What is a home? I’m thinking as I pack my bags for another summer away from the Farm. I’ve defined Stanford as my home address for a while, despite my interludes away. But this break is different: It’s practically permanent. I have another quarter to finish a master’s degree, but a whole swath of people I built my home out of when I started here almost four years ago is leaving.
I say this because the most important things I gained at Stanford are my friendships with peers, alumni and faculty. This even included friends of friends, people I’ve dated — missed connections with people I know by face, not by name. This is the community I’ve built my Stanford-home out of. As a result, these have been “the most” four years of my life: the best, the worst, the memorable.
When I came here freshman year, I only knew synchronized swimmers. The same people from the same circles I had known for the past decade of my life. Comfortable: my synchro home, which I still love and cherish. This synchro-family is a home I had known for the majority of my life, given that I had never lived any specific place for more than seven years prior to my admission. I moved into Granada with a teammate in lieu of my parents. From there, I was handed off to my two roommates: at the time, as with most freshman, total strangers, but who are now some of my closest friends.
Those friends, my dorm-mates and my teammates: that’s how I built my safety net. These are the people I went to in my time of need. I’m blessed that my safety net expanded to my classmates, my Daily and KZSU co-workers and the incredible people I’ve met through my friendship-network. I know which “family member” to go to in differing times of need: the person I have to gossip with, vent to, cry with, get a hug from, come out to and take me to the hospital at any hour. In these interactions, Stanford became my home.
Here’s a plot twist. As much as I’ve glorified the Stanford community thus far, home-building has not been a joyride. I’ve had fights over issues (large and small), hard introductions, fear for each other’s lives, painful break-ups, awkward overcomings and difficult losses. Still, the bonds I’ve created through these times have either been defining or dangerous.
By this, I mean that Stanford has not always been a safe space. Deep in the lavender file folder where I keep the written definitions I’ve been prescribed, there is a diagram I’ve been handed from the Sexual Assault Response Team. Although I don’t know the person who got me sent there, I remember the two people who gave up their nights to drive me to San Jose. I’m forever grateful for those friends; despite this, the trauma and fear associated with the night in question was petrifying, and it sent me spiraling.
But at the bottom of the spiral was where I discovered how deep my friendships ran. Yes, Title IX needs to be more helpful for victims (and I encourage the future Stanford generations to call for them to do more), but at least I learned how to rely on my Stanford community despite Stanford’s administration. I was afraid to walk alone at night for a period of time, so I recruited people to walk me home without giving them a specific reason. As we all know, those can be precious hours for working, partying or laying out a newspaper. Yet, you would be surprised how many people have volunteered at least 20 minutes of time to escort me to my room. I’m glad to have overcome this fear, but the conversations I’ve had during my escapades from various locations on campus have become some of the most memorable of my Stanford career. I’ve learned things about my friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise and I’m forever thankful for not only the time, but also the trust I’ve been offered as a result.
So, Stanford, as I prepare to “graduate,” I have to say that you are not my home. Neither is the place I lived during high school, nor is the physical home that my parents occupy. The home I’ve developed is through my relationships, good and bad, at Stanford and beyond. Not all homes are good homes, but they are homes, regardless. I’m glad to say that the home I’ve built here is ultimately good. I encourage everyone here to cherish the homes that they’ve built, because the relationships you create here are incredible. Whatever your home definition is, you have the opportunity to build a great one here. Don’t miss out.
Contact Gillian Brassil at gbrassil ‘at’ stanford.edu.