Probably not what you were expecting to hear.
I know. I couldn’t believe it either.
I don’t think any of us could.
Especially from someone who looked like a turnip. He stood up in his high lectern like the Grinch. He wasn’t so much like the Grinch. He was like those old wizards from Harry Potter, even though he was actually pretty young. He couldn’t have been much more than my age. He wore these bunchy, purple, scarlet and gold robes that bunched around his shoulders and made him look like he was an old English faerie queen, which is pretty funny, because that’s exactly what he was.
He was giving a speech that I’ll never forget.
When you commence something, you think you’re starting something. But Mr. Smith was telling us that fora ll the years we’d spent working, toiling, moving up our grades, it had all been a waste. When you’re a kid you don’t think like this. Heck, when I was in preschool I didn’t think like this. You think you can do anything, be anything. I wanted to be amazing. It’s not that hard to be amazing when you’re in kindergarten. Finally learning to tie your shoelaces. Or maybe that was 2nd grade. 1st grade.
3rd grade. Exploring the rainforest. Going on a field trip. 4th grade. Sailing away on a Pilgrim ship, learning about Christopher Columbus. Having your first crush. Meeting Marty Nislick, who told you about bananas. 5th, discovering Paradise for the first time. The end of your elementary years, 6th. That terrible flight.
And 7th. Ah! Junior high. The glory years. The best time of my life.
That was when I finally expected to do something. Orientation. When you met your lifetime friends, and spun your own tacos. Ate some really good cheesecake. Spun the bottle, took chances, chanced upon a girl at a birthday party. Your first crush. Who happened to be named Ally. You couldn’t believe how anyone could be so pretty. You schemed how you could date her. You looked upon your heroes, Tupac and every last gangster.
And you still couldn’t have her.
I looked up at Mr. Smith.
This commencement isn’t a pity party. I’m here to call you to service.
It’s not about the fancy cars, how fast you can drive (in a couple of years), how cool you are, what matter is what good you do in the world. I don’t know if any of you have heard about it, but there’s going to be an audition. You should go to the auditorium, just like this. Look at what’s posted on the cork board. Take a pamphlet—and study it.
Say hi to your classmates.
Walk through the rainbow.
Don’t be shy. Eat some pineapple pie.
Now some of you may have heard of the ancient Greeks. They had a philosophy that there was a golden ball of light inside each and every one of us, inside of me that kept flaming.
I crafted this speech to remind us of what happened at the beginning. There was a spark of light — and then deep, deep night. 🙂
No one knows what actually happened. I
You know, class, that history is just a story.
It’s meant to be re-written.
Did the bell really just ring? I think it’s time to go to Ms. Dennigan’s. I forgot to tell you that back in junior high I started running. It was really, really exciting. We all shouted “Pflieger!” I looked and he was suddenly here. “Diamond!” he said. “You’re a keeper!”
I didn’t know what he meant. All I knew is I could run really fast. When it was time for high school I got a call. I was supposed to report to the Garver Gym steps. There were lots of people there. Some of them were seniors. Some of them were juniors, or sophomores. One of them said, “Freshman.”
He was a senior. Niko Milonopoulos. I’ve changed his name, of course. I’ll just call him Niko. =P He was really funny. We just called him Niko for short.
Except he wasn’t short. He was tall. Kind of like the ancient Greek runners, Achilles. His brother was short. He was very hairy, like Enkidu from the epic of Gilgamesh.
They were both, especially Niko, really, really fast.
The first time we went to Woodley the grass was flying. I was hanging out with the other freshmen, Jon Sohn, Tommy Raiguel (mouse ears), and Kris. Pflieger sent us off running around the grassy cricket fields. He had us do a loop. We started off flying and I couldn’t believe it, even though we were freshmen by the time we got to the finish line me, Jon, Tommy, and Kris had almost tied him —
and Niko kept going!
“Why are you stopping?” Pflieger shouted.
“I thought—” I started.
Before I could catch my breath, classes had started.
I was thrust into this magical world. It was like junior high, times 5, magnified. People had come from all different countries. I flirted with this girl, Lindsey. =P Pfliegs told me I should focus on running. It was pretty easy. Me and Kris finished first at Bell-Jeff (among our teammates). It was pretty breathtaking. Niko, of course, wasn’t running.
