Senior Mark Procter graduates in two weeks and Wesleyan is losing its greatest fire-spinning copy editor. We talked to Mark about being homeschooled, sleeping on the floor and how Wesleyan drew him out of his shell.
Argus: So what makes you a Wesceleb?
Mark Procter: I don’t really know. I know I’ve done a fair number of things on campus—Prometheus, a little bit of music and dance—but I’ve never thought of it as that high-profile.
A: So you’re in Prometheus. What’s the secret of performing and not burning yourself?
MP: Practice, like anything else. The other thing is realizing that fire is not actually that hot. It’s much less dangerous than touching a stove burner—it’s about half as hot. A month is probably the fastest we’ve ever seen some people start with fire; some people wait three or four months. I’ve gotten first degree and maybe some second degree burns from performing, but put some ointment on it and leave it alone and you’re fine.
I did light half my leg on fire, but that was unrelated to Prometheus. There was lighter fluid in my pocket, and I forgot it was there and I was playing with a lighter. There was no third degree burns, but I did go to the hospital for it.
A: Do you have a signature style when performing?
MP: There are definitely styles, everyone’s bodies are different. I do fire swords, where you basically take a metal rod, put a wick on it, and light it on fire. I do one or two, depending on how I feel. There’s another person who uses one sometimes, but they’re probably harder to control than the staff.
A: Do you ever feel guilty for ruining the grass on Foss?
MP: Every once in a while, yeah. But I mean it’s grass, it grows back. It’s why we do it on Andrus field, not the lush CFA grass or in front of North College.
A: Ben [Cohen ’10, sports editor of the Argus] told me you slept on a bamboo pad last year…
MP: It wasn’t a bamboo pad, but yeah. My mattress was too soft. I was a counselor at a camp where the bed frame was curved, so I ended up sleeping on a crappy 2 inch foam camp mattress on plywood on the cabin floor, and after that an 8 inch real mattress is kind of soft. So last year, I slept on a camping pad with some blankets over it. I gave my mattress to David Foregger, who lived across the hall–he wanted two mattresses.
I am now sleeping on a mattress. I didn’t sleep on a shitty camp mattress this past summer. There are extra wide mattresses in the house I’m living in, and there was nowhere else to put that mattress.
A: What don’t people know about you?
MP: I used to be a very introverted person. It’s been kind of an adaptation, I have become more extroverted. People who didn’t know me then aren’t going to know that. I ended up in a single my freshman year on a hall that was mostly sophomores. I realized if I didn’t make social connections happen, they weren’t going to happen to the extent that I needed.
A: You also copy-edit for the Argus. Do you love grammar?
MP: I’m not that good at the grammar stuff. I guess I’m good enough. It’s more that I have a pretty good idea of how to make writing work, which sometimes involves grammar work and sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t know if it’s technical or the amount I’ve read. It’s always been easy to read, I kind of taught myself. I’m pretty sure I could read on my own by four.
A: Did you learn to read before school?
MP: Yeah, I was actually homeschooled until middle school. Then I went to a very small middle school. My mom taught me, it worked really well. I got to read and do math and then go play outside. My older brother and sister were both home-schooled with me until they were both in fifth or sixth grade. My mom was worried about some of the social stuff in school – competition, cliques. She knew all three of us would get bored; we all spoke and read early. In Vermont, someone from the state gives you a basic competency test. The requirements are pretty loose as long as you can show you’re learning something.
A: Why did you enter the school system?
MP: I think I wanted a way I could measure myself, to have feedback. I think it was also to try something new. When I got to middle school, my handwriting was terrible and I didn’t know what an essay was. But I could read everything and do the math, so I just worked on the writing. It was different, but I was never like ‘oh wow, it’s strange.’ I think college was where it was weird, because Wesleyan is all people within this five-six year age group all within a mile of each other.
A: How did you manage to graduate early?
MP: Because I can–psychology is pretty easy to complete, it’s only ten credits. Because of AP credits, and a few five-course semesters, I only needed 4.25 credits more this year. I think I’m ready for something else. I’m not ready for grad school yet. There are people I would love to have more time with, but I’m not that sad to leave the college educational scene. I just want to be working and figure out what I want to do with my life. I don’t think being here will tell me that.
A: What are your plans?
MP: Going home and trying to find some kind of job in Boston. Pretty much any work that will pay expenses I will be happy to do for six months a year while I figure out what my ultimate goal is for a job, and figure out where to start. Two summers ago I worked in a bread factory, which was great for a summer, not a career. But if I do something like that for a year, sure.
A: Senior wisdom?
MP: I wish I had been more social earlier. Also, I realized I could ask random professors random things that I’m interested in, I don’t need to be in a class or have some prior connection to send people emails.