, while many of them make sense and should be strengthened, others do not and should be challenged in certain circumstances.  This is especially true at a place like Columbia where there are so many of them.  If after digging to the spirit of a particular set of rules, you find that this spirit can still be respected through breaking the rules in a certain way, go for it.  Doing so will not only allow us to progress, but it will prevent us from mentally clustering all regulations into one bureaucratic mess, and more importantly, it will in turn allow us to more fully appreciate many of the standards that truly are important.

Back in my day… stress was something we competed to possess while wellness wasn’t a topic of conversation or policy, JJ’s was open obscenely late and had a grocery store but lacked a Jamba Juice machine, Ferris had sushi, CCSC gave out way more free food and had a week of events called College Days, all our deans were completely different, Lerner staff didn’t consider closing the building on time to be a matter of national security, and our end-of-semester scandals involved drug dealing and incest rather than racist tweets, closed libraries, and my academic policies.

Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: I was made fun of by the trifecta of the Varsity Show, the Columbia University Marching Band, and Bwog commenters, so I pretty much got what I wanted out of life.  Still, despite that stellar achievement, my existence is definitely no more justified than anyone else’s:  I like to think I’m strongly supportive of my friends and community, but they all made me who I am, so the justification for our happiness is cyclical.

Write a CU Admirers post to anyone or anything at Columbia: Columbia Urban Experience (CUE), you are beautiful. You taught me what it means to do service for others and not for myself. You taught me how to open up about my insecurities and truly listen to peers. You gave me best friends and an amazing girlfriend even when I was afraid of attachment and more afraid of commitment. And after allowing me to grow, you’ve given me the opportunity all over again as I became your coordinator and shared these experiences with others. Over the years, you’ve grown with me as you added more students, sites, listservs, and brunches. And while I’m sorry that you have recently been attacked and weakened for giving what one can only call an outpouring of love, I know you will grow again from it. Sometimes it is easiest for the powerful to scar rather than admire the beautiful.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I come from a family that prides itself on its prodigious Italian cooking, a family that includes Snooki’s husband-to-be.  My answer should therefore be more or less clear.  

One thing to do before graduating: Go on top of the Low dome. The journey up is half the fun, and the view from above is unmatched by that of any skyscraper in the city. Definitely do that, but also explore as many other physical and mental spaces as you can.

Any regrets? The fact that I am who I am today makes me pretty happy, so not really. However, if I had to pick one learning experience to share, it would be to not be afraid of attachment and to strengthen superficial connections. When I entered Columbia, I had the goal of getting to know everybody because that was all I knew after attending a small high school. That was dumb. Popularity is overrated, especially if most people do not truly know who you are. Though it took at least a year for me to realize this, we should root ourselves in communities we trust and branch out from there rather than cast a wide net and see what stays inside. There are tons of incredible people, classes, and opportunities to explore here, but before venturing too deeply into it all, it’s nice to have extensions of ourselves to cling to for the times when said awesomeness starts to drown us.

Speaking of drowning, I also might regret not taking my swim test yet. According to a recent Bwog post and many emails in my inbox, I should be concerned.

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53 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    GIVE US YOUR INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY, STEVEN. GIVE IT UP.

    Solid wisdom otherwise.

  2. Columbia

    Should hire this man as the Dean of ass kicking. For real tho, apply to the deans office

  3. Anon

    Oh. My. God. This. Was. So. Obnoxious. To. Read. Half. Those. Links. Had. Nothing. To. Do. With. Steven. Himself.

    Also the mandatory P/D/F policy is the most awful idea ever. I hope the administration throws it out. In the Bwog interview with Steven he said he got the idea for it from hearing students complain about being stressed about having 8:40am classes... you know what policy would have actually addressed that issue? GETTING RID OF 8:40AM CLASSES. Not making freshmen have to care about only their core classes their first semester here, which is what a mandatory P/D/F policy would do. At the very least let people be able to opt out.

