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.)


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.