“Thank You, God, For Making Me Gay and Catholic”

Sometimes, two cultures central to a person’s identity can seem incompatible, but Sam Albano does his best to prove otherwise.

Sam Albano knows how to ask the tough questions.

What does it mean to be gay?

How am I supposed to be a good Catholic?

Does God love me?

When Sam joined the parish pastoral council at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in 2012, he brought those questions with him. At the council’s annual retreat, the pastor asked the group to figure out why so many registered members didn’t show up for Sunday Mass at their church in Carmel, Indiana. It’s unavoidable, some said. All of America is running from religion.

Sam, who has asked tough questions about the Catholic Church since high school, had a different idea.

Is there something we’re doing wrong that keeps people away?


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Beneath Ball State

Her first weekend at Ball State University in the fall of 2013, Jane Doe was looking for something to do. She wasn’t a partier, she says, so the typical choice for newly freed young adults was out of the question. Her friend, who had recently graduated from the residential high school on Ball State’s campus called Indiana Academy, was spending his final weekend in Muncie. He offered a solution.

Drinking and partying might have been too much for Jane’s first weekend. But trespassing—that would be okay.

They went out after dark, around 11:30 p.m. Everyone would be at the parties, they figured, and campus police would be patrolling the neighborhoods. So Jane and her friend ventured to the quad, near the southern edge of campus. Jane’s friend approached a maintenance grate near the Burkhardt Building and lifted it from the ground.

They timed their entrance carefully. They needed to watch the lights at the nearest intersection to make sure traffic would be moving past them and car passengers wouldn’t have much time to stop and look around.

Jane jumped into the hole, about a four-foot drop.

The first section of tunnels beneath Ball State’s campus was installed in the 1920s, and now they connect most buildings on campus. These tunnels were built purely for utility purposes, says Jim Lowe, the associate vice president for facilities planning and management at Ball State. The underground spaces contain high-voltage electrical lines, steam pipes covered in hot condensation, the chilled water that cools campus buildings, and almost any other service that doesn’t involve gas. They’ve never been meant as pedestrian tunnels, and they aren’t designed for easy travel, so students have never been allowed inside.

Until recently, however, not much stopped them.

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Addicted to Perfection

While often praised, an overwhelming need to achieve can create imbalance, and eventually complete mental break downs.

“Work hard, but not too hard,” my dad always says when I return to school after an all-too-brief break.

I’ve spent my academic career trying—and failing—to find that balance.

Despite a recent societal push toward things like relaxation and mental health, I think most people still want to succeed at all costs. Hanna McCabe-Bennett, a doctoral psychology student at Ryerson University in Canada, says most aspects of today’s culture tend to be polarized. We now emphasize self-care, even while demanding achievement and expecting people to go above and beyond what they’re assigned.

Working too hard is when productivity becomes an addiction, McCabe-Bennett says. Some people, like me, might devote more time to things like getting good grades than to other parts of life that provide meaning and balance.

That dependence is tough to break. Unlike some other addictions, workaholism and perfectionism receive praise and reinforcement from other people. Losing these rewards can be scary for those wanting to escape the addiction.

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Producing Personhood

Though artificial intelligence cannot yet match the human mind in many ways, further advancement could force us to decide what separates mankind from machines.

During Final Jeopardy in the episode that aired on February 16, 2011, a computer screen sat between long-running stars Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. On it, swirling green and blue lines represented the thought patterns of IBM’s Watson—a question-answering computer system.

Watson’s hardware filled a neighboring room as he worked to process natural language and sift through 200 million pages of data to find the winning answer. The category was 19th Century novelists. Alex Trebek, the show’s host, read the clue: “William Wilkinson’s ‘An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia’ inspired this author’s most famous novel.”

Watson had thirty seconds to find the correct response.

“Who is Bram Stoker?” he answered in typical Jeopardy! style, and a group of IBM scientists jumped to their feet in applause.

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No Escape

Though Kasey Burchett would prefer living without modern technologies like her phone and social media, that doesn’t seem to be an option in modern society.

Kasey Burchett, a senior at Ball State University, lived in the jungle for three and a half months.

The experience in the summer of 2015 was part of a biology internship in Panama, which she shared with about 30 other students and directors she had never met.

Falling asleep in her hammock, a ceiling above and dirt floor below but no walls to keep out the night,  Kasey  would  hear geckos calling. She walked barefoot during the day despite the cockroaches, spiders, and snakes. In Panama and on some other trips she has taken, she couldn’t access any form of technological communication.

Unlike many twenty-one-year-olds, Kasey would rather have it that way.

But she can’t. Kasey loves to travel the wild without the distraction of being online, but she also loves her family. She’d rather live Internet-free, but the web is the only thing bridging her juxtaposed desires to travel the world and stay close with people at home. So she needs to find a balance.

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Fear of the Unknown

Though built by immigration, America does not always welcome immigrants

The Threat of Unfamiliarity

Rabe Yar sat next to her friend in their ninth grade art classroom. They were regular teenagers, holding a regular high school conversation.

But not in English. The girls spoke their native Burmese language, catching the attention of two American students who approached the friends. While Rabe couldn’t yet speak fluent English, she knew enough to understand what they were saying.

“You must support Osama bin Laden,” Rabe remembers them saying as they eyed the hijab that symbolized her Muslim faith. “Unless you take that off.”

Rabe didn’t entirely understand who bin Laden was at the time, because the 9/11 attacks had occurred six years before she immigrated to America. But the students relentlessly pressured her to remove the hijab. When Rabe tried to turn away, one of them suddenly clutched the headscarf and attempted to pull it off. She escaped the grip and managed to move to another part of the room, adjusting her ruffled hijab as she went.

She wanted to tell someone what had happened, but she didn’t trust her English to explain it.

To natural citizens, discrepancies in language, religion, and culture might cause insecurities that contribute to a fear of difference. People respond to immigration in a variety of ways, said Ball State University sociology professor Ione DeOllos. At one end of the continuum are those who react completely in fear or violence, usually because they do not understand the other culture. Rabe’s experience of confrontation demonstrates that problem.

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