Walking into my dorm’s lounge, I had another one of those moments of early onset senility. I tried to remember why I entered this place of old cushy couches and day-old chips. I don’t think I came here to eat the chips. I backtrack to the dark corridor of my hall furnished with yellow lighting reminiscent of medieval torchlight. I go back to the wooden door of my room covered in drawings and decorations I made with my roommate. I wander back to my chair, the comfy one next to the window that looks out on green leaves illuminated by sunlight.
Only a year ago the window of my room held a very different view. I remember the sun-cracked tar driveway, home to Ford trucks and children’s soccer matches. I realized, standing in the lounge, I’ve been so busy living life I’d forgotten the significance of what I’m living.
Standing there, I remember the first admit day I went to. Undergraduates with plastered-on smiles guided us into a grey room with uncomfortable seats before subjecting us to an excruciatingly inane presentation accompanied by glitching visuals and audio. It was a local college I’d once considered going to when I had wanted to be an animator. I was glad I’d changed my mind about going here. All they had to offer were stale brownies and mediocre courses. This was an obligatory visit, I told myself. I had other schools lined up that were better options. It was a frayed safety net, a backdrop to the real show of high-flying hopes I was about to embark on a few weeks later.
I remember that dizzying week of travel. I’d hit three colleges on the East Coast before bouncing back west to Stanford. The first visit was to a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. I was at the top of my game, chatting up the crowds and bumping hips with new friends on the dance floor. By the second visit in NYC, things started to go downhill.
I liked the city with its streets of fast-talking food vendors and fashionably-dressed DIY supermodels. The diverse faces were warm and friendly, despite the fact I was a stranger. The contrast between the normal city folk and the students I met was that of the sun and the icy cold Arctic sea. I still had some energy left, but everyone I talked to seemed uninterested and apathetic. The dinners were strange too, all rubbery formal foods that were tough to saw through with my knife and fork. By the second day, I was on my host’s floor listening to my favorite Bossa Nova song while considering throwing myself out her window. I decided against it; I didn’t want to blemish the window, a pretty thing hung with beautiful 19th century stone moldings.
My lasting image of that visit is a roughed up squirrel chewing on an old french fry, its balding tail twitching ever so slightly at every stir of wind that swirled the litter into the gutter. I knew if I stayed there, where the sky was boxed up like the fenced-in grass, I would end up like that squirrel. Needless to say, I skipped the last part of the visit.
After a day spent at a friend’s, I headed up to Connecticut for the last visit. Walking among the Neo-Gothic architecture and peering through panes of stained glass, I felt I could perhaps make a life here, despite the oddly stiff hierarchy of the political clubs. However, this feeling was splattered onto the concrete along with the shower of rain drops that came in the last day. My swipe card was useless, and I was unable to get back into my host’s room or through the gates that guarded the dining halls. I ended up hungry and wet for the rest of the day. All this time I questioned why it was I wanted to go to college. Was if for the money? Hope of a job? The beauty of the campus? The people?
I almost didn’t make it to Stanford’s admit weekend. I was so exhausted from my time on the East Coast that I slept through my planned flight. Luckily, through some quick finagling I made it. I was exhausted and in no mood to talk, let alone walk and tour a campus. However, as soon as I stepped on campus I felt a warmth bubbling up from my toes. Late night conversation with my RoHos and a quiet soaking of my feet in the Claw after a few hours of dancing had me hooked. I hadn’t made any friends, joined any clubs or even explored internship opportunities. What was more important was how I felt; I knew this feeling was the reason I was coming to college. It was the content happiness of being home.
After almost a year since my experience I’ve learned that Stanford isn’t all bubbles and periwinkle charm. There has been a full week run on caffeinated soda and prayers, impostor syndrome and time spent in my room crying into my comforter out of loneliness. There has been Chem 31A. Yet, when I stop and look out over Lake Lag, eat dinner with my roommate or laugh with friends during my RA’s tea nights, I’m reminded of why I came. Life will always consume us with busy nothings, busy nothings that will overwhelm and drown us. However, we must remember that ultimately we are the captain of our ship of emotions, and while we don’t control the sea, we can control our course.
So, I encourage you to take a moment to remember why you came to Stanford. To remember the incredible events and struggles that have brought you to this moment. To remember everyone that has played a role in your coming. We must remember what has driven us here, we must remember what continues to drive us. We must remember we are Trees. Remember that we are innovators, poets, friends, lovers, partygoers, nerds, brothers and students.
Contact Sophia Kim-O’Sullivan at huali99 ‘at’ stanford.edu.