But he sure ran at Malibu Creek State Park. He took the lead and never let go. I can still see him running up that golden cliffside, awash with the spring flowers that weren’t there that fall—
I’m getting ahead of myself. I also know I’m taking too much time. I should be skipping ahead, telling you how that first season ended with so much pride. I never caught Niko, but I was proud of how hard I’d tried. Dad said, “Doodleman!” Mom hugged me with her beautiful blue eyes. Winter flew by. Next spring we met in the weight room. It was underneath the gym. It felt so warm inside, knowing we were starting on a brand new adventure, seeing my friends again, knowing we were going to be together for a long time. Frenchie shouted “Piano man!” I guess he knew me from my role in Hola Lola. 🙂 And jazz band. It was so fun seeing Andrew again. I remembered him asking Niko “Hey, Niko, can I piss in your mouth?” 😛 lol. Claire was there. So was Tyrie. Wow. 0_0. She walked around campus swinging her purse like “If I Was A Rich Girl.”
I thought we were going to go to track. The spring air was beautiful. First we had to run stairs. It’s kind of like climbing the corporate ladder.
Mr. Smith stared.
“Don’t you remember how it was so fun running those stairs? Racing up and down? Arriving at Grant the first time? That track” (my quotes) where you would learn what it meant to feel raw speed? That, if you set your mind to it, you could run really fast? No. Faster. Let’s skip to the summer. How, after a pretty good spring, you wanted to get even faster. You read Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and learned what it meant to have ambitions. That year you set all sorts of school records. Probably the greatest moment of your life was when you were called to the lectern. I said, “Hey, Pflieger,” and smiled. 🙂 He said, “Diamond,” :), and tapped the lectern. “Announcing our Most Valuable Player.” My friends all cheered. And Mr. Smith said, eventually you reach the top. And you realize there is no ladder. 🙂
I think my heart stopped.
“And eventually we have to decide what we want to do, what we want to be, what we believe, what we stand for.”
I believe I can do anything. I believe I can achieve world peace.
Whoa, I’m getting way ahead of myself here! 🙂 I forgot to tell you how I got anorexic. I was just minding my own business when I started to think what if I don’t eat. I don’t mean don’t eat like wait until lunchtime. I mean don’t eat ever, like eat cottage cheese or pizza or salads or even ice cream.
But I can still eat fruit, right? I’ll have MultiGrain Cheerios with blueberries. And a banana sounds just right.
Maybe even a glass of orange juice. Non-fat milk. Uh oh. I hope non-fat milk is the same as skim milk. That’s what my Mom always buys.
Me: “Mom, skim milk is the same as non-fat milk, right?
Mom: It sure is!
I retreat to my room and think. Boy, I sure can’t wait for the book fair! It’s going to be a pretty cool spring. After such a stellar season of breaking new records in cross-country and track and making new goals running
wait a second
how could this be? I just finished…behind me. Last year I was way faster. Everyone is passing me. Why am I getting tired?
“I think you may be anorexic, honey”
I’m not. That’s impossible.
“Why are you crying?”
I’m not. That’s me. “Austin, what are you doing to yourself? Tell us what’s happening!”
OK. I’m in the hospital now. I’m with a shrink. OK, I’m not actually in a hospital. But I’m in the eating disorder wing of UCLA.
“We want you to try drinking Ensure.”
Oh yeah—by the way, I got a stress fracture.
I can do it. It can’t be that bad drinking Ensure. It is chocolate milk, after all.
Wait a second.
I think I just threw up in my stomach. I want to vomit. There’s no way I’m having that ham and cheese sandwich.
“Honey! You’ve got to eat!
I feel like I’m made of cream filling. I went to the track yesterday. Everyone was running. Jeff looked over and saw me.
“Austin, man, what’s up! We miss you. Pflieger misses you. That sucks you’ve got that boot.”
Does Pflieger know?
When he walks over and sees me, does he know that I’m unhappy? Does he know that I’m the only person in the whole wide world who can make me happy?
“Take off that boot,” he says. He smiles. “Let’s get your ass running.”
I take the Ensure. I bring it to my lips. I swallow the chocolate.
Hey, wait a second, that actually tastes pretty good.
And I drink.
I begin to eat again.