    • Anonymous

      I thought it was really funny actually. Some of the words match with really funny corresponding links, and all of them brought him a fair deal of press...he admits it was just one semester but he was brought into a huge media event multiple times per day. Many even if unrelated to him brought him needless controversy like you are verifying. For PDF specifically, you also see in the interview that this has the most support of 900 alternatives and got student and admin approval, so while some disagreement is inevitable, you can't not respect him for all his work.

    • CC'13  

      You clearly do not know Steven at all. This is half him making fun of himself and half him making fun of the media for all the coverage. He could very well have included double the number of links if he wanted to (search him on bwog or spectator; there are multiple pages), and he could have included himself getting Phi Beta Kappa (http://bwog.com/2013/04/30/phi-beta-kappa-inductees-for-2013-announced/), but he didn't. He quite simply tries to help however he can and is always questioning how best to do that.

    • CC'13  

      Also please refer to:

      #1 where he says to care about others and not be jealous.
      #3 where he says to try to be open minded.
      His admirer where he says its easier to scar than admire the beautiful.
      His regret where he says popularity is overrated.

      You might be able to learn from this.

    • Anonymous  

      They asked for his claim to fame after all, and he was kinda at the center of every news story even when he didn't want to be, so...

      10/10 funny.

  4. Anonymous  

    brevity is the soul of wit

  5. Anonymous

    #4 is so meta.

  6. Anonymous

    He might be verbose, but he's certainly witty. Lots of humor, metaphor, and generally great advice. I loved every word.

  7. Anon

    Steven's one of the most impressive people I've met at Columbia. In my experience, those with the most important-looking resumes can be downright disappointing in real life--constantly bailing on their commitments or finding ways to minimize their share of the work, speaking eloquently of grandiose plans and ideas but rarely following them through, while the rest of us are confortable with slacking to some degree. Steven actually does everything he says he's going to do and beyond, and less out of a craving for glory than an unwavering, rock-hard sense of dedication. And on top of that, he's funny and endlessly kind and overall a lovely human being with consistently fascinating insights. I wish him nothing but the best. He deserves it 150%

  8. I'll tell you this

    A lot of the time I disagreed with Steven, feuded with him, or opposed him. But let this be said, for every time that one of those three happened, I respected him. He is one of the most passionate, charismatic, and caring people I've met thus far at Columbia. A lot of the time I feel like people here have very strong opinions, but without any degree of thought or emotion, but Steven had intense amounts of both, and for that, I will always consider him one of the most impressive people I've met at Columbia. Probably the best part is when he reads this, he'll probably be able to think of at least five people who wrote this, which says so much (in his favor). Even though I knew him incredibly well and worked closely with him, I probably won't stay in touch with him, but I'll certainly remember what he taught me and all he gave the things that we were connected by, and for that I'm thankful.

  9. seems like  

    a huge douchebag

  10. Twitch  

    He's telling people to go to the roof of Low? I hope no one emails the administration ratting him out and invalidates any class he took on the top floor of a building.

    • Anonymous  

      I'm sorry that he stepped in when a concerned student asked him to do so and that he stood for honesty and fairness unlike everyone else. If you had done the same sooner, maybe Prof. Williams (not Steven) would have not had to throw out the IDs and been able to use an alternate test. Seems like you are the exact example of someone "clustering all rules as one bureaucratic mess" and forgetting which ones are important.

  11. not totally anonymous

    Steven is one of the most genuine people I know. He's kind, thoughtful, and very selfless. I met him during our first year, and he was always the one to make a great joke or use his surface level awkwardness to make others laugh (years later, I discovered that he's really not that awkward). I can vouch for him and say he's definitely 1. a dance machine 2. an integral part of the campus community.

    I thought this was a great read and very funny, and I'm happy that others can appreciate his wisdom. I know that I do.

