I’m now a Stanford student.

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Tomorrow morning, I move in to Stanford.

When I try to say the words in my head, they don’t seem real. “I’m a Stanford student” doesn’t roll off the tongue easily. One year ago, I would’ve never guessed that Stanford would be the place I’d be calling my home—I was convinced that I’d be seeing autumn-colored trees, not palm trees, on the East Coast, not the West. And statistically, the odds were pretty good, since a majority of the schools I applied to were on the East Coast… Stanford being the sole West Coast school I considered.

But now, after what felt like an eternal summer that had enough time to do a two-month hospital internship and binge-watch all six seasons of Game of Thrones, I’m officially becoming a college student. It’s both nerve-wracking and exciting, and as much as I’m sad about not being able to see my brother, my parents, and my dog for months at a time, I’m ready for a modicum of independence and the chance to forge my own path at one of the best—if not the best!—universities in the country, maybe even the world.

I have a pretty bad track record of posting on this blog, even when I promise myself I’ll do it. Regardless, I’m still making a promise to myself to post on here and my food blog Bok Choy and Broccoli at least every two weeks. The Stanford campus is vast and beautiful, so hopefully it’ll provide me inspiration for blog posts. And of course, I’ll continue updating everyone through social media.

I also like handwritten letters and gifts (I’ll always write back!), so if you’d like to send me anything through the U.S. Postal Service, my address is:

Joshua Cobler
531 Lasuen Mall
P.O. Box 17296
Stanford, CA 94309

If you’d like to send me a non-USPS shipment, or if you don’t know what mail carrier will be used (an Amazon package, for instance, which I would greatly appreciate), my address is as follows:

Joshua Cobler – jcobler
459 Lagunita Drive
FedEx Office Tresidder – P.O. Box #17296
Stanford, CA 94305

You’ll be hearing from me soon!

Stanford: A New Chapter

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These past few weeks have been more grueling and difficult than I ever could’ve imagined. For many high school seniors, the months of March and April are a fairly exciting and nerve-wracking time since most college decisions come out in the second half of March, giving everyone about a month between acceptances and matriculation deadlines (usually May 1). But for me, the whole month of April came down to deciding between two colleges I had completely fallen in love with, a most difficult choice.

Over the past few years, I’ve written about some of the colleges I had been dreaming about—Columbia, Harvard, Georgetown, and the University of Texas at Austin, to name the major ones. I was guaranteed acceptance into UT Austin since Texas law requires them to provide automatic admission for Texas students in the top 8% of their high school class, but in February I was accepted into two honors programs I really wanted to be a part of: Plan II honors, an interdisciplinary liberal arts program, and Health Science Scholars, a departmental honors program in the College of Natural Sciences.

For about a solid month or so, I really thought I was going to UT. I was excited about the thought of living in Austin, getting to do research in my freshman year as part of Health Science Scholars, and having the opportunity to intern at the Texas Capitol (they only accept Plan II students) and do actual policy work (as my state representative explained). But then things changed in mid-March, when I got a letter from Brown University saying I can expect to be admitted on March 31, the day that all Ivy League acceptances come out.

Needless to say, I got incredibly excited about the thought of going to Brown. Brown had an Open Curriculum, which meant that I wouldn’t have any general education requirements and would thus have way more space to explore different fields of study. It was in Providence, Rhode Island, which fit my dream of being at an East Coast (read, Ivy League) school, and Providence itself is charming, friendly, and beautiful. And unlike the rest of the Ivy League, it’s quite laid-back and it doesn’t have the same pretentious quality around it, despite being one of the best schools in the entire country. But then, over Easter break, I got the most shocking and unexpected news.

I got into Stanford. Continue reading

Dreaming of the Future

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I’ve always been a dreamer, fantasizing about the future. And never have I done that more than now, with most of the college application process behind me—I just have to wait for decisions this spring before I can decide where I’m spending the next four years of my life.

Maybe this is the product of watching too much Scandal, the TV show about Olivia Pope and her crisis-management firm in Washington, D.C., but I’ve been dreaming a lot about living the White House. (Yes, the one the president of the United States lives in.) I love to imagine what it’d be like to be president, what kind of policies I’d push in my first term, and how I’d shape the future of the country. But as much as I like to joke about being president someday because of my love for politics and finding solutions to world issues, I know that a lot has to go right in my life for that to happen—the whole “political experience” thing is kind of a prerequisite to actually be taken seriously, so I’d probably have to work my way up to a governor or U.S. senator first.