I see all the people who I forgot about, who I practically disowned just because I wasn’t feeling good about myself. I eat a popsicle. Dad takes me out for ice cream. And I can actually eat. I say I’m sorry. “You don’t have to apologize to me.” I feel like I should apologize to my team. I’m sorry I wasn’t healthy. I’m sorry
and my tears grab me.
This is not the story of my recovery. That would be too easy. When you have friends and family like I had, all that support does come pretty easily. 🙂 It flows through you. It helped me. It helps me, still to this day. True enough, I’d learned something. And I don’t think I’ll ever let that feeling, that love in my heart fade. 🙂
That senior year was quite an adventure. Back in spring, I’d started planning for colleges. Sending out letters, hoping they’d answer. I had one college in mind — Oregon. I couldn’t say why it jumped out at me. I just remember sitting in my English class and suddenly getting the image of green, green, green. It was pretty funny. My whole life, I’d never really paid much attention to nature or left the city. Probably my highlight of those early days of senior year was Senior Key Chapel. We walked up to the lectern in the Garver Gym and got a little golden key from our professors, which we would finally pass on when we graduate. I think you can tell what my key is, since I’m telling this story. 🙂 Anyway, senior year was pretty fun. I re-connected with my friends. I went to Prom. Can you believe Prom? I think you remember Lindsey. 😛 Well, just between you and me, I think she looked really pretty. My Mom fastened on my pocket a little rose and something-white-flower bouquet. I think it’s called boutonniere? (I don’t know what it’s called). Anyway it was a pretty fun party. We rode a party bus. We snapped lots of pictures and don’t worry, I didn’t get drunk! 😛 I came home and had a pretty good senior year with my coaches. With Pflieger’s help I had my best year since I was a sophomore. I nearly broke some more school records.
And then it was time to graduate.
Sorry for the long paragraph. It’s just that I’ve kind of been dreading this day. Mr. Smith just left the lectern. He said none of us will be the next George Washington. None of us will be the next Indira Gandhi. Oh well. At least I’ll graduate.
It really is a beautiful day. I was thinking of taking a walk. After listening to such a beautiful speech it really is nice to just hear yourself clearly. Mom, Dad, Oregon is amazing. There’s so many trees. There’s so many cute girls. 😛 There’s so many amazing things.
For the first time in my whole entire life, I feel like I can stretch my legs. I had my first class today. There’s a running club here, too. I set off running and discovered so many new things. For example I don’t think I’ll ever be a frat boy. 😛 I also really, REALLY love trees.
I met this really cool person today. His name is “Whitey.” Yup. Whitey. He’s just so happy in everything he does. He lives in a house glazed with rainwater beside the white chickens. (thanks WCW.) But of course at his house, it’s always sunny. He has his own garden. He grows his own food. He keeps his own bees. He has what you’d call a “sunny attitude.” Anyway I’m taking his class. It’s called TAO, Trees Across Oregon. I’m learning so many things, mostly about myself. For example. I really REALLY REALLY like trees. I think I want to be an Environmental Science Major. I’m going to be an English major too. We’re taking a trip up to the Cascades and it’s going to be amazing and let me tell you it was, it was! It was so so snowy. We sat by a stream and ate our sandwiches and even that high up it turned sunny. 🙂
I had my first actual English class today. I’ve been working on this book called Origin of the Cosmos. It’s not really a book. It’s an epic poem written in the style of Milton. Did you know that there wasn’t just a Paradise Lost? There was also a Paradise Found!
To be honest with you I get kind of lonely. That’s why I’m so happy I have my diary. I like taking long walks in nature. It’s just me, myself, and I alone. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I saw the most amazing thing today. A bald eagle. All by itself. It was building its nest. It flew right by me. Maybe it was an osprey. I saw Whitey today and I couldn’t believe it. He actually asked if I wanted to help him teach TAO next spring! A real assistant teacher! Wow! 😀 I guess it’s good I have my own house. At least to share one. It makes me professional. 😎 I really like my roommates. “Hey, Jesse,” I say! Do you want to go on a run? I took a great run today. I had poetry today. You’ve got to meet Naomi. She’s so silly, like me. 😛 We hid behind the chalkboard when Carl walked in. He’s our teacher. He kind of looks like a chickadee. Anyway, I don’t want to get sidetracked with my story.
