So I'm sleeping over in San Francisco tonight, and leaving bright and early for Philadelphia. My bag is packed and sitting in the center of the main room with my coat draped over it. While I wait, I am chatting on AIM with a friend of mine who is also Cal alumni.
He goes to the University of Illinois, home of the Fighting Illini. They're retiring the mascot as of this week and my friend sent me a video of the performance from the final game. "Wow, I'm kind of offended," I told my friend "it's like blackface." "Yeah," he says "that's what I thought the first time I saw it."
We got to talking about mascots and fight songs, so of course we started talking about the Cal fight song "Fight for California." I'm not big on patriotism or school spirit or any of that sort of thing really, but I have to admit that my alma matter makes me feel proud. It's bittersweet for me, as I look forward to moving on to a new University and a new home.
I really do look forward to the change I anticipate in my life. I love academic life, I love classes and halls and academic tradition. The hooding ceremony for Ph.D students at commencement fascinated me and I look forward to the day when I will have earned the regalia of a doctor. A bubble of happiness rises in my chest as I contemplate a new school with its unfamiliar traditions, a new home in a new city, new cafes and new hole-in-the-wall eateries. New people.
But as I hum "fight! for California" I feel quite certain that no place will ever eclipse the institution of my undergraduate education. This is where I sat at 8 a.m. in MCB 102: Biochemistry and thought, "I am now a student at the University of California." This is where I grew the most, academically and personally. This is where I cried, from frustration and joy. These lawns, these buildings, these books, the blue and gold, keeps my heart.