  12. CC'13  

    Steven is one of the most impressive people on this campus NOT because he spent one semester getting stuff done like a course waitlist, honor code, pdf, earlier posting of final exam dates, etc.. that no one could do before, but he more importantly prioritizes serving smaller communities every day. Steven will drop anything to help out a friend at all times and is incredibly caring for his community in every way possible. If ANYONE ever wants someone to just listen to a stressful experience or just bring his awesome, goofy presence to anything, he will be there.

  13. Anonymous  

    Love you Steven; we all do. You're right that some of these comments are amusing, but they belong to the same camp as the Barnard haters and other nefarious populations of bwog. You have touched the lives of so many people here in so many ways, and I simply don't know how you do it.

  14. I think we're all forgetting...  

    ...that he is related to Snooki.

    Discuss.

  15. wait..

    what the hell is the Columbia Lion? Another campus blog? Bwog really needs to get more agressive with it's opposition Targaryen-style. A Battle of Blogs. A Clash of Columbians.

  16. Thanks Steven  

    You made me into who I am today.

  17. SEAS  

    I noticed that with people like Castellano and Mandelbaum, they get so famous for being awesome, caring people that enemies start to emerge from the woodwork who do not even know them (generally they make 3 obnoxious comments on every post). Having said that, I think Steven offers a good four-step plan for these people to stop the hating and actually make a name for themselves through similar dedication to what they care about.

    • Relax Dude  

      There's like two negative comments, which is at least happens to everyone cause it's fun to be snarky. What make Ryan and Steve different is probably just that they don't exercise the comment policy where they can remove any trace of negativity.

  18. Baby Bird

    I love you, Papa Bird! Thank you for all you love, encouragement, support, advice, and awesomeness. Columbia won't be the same without you. I AM GOING TO MISS YOU LIKE CRAZY STUFF.

  19. Anonymous  

    This is fantastic wisdom right here!

  20. hahaha  

    It's you who wrote that culpa review!! Glad I clicked all the links; you're an organic chemistry legend.

    Also, you forgot the HRC op-ed where you owned the author with your comment.

  21. genuinely  

    good guy.

  22. bro  

    10/10 would friend

  23. CC'14  

    Love your shout-outs to the core.

  24. CC'14  

    And calling out Lerner security is so real.

  25. anonymous

    I'll miss you Steve! Though I expect you'll be back on campus like, a lot. You're the best <3

  26. CC'16  

    I love this man. You always have a kind word to say to those around you and never neglect to help out your friends. Role model through and through.

  27. Anonymous  

    Thank you for making your links thematically consistent. And for planning them out well. Sorry some of your hard work got screwed with, but you are well appreciated bro!

  28. Friend  

    Why has no one found him a job yet?!?! People, come on!

  29. Just fyi  

    Ask him for tips on how to get to the top of Low. It's quite complicated and will definitely force you to explore many physical and mental spaces.

  30. cc  

    Damn this guy is great. Wish I knew him better. Stumbled across his fb page the other day, and damn his girlfriend is hot btw.

  31. dude  

    what a nice guy. needs to shower more though, hard to sit next to him in class despite what is a truly dizzying intellect

  32. Yo everyone  

    Check out the op-ed under "relax". It;s also legendary and got 50k readers and should be required reading like this post. Read it.

  33. respect

    deep respect is what I have for you. whatever you do end up doing, I know it will be great. I didn't get to know you well but from what I see/hear/read from you, I and surely many others find an honorable example. These were great, needed words of wisdom. thanks, man.

  34. Woo!  

    Congrats on the alumni association award, Steve! Well deserved

  35. oh..  

    Finally got around to looking at the links, and I realized it goes from pdf to the honor code to the cheating scandal to SWP to end of the year shenanigans, explaining all the line breaks. Don't know if this is decoded or actually just obvious.

  36. varun

    proud of you, steven! you've definitely left your mark (in a very positive way). great job, and congratulations :)

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