I taught my first Trees class today. I said, “Hi, Whitey!” “Good morning everybody!” “Good afternoon everybody!” he really said. (I just wanted to get that rhyme in.) “We’re going to have 2 teachers helping me out this quarter. Please give a round of applause to Travis and Austin!”
If we define success by a station we reach, we can’t win. But if we define success by the movements in which we participate, in what we stand for, in what we work towards, we can’t lose.
“Hi! I’m Austin!” I said. “I’m really, really excited to teach your class today! Let’s see, who’ve I got…Maples or Firs.” 😛 “Oaks.” (I know I can be pretty stupid.) “We’re going to be learning lots of things today. Let’s start with Douglas-fir. I bet you knew it’s your basic Christmas tree. I bet you didn’t know that it’s actually not a fir. It’s why they call it Pseudotsuga menziesii. Pseudo means false. And because it doesn’t have stubs along its stem, you can tell that it’s not a hemlock, of course! 😀
I was so happy. I went home. Of course I don’t mean home home, like, my house. I mean I took a walk. I saw a rainbow. Then I went home and called my parents. I was looking so much forward to our first field trip. We were going to go to Skinner’s Butte. It’s pronounced byoot (just so you know). While I was walking up Skinner’s Butte I saw an eagle. Just so you know it wasn’t a real eagle. It was just the picture of an eagle. I was trying to find it with my binoculars and one of my students said “It’s right there!” She asked if she could have them. I’m talking about the binoculars. I pulled them off my face. She was looking at me.
“They’re beautiful, aren’t they.”
“What? The eagles?”
I can’t sleep.
“It’s just so amazing how they build their nests up there. They’re all alone. And then they start calling. Anyway. See ya! Thanks for the class today!” 😀
I’m biking home and I have this incredible feeling that my life is finally going to be worth something.
I arrived in class today. I set up my twigs. After class Kelli came in and said “What’s this? I brought this for you.” They were cottonwood leaves, of course, and they were just releasing their seeds. All that snow. You are absolutely not going to believe this. I was leading the Maples and I was showing them Prunus serrata, the cherry blossom. I plucked a tiny spring to show them the leaves and the flowers, the sepals (4) so you could distinguish them from the flowering pear, Pyrus calleryana. I tossed it absentmindedly in the air, saying who’s going to catch it. I smiled. Kelli leapt in the air and caught it.
My heart is leaping right now. I’m going to Hayward to watch the Oregon Relays. I was thinking of going by myself no actually with my team no I think I’ll just go by myself when I was walking by myself in the middle of a thrill of a race and Kelli saw me. We saw each other at the same time. You know that spark that heart beat when your heart stops and the moment is just frozen in time. Everything slows down around us. We approach each other slowly. “This is so exciting!” Kelli says, smiling. I don’t even hear myself say it. “Hey, do you want to go out with me?”
“YES!” Kelli says. “I was hoping you’d say that!” 0_0
I can’t believe it. Kelly wants to go out with me? She said yes! We’re going to meet in front of Johnson and head up to Hendricks, rain or shine.
It’s raining, of course.
What if she doesn’t like the rain? I better be prepared. Hey, Jesse, can I borrow your umbrella? No problem, dude. Where are you going?
I’m meeting…someone. 🙂
I arrive in front of Johnson. She’s already there, waiting. I brought an umbrella, I say. I like the rain but I don’t know if you like the rain—I love the rain.
So we walk up Hendricks Park. It’s a pretty big hill. It’s really green. We walk up through the forest. We’re chatting and laughing and everything’s going great when she says Austin I think I should tell you something.
I was raped.
I have a kid. Not with the same person who…his name’s Milo. I don’t get to see him that often. Hopefully I’m going to get to see him this Sunday…I know this is a lot. She sighs. I understand if you don’t like me
and I am a little taken aback. But something hits me. I didn’t realize it at first. But…what is this feeling? It’s not like Ally, it’s not like Lindsey. It’s nothing I’ve ever felt before.
I think I actually love her.
“Kelly,” I say, “see that magnolia tree over there? The blossoms always remind me of lightbulbs.”
“We can do anything. The whole world is our oyster! 😛 She laughs. Hey, do you want to go to the museum?” “Yea!” she says. We chatter and giggle down the hill together. We get inside the museum and find a children’s exhibit. We put on masks. We decorate them with paint and glitter and feathers. She’s the fox. I’m the tiger. All we can see our each other’s eyes. We giggle at each other. I sneak into a tiny log cabin. I say “mmm! the fire’s warm in here!”