Beyond just the White House, I’ve been dreaming a lot about Washington, D.C. I visited D.C. in 2014 and it’s definitely one of my favorite cities in the world so far—it has delicious food, it’s incredibly diverse, it has an abundance of resources (like the Library of Congress), and it has tons of things going on. That, and its subways are way cleaner than New York City’s. I’ve been picturing myself living there more and more, and since my dream career has always been something along the lines of international healthcare, being in the U.S. capital close to a myriad of international embassies can’t hurt.

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The U.S. Capitol from afar.

Continue reading

Goodbye, 2015: A Year in Photos

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I’m just gonna come right out and say it: 2015 pretty much sucked. Very little went the way I hoped it would, and I definitely got thrown some major and awful curveballs. Luckily, 2015 is almost over and a new year is around the corner, and with a new year comes new opportunities and new chances.

However, I don’t want to end the year on a negative note, so I thought I’d look back through the better times of 2015… through pictures.

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My brother and I climbed 53 flights of stairs as part of the Big D Climb to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Continue reading

The Battle for Texas: What I Learned From Campaigning

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This is the third and final part of my series on the 2014 Texas gubernatorial race. The first part, written in the spring of 2014, introduced the two Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. The second part detailed the candidate rally I attended in the summer of 2014.

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Alessia and I after Wendy Davis visited our office.

It’s been almost one full year since the 2014 midterm elections, one year since Democrat Wendy Davis lost her race for governor of Texas, and one year since I took my first swing at politics. If you would’ve asked me in the spring of 2014 whether or not I’d work for a campaign, I would’ve told you, “Of course not. Why would I do that?”

But I went ahead and did just that. After stumbling upon a rally celebrating the anniversary of Wendy Davis’ landmark filibuster in support of Texans’ reproductive rights, I found myself on a list of potential volunteers for her campaign and received calls while I was a summer debate camp at UT Austin from Battleground Texas, the field arm of the Wendy Davis campaign, trying to get me to volunteer. While it’s not shocking for a political campaign to attempt to tap into enthusiastic supporters, what is shocking is that I said yes… and brought Alessia, one of my best friends, along for the ride.

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Right before Fellows Training at the campaign headquarters.

As soon as I came home from debate camp, I called back the field organizer for my county and Alessia and I found ourselves in our county’s Democratic Party office for an introductory meeting. It was the first of many, and over the next month we learned about phone banking (calling people the campaign identified as possible Democratic voters), block walking (knocking on doors to convince people to vote), “cutting turf” (preparing packets of houses for volunteers to visit), and other essential data-driven campaign tactics. On top of those meetings, I went to two region-wide summits—one open to volunteers and another only open to fellows on the campaign—all by myself, learning so much more about how campaigning works. And then there were the events: the small rally outside the office when Wendy Davis dropped by, the book signing for her memoir at a local bookstore, and the debate watch parties.

As summer turned into fall, I quickly rose in the ranks, moving from a regular volunteer to a senior fellow, the youngest one in my area. Campaign work became something I did alongside my schoolwork, and it created (rather, cemented) a perception of me within my school as a liberal activist, since I was definitely the most vocal and visible Wendy Davis supporter in my entire school. Looking back, even though being a senior fellow on the campaign was oddly (and sometimes unnecessarily) stressful and not sleek and sexy like I imagined it, I’m so incredibly glad I took the opportunity because I learned so much in those few months on the campaign. And while these five things aren’t all I took from my experience, these are the five I’d like to share with you today! Continue reading

It’s been a while: an update

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Wow, it sure has been a while since I’ve last posted—about half a year, in fact. The last time I wrote on here, I shared that my younger brother Jude was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. When I’ve shared about his first cancer experience, I mentioned that finding another bone marrow donor would be incredibly difficult considering Jude and I are mixed race. But miraculously, we found another donor who was also a perfect match—a woman in Germany. Jude had his marrow transplant in the beginning of September, and since then, everything has been looking pretty good.

As for the rest of my life, senior year of high school has been… an experience for sure. While junior year was incredibly stressful because of my classes and extracurriculars (I blame you, AP Physics!), senior year has been a small sigh of relief—most of the classes I’m taking are classes that truly interest me, I spend less actual time in class since most of my classes are four days a week instead of five days, and there’s just less general wailing and gnashing of teeth since first semester of senior year is one of the lightest course loads I’ve had since freshman year (although the flip side of that is that I have a much heavier course load—one of my heaviest ones—in the spring)!

