For two and a half hours on Thursday evening, I sat to the right of John Baladi at a table outside of Strange Brew in Midtown, Starkville. 

He tussled his hair, wrung his hands and bounced his leg until I was certain it would detach. Even so, Baladi allowed me to poke him with my stick, roll him on his sides and reveal all of the wonderfully insightful happenings within him.

Perhaps most important of all is that it takes only one alarm to get John Baladi up every morning. If that does not tell you all you need to know about a person, I do not know what else will. 

The ten minutes following his wake consist of checking his emails and responding to messages. This is Baladi’s only opportunity for procrastination for the rest of the day, as minute of every hour is laid out before him, boiling over with deadlines, meeting times and a variety of commitments.

It would be difficult to find time in Baladi’s busy schedule to follow him around and learn what a day in his life is truly like. Instead, he shared with me a detailed rundown of his week through a collection of notes. His days consisted mostly of going to class, attending any one of his five organizations’ meetings and contemplating existence in its very nature.

Perhaps my favorite part of these notes though, is where Baladi includes the title of each song that he adds to his 2023 playlist. We started with Greta Van Fleet and ended the week with “Wonderwall” by Oasis, which is either a cry for help or a sign of extreme well-being.

In the not so far off distance, an evening band plays to the tune of motorcycles revving by on the street. Somewhere between The All-American Rejects and Kings of Leon, they find their rhythm and pull us in. 

Baladi drives a black 2015 Acura TLX. From the rearview mirror hangs a handmade cross from Syria that was blessed by Pope John Paul II and gifted to Baladi from his grandparents.

He shared tidbits of information frequently: he was in 4th grade when he found out Santa was not real, though he pretended to still believe until 7th grade for his mother’s sake. He does laundry every week between 2-5 p.m. on Wednesdays. He would do anything for anyone but draws the line at risking someone vomiting in his Acura. John Baladi is always trying to find ways to become a better person.

“I know that I’m never going to be the perfect person that I want to be,” Baladi said. “But at the very least, I’m always moving towards something.”

The night was upon us, and the questions grew scarcer. The hoops and hollers of drunk college students grew fainter. Baladi told me he believes that meaning can be found in almost anything.

Simultaneously, a cop flashed his lights and pulled over the girl swerving just beside us. I wondered if she had heard Baladi’s parting wisdom, and what meaning there was for her to find here. 

A slowing drummer played us out.

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