We don’t need anything but each other. It’s the heart of spring. I can barely concentrate.
We meet up for lunch. At Grab n’ Go we get some super juicy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We head to the green grassy lawn behind the library and giggle at some very little kids, who are playing a game with sticks.
“What do you think they’re playing?” Kelly asks.
“Your guess is as good as mine.” I take a bite of our peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “Tumban!” we suddenly hear a parent shout. He scores a goal! The two of us shout! Kelly’s heard I like writing poetry. I went to see her after a great fun run. I met her in the library. She was studying. She was making a Mother’s Day gift for her Mom. I went on the computer to print out my poem. She saw what I was doing and asked if she could read. She said I should come with her to Campbell Club tomorrow night and if I could read my poetry. I was scared at first. But walking with her, everything made sense. That day we walked through a rainbow together. That night, at Campbell Club, I could barely speak. But I cleared my throat, and for the first time in my life, I think I actually heard myself speak.
I was looking at Kelly. She seemed so proud of me. And when it was time to leave, she was practically skipping on the sidewalk ahead of me.
“Austin,” she said, “that was amazing! Will you read it again for me?”
And I did.
And she laughed.
And she swung around me. We danced. We walked through the cemetery in the moonlight. We talked about how we always heard the piano playing. We talked about how we had such grand plans for life. I told Kelly I wanted to save the world. There’s no reason you shouldn’t always be happy. The world is so amazing. It’s full of flowers, and trees, and stars. And rivers and streams. And rainbows and rocks.
And when we got to my house, she looked up, under the maples, and breathed, Wow. And we paused at the door of the house. And the air shrunk to the space between two lips to our mouth. She came up to my room. I showed her my pine cones. Everything she could ever wish to know about me. I knew it was silly. I’m a rapper, you know. 😛 I asked if she wanted to watch a movie. A few days later, I went to the student store and picked up Castaway. She came to my house and we watched it. My roommates winked at me as they left the house. I could tell they were so proud of me, because I’m normally so shy. We switched on the movie. It opens with Chuck. He’s a FedEx guy. He has to go on a trip. He says goodbye to Kelly and while he’s on the plane there’s turbulence. My heart shakes. Kelly heart shakes. It crashes and Chuck’s thrust into this new world. This island where he can’t escape. And he learns what he needs to do to survive, each and every day. He grows strong. He hunts salmon. He fixes his teeth. He builds his own fireplace, and he slowly forgets the place where he came from. But he doesn’t forget Wilson. With a smile and a hope, he’s made a new friend.
They do all sorts of things together. They explore the island. They climb trees. They act like monkeys. Oo aa aa. Things couldn’t be going any better. One day, Wilson tells him, we should go home. And so Tom Hanks builds a raft, and gulps, and leaves.
They bump over the tempestuous sea. They don’t think they’re going to make it over the wave.
“Wilson!” Chuck yells.
Wilson silently encourages him to keep going.
They crest over the wave, and finally escape the island.
Chuck is so happy.
“We did it, Wilson! We did it!” But now, as he leaves, and he realizes he’ll never be able to get back to that island, it’s bittersweet, and I can’t help but start crying, because they’ve started the A theme.
The saddest thing. The saddest theme I know.
Kelly, as we were sitting there, I felt you pulling away from me. As Chuck built his fire and I whispered I would protect you, you didnt’ say anything. Was it something I said? When Chuck lost Wilson, and I wept, and an ocean steamer picked him up, and he finally got home, and things had changed, Kelly had gotten married in the time he was away, and she invited him into her house, and she said, “Chuck—I thought you were dead,” and Chuck tried to make small talk about how much things had changed, the new Super Bowl champions, and it was pouring rain, and that blasted song started again, the A theme, and Chuck rubbed the back of his head and said “Well, I should be going,” and you said, “Wait.”
I love you.
I said it.
We walked out together into the pouring rain and you said, “I’m sorry. It’s just that I still have these feelings…”
And you said, no, I said, “I get it.”
I’ll walk you home.