But despite that, my classes are still harder than last year, and college applications have been eating me alive from the inside. I’m so incredibly excited about going to college next year, but I just don’t want to actually do the applications—writing essays and stressing out about resumes and activities aren’t exactly super fun. I applied to my first-choice school just yesterday, and I’m now just waiting until December to hear back from them so my fingers are crossed and I’m hoping for the best! (Also, if you happen to be an admissions officer from said school, I would be overjoyed if you accepted me!)

Yet even in the craziness that is the college admissions cycle, I’ve had a chance to really reflect on what I find personally important in my life—things like writing, advocacy work, and volunteering. And now that I must resign myself to a little over a month and a half of waiting for a decision, I’ll at least have the chance to take a break and do things for me without the threat of college application deadlines looming. And one of those things is sharing more on this blog and on Bok Choy and Broccoli.

See you soon!

It’s cancer. Again.

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This is my brother, Jude. He’s ten years old. And in December 2010, he had a bone marrow transplant that saved his life.

Today, I found out that his cancer has returned.

I’m just completely and utterly shocked, and never in a million years would I have expected this. I still secretly don’t believe this is happening, and I really think this could be just a really bad dream or an elaborate April Fool’s joke everyone is in on except for me. But the waves of guilt and anxiety and fear and anger have been crashing down on me, and no matter who I tell or how many times I tell people, I just can’t get these feelings to go away.

“It’s not your fault,” I was told by every single person I talked to today. “It’s not your fault.” It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. The words sear into my head with the intensity and pain of a hot branding iron.

With each repetition of this phrase, I don’t feel any better. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault that Jude relapsed. It’s not your fault that your bone marrow didn’t work. And it’s not your fault that he’s going through this again. My mind becomes numb as I hear this phrase repeated over and over and over and over. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

But no matter how many times people tell me it’s not my fault, that I shouldn’t feel guilty for my brother getting cancer a second time, the feelings of guilt don’t go away. I feel guilty for every time he came in my room and asked me if I wanted to do something. I feel guilty for every time he asked if I wanted to watch a movie with him. And I feel guilty for every time he asked me if I would watch him play video games. If I could go back in time, I would’ve stopped whatever I was doing to just be with him, before he was in pain, before it became too difficult for him to smile.

KERA, Dallas’ NPR affiliate, did a feature on my brother’s cancer story and recovery that ended just last week about how we’ve moved on from the cancer experience and what we’ve taken with us. When I was asked whether or not I worry about Jude’s health, I answered with a resounding “No.” I don’t worry because Jude’s health will be fine. Yet, I was proven wrong in the worst way possible. The “He’s been cured” line I told everyone back then is now a lie.

“I don’t know how I’ll get through this” has been my anthem today. And as I write this, I still have absolutely no idea how I’ll be able to cope. All I want is a sense of normality. “Normal” is the result I’m searching for but one I know is impossible to achieve. Because “normal” means my parents come home, my brother goes back to playing on the laptop at his desk, I go back to worrying about my physics class, and my brother doesn’t have cancer again.

When I was told that Jude’s leukemia returned, a few thoughts rushed into my mind. How will I ever get through this again? It was a fairly typical response, a textbook reaction of someone in my situation. But what surprises me is what my next immediate thoughts were. Will I have to email my teachers and ask for extensions on tests and homework? What does this mean for my extracurriculars? Am I still allowed to be as involved at my school as I currently am? Has everything I’ve been working towards for the last three years just been thrown out the window for something that’s “not my fault”? It feels incredibly selfish to wonder about what happens to me first, and maybe it’s not what everyone expects—or wants—me to worry about, but that’s all I can think of. And I just can’t even fathom how much longer my brother will be a cancer patient, what that will mean, and whether we’ll both make it out of this mess.

At this point, what I really want is to clear to me, and there are only a few things that I really want right now. I really want a strawberry-banana smoothie that’s thick, but still thin enough I can drink it through a straw. I really want to go to the library and check out a book on sociology that I’ve kept on hold for the past few days. I really want to reach a conclusion on whether or not I’m taking psychology next year and which class I’d have to give up to take it. And I really want to wake up.