1 in 900: ‘This meeting is being recorded’

Oct. 19, 2020, 11:58 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020

Zoom, this blue icon that has a Meeting ID, a password, and a tad-long link, asks you if you would allow it on your device. A platform that has transformed the definition of school and waking up at 6 a.m, to go to class — 5:50 a.m., to be more precise. Honestly, I never thought that my first day of college would look like this: a classy shirt paired with pajama pants, peanut butter and banana toast hidden behind the camera, and a three-second walk to your suite-mate’s room to peek into her math lecture. I put my finest awake and aware face on, but happiness was an automated feature that flowed from within. Somehow, I still felt as if I was in high school for a moment. As I stared at my desk compartmentalized with five pen holders, containing more colors than the actual rainbow, I thought. “A bit extra, right?” And let’s not forget how the pens sat beside many sticky notes and silver Stanford-labeled notebooks.

My first Stanford class began with a coconut and palm tree analogy related to justice and social cooperation. At that point, I could have wished to be stranded on an island like in the political example of stickmen Bernardo and Alice — but I would’ve had major FOMO because the quality of the content was too good. The best part of class is when you fake a “bye” and leave the virtual room. “Leave meeting” in red.

Breathe, break time. I have developed a peculiar habit over the past two weeks: Usually, break time means leaving your desk and raiding the fridge, having a quick call with your friends from home, taking a one-lap walk around The Happy Town — or maybe half a lap. For me, it was a short but sweet trip down “The Memory Lane.” Entering my room for the first time, I thought that the walls were so white as if waiting for a heartbeat to resuscitate them into dynamism and vibrancy, as if their identities were choked by the layers of pain and paint. I delicately unwrapped the picture packets, and the moments gracefully awakened from their timezones, sliding away from their satin sheets into the desolation of my empty wall. One by one, the recollection of seconds, minutes and forevers sizzled into my being, teleporting my mind to the places I used to go and the places I’ll always know. Voices familiarly echoed in unison and soared through the Californian air. Pictures of Lebanon’s wonders handcrafted my smile. Waterfalls descending their shooting star drapes to bless earth. Mountains that mothered valleys, valleys that raised forests, forests that crowned lands, lands that oversaw the jewelry of the sea, the sea that watched me as I flew away, far away — the pictures kept taunting me with an aftertaste of my exotic-perfumed years of living in Lebanon. The light of my home screen threw me back into reality’s perpetual race of time.

Now, it’s time for my second class. “Let’s pick up where we left,” one of my professors would say, but I left my heart in one of Batroun’s narrow streets (my village), scented by the freshness of lemonade. At least, my mind was still in the game as the voiceover pronounced, “This meeting is being recorded,” the sentence I’ve heard the most these past few weeks.

On that day, I officially started drafting the thesis of my second chapter, scratching out my first written words, searching for an exquisite way to start new prose — erasing the tiny sketches I drew on the corner of the page, and keeping some to remember the perfection of imperfect beginnings and the imperfection of perfect ideals. And as I look back on that moment, three weeks later, I still haven’t found my first word, not because Stanford took my breath away (well, maybe a little), but because it takes a whole journey to fabricate your own definition of a starting line. It is not a yellow horizontal segment at the beginning of the race, nor a warm welcome from your professor, nor even a calendar with predetermined dates and times. It is a feeling you get when you bravely open your heart to the mystery of starting over. It is the feeling you get on a Sunday morning, the mixed emotions of having tasks to complete but willing to lay in bed. It’s when you graze the lavender field next to Arrillaga Dining Halls, an exquisite harmony of grace and hope. When you read the last word of a book and wonder what’s next, when you open the door, stare back at your reflection and say, “You got this.”

Contact Tiffany Saade at tiff24 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Tiffany Saade is a staff writer in the news and The Grind sections. She is a freshman from Beirut, Lebanon and will probably major in Political Science in the Justice and Law main track with a double minor in International Relations and Human Rights with an interest in Creative Writing. She enjoys riding her yellow bike and singing out loud on Stanford campus! Contact her at thegrind 'at' stanforddaily.com for additional optimistic conversations about the future, and for some much needed light!

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