And in that pouring rain everything I’d ever loved, everything I’d ever thought I’d known started pouring away. I fell into a black hole. I woke up the next day and I could barely eat. I could barely sleep. All my best and beautiful dreams had faded away. It was a beautiful day in late spring. I was left in this terrible white space.
That’s where I’d like to leave my story for now, if that’s OK.
But before I go, there’s just one thing. 😉
“When we’re invited to do a talk like this, we’re supposed to give advice. This assumes I know more than I do. But here’s what I think.”
Mr. Smith looked at me.
“My advice on how to get unscrewed. Work hard. Define success more meaningfully. Work together. You can’t do anything you want but you can do more than you think.”
Oh really? 😛
“Don’t just think about what already exists, think about what doesn’t exist, and do that. Don’t choose between your logical brain and your creative brain, think about what we need in the future and use your whole brain. Don’t just rage against machines but build new machines. We need you.”
I was already walking. Down the silvery sidewalk outside the arena I went, through the trees, passing through a rainbow. Spring again. Light in my step. I was remembering the end of Mr. Smith’s speech. Very soon someone would ask me, “So what are you going to do after you graduate?”
“I’m going to save the elephants,” I said.
After taking so many tests over the past several years, you have some more important questions to answer.
None of us will be the next George Washington. None of us will be the next Indira Gandhi.
What will you do. If it takes ten thousand hours to get really good at something, what will you choose to do?
What can we accomplish together?
In the words of the ancient historians, what will your sentence be? Can you be the greatest generation? When historians are writing about the 21st century, what will they write about you?
I may not have had my sentence yet, but I had something far better.
I had my story.
Hi Mom! Hi Dad! I’ve kind of been talking to myself. No one can hear me. I’ve just been writing in my diary about the amazing things I’ve seen.
If we define success by a station we reach, we can’t win. But if we define success by the movements in which we participate, in what we stand for, in what we work towards, we can’t lose.
Some of you may be of the age when you’re just about to turn thirteen. That means it’s time to do a good deed. I want you to think about what exactly that means.
When I was a boy, I hated my teacher. Hate is maybe too strong a word for it. I loathed him entirely. He stood up in his high lectern like the Grinch. He wasn’t so much like the Grinch. He was like those old wizards from Harry Potter, even though he was actually pretty young. He wore these bunchy, purple, scarlet and gold robes that bunched around his shoulders and made him look like he was an old English queen, which is pretty funny, because that’s exactly what he was.
He was giving a speech that I’ll never forget.
When you commence something, you think you’re starting something. But Mr. Smith was telling us that for all the years we’d spent working, toiling, moving up our grades, it had all been a waste. When you’re a kid you don’t think like this. When I was in preschool you don’t think like this. You think you can do anything, be anything. I wanted to be amazing. It’s not that hard to be amazing when you’re in 2nd grade. Finally learning to tie your shoelaces. Or maybe that was 1st grade.
3rd grade. Exploring the rainforest. Going on a field trip. 4th grade. Sailing away on a Pilgrim ship. Having your first crush. Meeting Marty Nislick, who told you about bananas. 5th, discovering Paradise for the first time. The end of your elementary years, 6th.
And 7th. Ah! Junior high. The glory years.
That was when you finally expected to do something. Orientation. When you met your lifetime friends, and spun your own tacos. Ate some really good cheesecake. Spun the bottle, took chances, chanced upon a girl at a party. Your first crush. Ally. You couldn’t believe anyone could be so pretty. You schemed how you could date her. You looked upon your heroes, Tupac and every last gangster.
And you still couldn’t have her.
Junior high. High school. That magnanimous transition, when you finally escape your parents.
There is a code that we recognize as early as junior high, the haves and the have-nots. The haves are the ones who have a master plan. And the have-nots, well, they are the masters. Everyone, at a certain point, becomes the narrator. We wander in vain, searching for a master plan. We look to the stars for answers. We think of our parents, who must have suffered the same things we suffered, searching for those same answers.
And what did I have but myself and my friends.
It didn’t matter what I’d be. I could be a scientist. I could be a fire engine, like my friend Raji. Or maybe I couldn’t. It’s not exactly true when they say you can be whatever you want to be. Still, the world’s more open than you think.
None of us will be George Washington. None of us will be the next Indira Gandhi. They say history has time but for one sentence for anyone. What will your sentence be?