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Blank ain’t bad

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On move-in day to Stanford, I plopped a bed set, Nutribullet and hot water heater on my floor. I remembered to register my bike, sign-up for classes and do the whole adjusting-to-college thing throughout the chaos that is NSO. Yet I forgot one important thing: to decorate my dorm room wall.  

Now, I’m not saying that having a blank wall above your bed is the end of the world. Life, fortunately, isn’t a bad teen movie, and the residents of Meier Hall don’t line the hallways to call me a boring, nondescript loser before erupting into applause. Yet, in some ways, the flat beige-ness that hangs above my bed does make me feel like a loser.   

Because when I see my wall, its blankness serves as a constant reminder that Stanford does not yet feel like home to this confused freshman. A month in, I still feel like I’m at a summer camp that could end at any moment. Why would I need to put pieces of myself in a room I could leave the next day? The fact that I’ll be here for at least another four years still hasn’t sunk in. So, when I visit other freshman rooms and see their many talents, friends and hobbies displayed above their beds, I wonder why I don’t also feel comfortable enough here to make my room my own.  

When I look at the flatness of my wall, I’m reminded of my own insecurities, of feeling too boring to stand out on a campus full of standouts. I know I love my family and friends from home, but for some reason I still wonder if I just didn’t care as much about them as everyone else to want to see their pictures everyday. 

But I wrote this article for hope, not to mope. To any blank-walled student who feels the same way I do, let’s take a moment to remember how kick-ass we are just for being here and finding balance in Stanford’s inherent craziness. Even though Stanford may not feel like a home right now, let’s promise to make a space and a home for ourselves here in whatever way we choose. Let’s view our blank walls as signs, not of boringness, but of untapped potential to make memories and successes that, one day, we might feel compelled to hang up in a room – or not. 

Contact Henry Shen at shenhen ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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