Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021
I never thought I would feel homesick for a place I have just discovered, but I guess Stanford quickly paved its way into my heart. That morning, I was looking at the time on my phone screen, watching the numbers flip into minutes and minutes … The car drove on the freeway and as the sun was late to set, everything felt dark and gloomy but somehow, I felt a ray of light warming the window. I never thought that being away for three weeks would lead me right back to the start, right back to the boxes I carefully taped, the memories I happily stored, the places I adventurously visited and the views I meticulously smiled at.
Three weeks later, here I was, staring at the majestic Palm Drive that overlooked the glorious Oval. I was moving in on my own, carrying a dozen heavy boxes to a new building, lifting luggage up the stairs, and I suddenly felt some kind of fiery heat invading my cheeks. I think it was anxiety; it hit my stomach and sweat my hands. It felt like I was meeting someone for the first time, which I was, for campus never looked more beautiful or uniquely different than in the winter.
My move-in process started at 8 a.m. sharp, and three hours later, I was still struggling to carry my bags that were left on each stair of the building’s second floor. I was trying to pace with time to make sure that I would not miss my second COVID-19 test of the day. As I was heading back from the Tresidder, where the testing occurs for most undergraduates, I stood on the far left of the street, where the sun peacefully ejected its rays of warmth to cover my tired hands. Looking down at my two palms, I could clearly observe the redness and the tiny scratches caused by that morning’s efforts, but they did not trigger my fatigue or the few strains of sweat rolling down my forehead. They did not trigger a sigh under my mask or a shoulder shrug.
At that moment, I was blinded by an unforeseen brightness, as if Stanford had suddenly cast a spell on my senses. Stanford was glowing, overthrowing the remnants of dust and dirt left by our footprints as we were forcing our move-in carts into the new buildings. Every step inside the basement was a new venture we took, a new sight of a tiny detail I haven’t noticed before struck my attention, leaving my bags unattended for minutes, staring at the corners and the tables, wondering how I ever got so blessed to be on this campus.
As I look back at the staircase that leads to the open-air front desk, I can’t help but think about Beirut. The 15 years of sleepless nights, party deprivation, complete dedication to the perfect academic route, passionate time commitment in every extracurricular activity, constant writing of poetry, dissertations, analysis and all kinds of words until my college essays, the endless tears of stress and anxiety that were shed behind the curtains, behind the smiles and the bubbly attitude … The 15 years of skipping countless parties, eaten up by the fear of missing out, crawling under the covers as I let my overthinking consume me, trying to show some form of satisfaction when I thought that my efforts were never good enough.
Yes, I looked back to all of these moments of darkness and determination, a mixture that has resulted in an immaculate light, so immaculate that my eyes did not flinch at the sight of the brightness. They embraced the magic, as if they were waiting for that unique moment for 18 years.
While the flashback kept me motionless on the fourth stair step of Florence Moore, I reached for my right pocket and felt a paper deeply hidden. As I pulled it out of its secret place, I tried to remember what it contained, but I couldn’t. Unfolding the paper, I read “The Light,” and everything fell into place. It was a piece of creative writing that combined my thoughts and feelings together, and I wrote it when I was flying back from Stanford for the winter break. Back then, I initiated heartbeats in each of these words, and the thought of this beautiful and majestic campus never left my pen, it was in fact the life itself that animated my sentences.
I read it in my heart, once and then once again. It said:
“The light. It blinds us sometimes. When it does, nothing looks the same.
The light. I think it’s somewhere across the seas, in a place where worries are blown by the wind. In a place where waking up means diving into a dream. In a place where silence is the most immaculate noise. I think it’s somewhere under the palm trees, hidden under the pile of wonders, under the unworn smiles waiting to be drawn, where the vision of tomorrow is born through our missions of yesterday, and onto the remnants of today.
The light. It catches your eye as you look down to give up. I think it’s somewhere on a minefield, as you cautiously pave the daunting path to find it. I think it’s someplace that calls my name when I wake up, and puts me to sleep at night. I think it’s warm like my mother’s arms, comforting like my father’s laugh, powerful like my brother’s courage and perhaps, it is glowing like the sunshine on a campus bike ride.
I think it’s somewhere on the edge of a painting, too scared to illuminate the picture. I think it’s a melody you hear on the first day of the year, as the earth completes a full turn around the sun.
The light. It’s scary but comforting. It’s blinding but eye-opening. It’s frail yet powerful. It’s dusty and imperfect, as it sprinkles into your life, all of a sudden. You find it in a place you never thought could be found. You see it in a soul that never sees the light of day. You feel it during the coldest mornings yet the warmest. You touch it as your hair accidentally brushes a student’s face while riding your bike.
The light. It’s a dance with no specific choreography. It takes you by the hand and spins your world upside down. It gives you wings to waltz into reality rather than fly away to the glory. It teaches you the steps to modesty, movement coordination of the soul and the unique performance of the heart. The light is not temporary. The night will come. The sun will set. The clouds will blacken. The skies will frown. The leaves will fall. The birds will migrate. The wind will blow. The thunder will roar. Yet, the flowers will bloom. The sea will mumble. The birds will sing. The sun will shine. The bikes will cycle again. The perfumes will blossom again. Because the light is not a season. The light is not a mood. The light is not a momentum. It is the story of your losses, victories and every single feeling in between. It is the courtesy of feeling whole when you are empty and feeling high on life when you are low. It is all this contradiction we call absurd. It is the light. It remains our companion. Even when we don’t see it. We know it is behind us.”