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For love and for light

There’s something about you, Stanford. A feeling, a warmth, a spirit. I can’t quite put my finger on it. It seems no one can. Four years with you and I still can’t define what it is that has left me so speechless with gratitude. For the mishaps, the fortunes, the wins, the losses, the heartaches, the loves and, mainly, for your imperfections — all I can say is, thank you.

Thank you, Stanford, for your obsession with technology. Though my relationship with your obsession has been rocky, it has taught me that pure human intimacy can never be replicated. You scared me at first. As a freshman, I quickly became overwhelmed by the apps and websites and messaging platforms attempting to virtualize how we interact. I feared we were diluting our rich three-dimensional lives into the two-dimensionality of our screens. I feared we would no longer be able to connect, empathize and understand others as we were too preoccupied chasing the next notification, the next “like,” the next hit. I feared we would lose conversation and the art of sparring back and forth on spontaneous topics about the world around us. Indeed, many of these fears came to pass. We speak less, we connect less, we are more anxious. We are incapable of remembering things. We are told we are more connected, but in reality, we feel less close.

However, the realization that technology fails to truly satisfy our craving for human interaction is not a depressing one but a beautiful one. It has pushed me to seek valuable, authentic and fulfilling relationships more so than ever before. In essence, Stanford, your obsession with technology has not scared me away from human interaction but has instead showed me what truly matters: time, attention and authenticity.

By natural extension, thank you, Stanford, for the people I have met here. I am grateful for the friendships that have grown so deeply over the years, the friendships where no words have to be spoken — just a look, a glance, an understanding of mutual love. The friends you can call on at any hour of the night knowing full well you’ll be answered with a wholehearted “Hi, what’s up?” — these are the friendships that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Though they do not incur depth, I am also grateful for those fleeting, passersby friendships. You know — those where we say hi and then we quickly say bye. These interactions most commonly exist on the way to class, in line at Starbucks or ever-so-briefly at a party. At the beginning of my time at Stanford, I became infuriated by these interactions, believing they personified the apocalyptic downfall of our ability to socialize. On the contrary, however, they have now taught me that the beauty of intimacy is in its rarity and that those fleeting hello’s are spaces in which to practice compassion and consideration for those we might feel less connected to.

Though it is less overtly spoken about, I am also immensely grateful for the tougher, darker relationships at Stanford. Not the odd tussle with a friend but real pain, real darkness, real loneliness. For college students, these often appear in the form utter heartache, in which the agony seems to take all the air from your lungs, where your mind seems drained of light, where you can almost physically feel your heart crack open with pain. Yet I have learned such suffering is necessary. It peels back new layers, quietly building strength of character, fueling empathy for others and expanding resilience. Thank you, Stanford, for pain, because through it, you have given me the opportunity to grow and to love.

Thirdly, thank you, Stanford, for your natural beauty. It is one of your greatest, most incontestable gifts to us. No stronger antidepressant, no lighter touch, no greater joy exists than the feeling of the sun glowing on my face while walking the Dish, or Lake Lag, or through the Quad. We live in a world of overwhelming politicization, labels, controversies and violence, and yet your winding trails, bright flowers, Byzantine mosaics, red roofs and beige bricks provide us with a sanctuary and an optimism that brightens everything that we do.

Finally, thank you to all the forces that make up Stanford and the administration. It is the Stanford way to rise up and speak out, and I have been encouraged to see how positive change can be, the power that change holds and how it can open doors for those who had previously never been given the opportunity. To be sure, Stanford, you have not been perfect. Causes have been ignored, justice has not always been served, worthy people have been pushed aside. Yet in your imperfections, Stanford, you have also taught me that good change is steady and that true radicalism is not always an explosive innovation but a task demanding patience and a relentless pursuit of action. In its very essence, you have taught me to be optimistic about change without being spiteful of tradition.

For your love and for your light, all I can say is thank you, Stanford. I leave you not with a 4.0 GPA but with an unbounded appreciation for imperfection. It is through imperfection that I have learned, grown, gained and been strengthened throughout my time here. As I ready myself to leave, I have realized that imperfection does not mean inadequate, it means human — and that is the greatest gift we have.

 

Contact Alexa Liautaud at alexal ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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