As a frosh, I was so proud to be a member of the class of 2020.
“We have 2020 vision,” one t-shirt boasted. “The future is coming into focus,” read a second. Another (my favorite) asked, “What’s your vision?”
2020, I thought to myself. What an amazing year to graduate. When I slipped on that shirt, I envisioned all the members of my class of 2020 linking arms, joining hands and marching confidently into the future. We would know a secret, have a piece of wisdom, share a bond that the upperclassmen would never know. We have 20/20 vision.
I wish that I did have 20/20 vision. I don’t. I’ve worn glasses since second grade and contacts since fifth. Life is completely blurry without them. I wish that our country had 20/20 vision and that we could have been better prepared. I wish that our world had 20/20 vision.
I always thought that I was lucky. On my birthday, as I blew out the candles, I wished so hard that I would get into Stanford. Three days later, on the day I was supposed to have been born, I found out that I had been accepted. It felt like magic, a sign from fate.
My first night at Stanford also felt like magic. My roommate and I couldn’t figure out how to work the blinds, and I remember hearing the sprinkler. I thought it was rain. Maybe all that stuff about California being in a drought is wrong, I thought. The sprinkler reminded me of falling asleep to the sound of summer rain back home. In the morning, the light was golden and dappled and green, and before I put on my glasses, the view out our window looked like an impressionist painting — I didn’t see the Wilbur lot with the cars, just the green grass and the green trees and the speckled September light.
I’m sad that I didn’t get to spend one last night at Stanford. I’m sad that I didn’t get to wake up one last morning, pull open my curtains, look out and think, I graduate today. I’m sad that I didn’t get to cry as I packed up my belongings, one by one. I’m sad that I didn’t get to take one last walk around campus — to all the places and classrooms that mattered to me. Most of all, I’m sad that I didn’t get to say goodbye, or thank you, to the people that I love.
When I was homesick as a frosh, I would walk to the Dish. There was a patch of mountains that reminded me of the ones where I grew up in North Carolina. On one part of the Dish, the mountains look dry and desert-like. But there’s another view of the mountains, across the highway, that are green and lush — the mountains on the way to the Pacific — that remind me of my beloved Blue Ridge. I would listen to the song “Carolina In My Mind” by James Taylor and look at those mountains and cry.
When we moved my senior year of high school, my dad told me, “People matter, not places.” But for me, at that point in time, places were better at holding the unspeakable — all the feelings and memories that ran too deep for words. Feelings for people that I had linked to a place — my childhood home. If I’ve learned one thing this spring, it’s that my dad was right. Those places don’t belong to me anymore, but the memories are still part of me. I love Stanford, but I love her people even more.
She will always be ours. I will remember the smell of the laurel in spring, the tarnished bronze of the time capsules and the pearlized glow of the stained-glass window of Memorial Church at night. When I walk in Main Quad, I will envision myself, and us, as we were. I will imagine myself with my friends, laughing and talking as we walked to class.
I want to remember all of Stanford. I want to remember all of us — as we were then, and as we are now — facing the future, all together, holding hands.
I hope this part of my vision, at least, can forever be 20/20.
Contact Eliza Van Wye at evanwye ‘at’ stanford.edu.