One of my favourite songs of all time is “I’m not that girl” from the hit musical Wicked. It is probably the most depressing song of the whole play, but one that I could definitely relate to during one period in my life, when I did not like myself for being this awkward person and not the conventional pretty girly girl that guys like.
One line of the song particularly hits home with me.
Don’t wish, don’t start
Wishing only wounds the heart
I wasn’t born for the rose and pearls
But don’t worry, I am not about to launch into a sappy story about my love life. The reason why I’m telling you this is because I was reminded of the very line of this song when I visited Stanford a few weeks back.
Before coming to Berkeley, Stanford was just the name that I had heard being thrown around by very smart people around me. My super smart junior high school crush graduated from Stanford a couple of years back, my colleague-turned-friend went there after quitting his job. I didn’t have any idea where Stanford was, nor did I care to find out – the elite air around the name suggested that the place was somewhere too remote and had long ago been filed in my brain under the category of “unreachable places I will never go” (said the girl who had travelled all the way to the Arctic to see the Northern Lights).
Life, though, has a funny way of working itself. I somehow ended up visiting Stanford not because I was particularly eager to see the place, but because my friend, who lives in South Bay, and I were trying to find a hiking trail that would be accessible for both of us. Stanford Satellite Dish Trail seemed to be the best place for us to go that weekend, and my friend then of course very kindly requested her friend to bring us around to see the campus.
And I wasn’t wrong. The campus did live up to its elite name. I was so in awe with the grandness of the place and the very polished feel of all the gates and structures (I did feel rather guilty though since Stanford is meant to be the arch rival of Berkeley, in what category I have no idea). The whole university seemed like of a different class altogether. My mind couldn’t help but drift to the Journalism School at UC Berkeley, one that I had always thought to be very beautiful – the North Gate Hall would feel like a slightly dilapidated shack next to the shiny buildings here, and the Memorial Glade minuscule compared to the vast expanse that was the Stanford Main Quadrangle.
The sense of awe that enveloped me, however, did not last for very long. A couple of minutes later, I felt completely out of place and slightly uncomfortable there (maybe it was due to the sweltering heat that day). I couldn’t help but think that this was the school made for people who were born for the rose and pearls, someone I could never be. Even if I was ever smart enough to be admitted there, I doubted whether I would fit in, with the palm trees (imported all the way from Dubai) lining the neatly trimmed walkway, making the whole place feel resort-like, and the classic artistic sculptures made by Auguste Rodin, the same artist who sculpted David the Thinker statue (I had to pretend that the name Rodin rang a bell although it didn’t. I’m unsophisticated that way.) being shown off outside one of the buildings.
For the second time in the day, my mind went to the North Gate Hall and the whole Berkeley campus, the place that just a few minutes ago I had shamefully thought as dilapidated, and I realised how homely it feels. The rustic and mismatched buildings spread throughout the whole Berkeley campus are not exactly shiny and the most well-maintained but they are definitely still beautiful in its own right.
I might not have been born for the rose and pearls. But roses and pearls are not the only beautiful things in life.
Over the years, I realised I may be more of a randomly-put-together, soft gold and sparkles kind of girl…
And you know what, I’m perfectly fine with that. 🙂