The flower that blooms in adversity

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Sitting outside, I bask in the warm spring sun, imagining what it would be like if I were at Stanford right now. Maybe I’d be at Meyer Green studying or at the Oval picnicking, laughing with friends as the Stanford sun washed our woes away. Frosh spring was supposed to be a beautiful time, with gorgeous weather, light classes and so many fun and exciting events. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, here I am, forcing myself to go outside because I’ve been stuck inside the house for a few days too long. 

I think back to my birthday. Last year, as a ProFro (prospective frosh), it was on the first day of Admit Weekend, making it one of the most magical days of the year. This year, I was supposed to be a HoHo (house host for ProFros), and my birthday was on the last day of Admit Weekend. I envisioned a midnight birthday shower with Sotoans and ProFros alike chanting “shower, shower” as I indulged in one of Stanford’s many whacky traditions. But instead, in the minutes leading up to my birthday, I was in my room, silently typing away at a p-set. I wondered what 19 would feel like in an age of uncertainty. At least my parents were happy. Their empty nest was once again full. 

None of us got the spring quarter we had imagined. COVID-19 stripped all of that away. And although it sucks, to say the absolute least, I find myself strangely in awe of what’s been going on around me. Stanford students, staff and faculty have come together and taken care of each other, pouring themselves into helping not only Stanford affiliates, but in many ways, the whole world. 

What I have witnessed reminds me of a quote from Disney’s “Mulan”:

“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.”

And I have seen many, many Stanford trees blooming (perhaps sprouting is a better word?) in these troubling times. My fellow Sotoan Marcelo Peña ’23 is helping create cheaper ventilators in Peru, coding and using his newly learned 107E skills. Justin Thach ’23 created a spreadsheet allowing ProFros all over to contact university students, getting a picture of not only Stanford but also other awesome universities. Many Stanford students are fighting for equal rights and pay for workers. The computer science department launched Code in Place, a six-week version of CS 106A that is helping students around the world to code. As one of the many section leaders (who come from Stanford and beyond), I can vouch that from places as close as Oakland and San Diego and as far away as Nigeria, Denmark and Austria, the program is reaching and inspiring people from around the world. 

As Zoom classes zoom by, I see Stanford students adapting to the times. Dorms — including Soto 🙂 — are still holding weekly virtual house meetings on Zoom. Cardinal Nights sends out helpful links for places for people to get help, to learn and to be entertained remotely (the other day, my dad and I watched an interactive magic show). I still get emails from clubs around campus, managing to maintain communities through Netflix parties and such. It’s comforting to know that despite the times, Stanford is trying to stay strong and together.  

With classes being Satisfactory/No Credit, I’ve slightly amped up the difficulty, changing and adding a class to my originally planned spring schedule, as many have done. Although this workload is the most difficult I’ve had to date, I can feel my brain learning, adapting and growing to accommodate all this new knowledge. Although Zoom classes are by no means the same, and social norms are still being established (breakout rooms sometimes can be really awkward), it’s awesome to see how we’re adapting.

Personally, the COVID-19 situation hasn’t been easy. But unique opportunities have emerged that would have never happened otherwise. For example, I was able to indulge in one of my life goals: reorganizing our garage. With over four decades of boxes and boxes and more boxes of books in piles upon piles, it was a nightmarish but rewarding journey. I discovered old books, new books, new old books and old new books. It was quite the trip, and during the process I rediscovered my ardent love of reading, carrying hoards of books with rich ideas back to my room to one day devour. 

One of the greatest joys was seeing my dad’s reaction to books from Sierra Leone, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. that he had not seen in years, maybe even decades. As I would unpack the books, he would stare at each one like a piece of candy, grabbing a handful to re-indulge in. I also found magic tricks from over the years and from different countries, reminding my dad of his favorite hobby. I even happened upon those 12-inch vinyl disks that you put on the phonograph. So I played some classics on our phonograph (we somehow had one), only to find my parents dancing and reminiscing, thinking back to other times. I was most surprised to find my mom jamming to “Jammin’” by Bob Marley after a long day at work. I even found Leones (Sierra Leone’s currency) from my parents’ dowry in Sierra Leone and my first Christmas present. There were also many boxes of clothes from when I was a wee little baby in Scotland. My mom — with great pleasure and perhaps a wistful tear or two — would say, “Pikin no to yace” (roughly translates from Krio to “children don’t stay stagnant; they grow”). She packed them to eventually send somewhere else. 

I even learned a new skill: jumpstarting a car. It had been so long since I had driven my car that the battery had died. And in the process of learning, I even came up with a poem to memorize the order of the cables:

Dead red, red, black, black dead

After getting the car started, I went on a drive around town, reminiscing about the place where I had been raised. I sighed, seeing such beautiful weather with so few people to enjoy it. I realized how much COVID-19 has changed life as we once knew it. 

Although COVID-19 has been a wild ride, I’ve seen people make the most of it and thrive. Although we aren’t at Stanford, the trees are still growing, growing in different places but nonetheless together. It’s uncertain when everyone will be back on the Farm — or if everyone will be back on the Farm — but a new normal will ensue. No matter what happens next, I have faith that Stanford trees around the globe will continue to bloom and prosper despite the circumstances.  

Stay strong.

Stay home.

Go Stanford 🙂

Contact Ecy King at ecyfemi ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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