The soul in Santa Cruz

I will be leaving this place specifically in 5 days, and this country in about a week, and the sentimentality, the nostalgia began to set in starkly right after I woke this morning.

It’s not that I feel like I want to extend my exchange — I miss my home, my friends, all the food and all the convenience. Rather, it is that I don’t want to leave. I suppose everyone who is leaving exchange feels this tug of contradiction: the pull of home, the pull of this place that has become home. To know another place and integrate it into your habits is to add to this perpetual sense of loss that comes about with every change, and at the end of it we are all a sum of all our losses: to be so finite in what we can have, but so seemingly endless in what we want.

God, I’m getting so sentimental now it’s disgusting.

I have had so many grievances with regards to this place, mostly concerning the sense of helplessness one inevitably has when they are without a driving license in this part of the world, faced with a public transport system that asserts that you will follow its demands and not vice versa. I am not happy with the way systems work over here — college costs, healthcare, public transport — and it is only because I am merely a passing visitor that I am not a whole ball of frustration. Despite all these, or maybe even directly because of some of these, I feel like this place has a character, that I will pull and it will resist, just like a person. And I admire it for this.

“Have you heard of the parking problem?” Jon Lew asked me one day. “There’s a severe parking problem in this school, but even though they have all that space, they won’t have new parking lots because the hippies protest the hell out of it.”

And yet, this has provided me with one of those transcendent moments of wonder as I walk from College Nine to Crown, a walk that crosses this bridge suspended one third of the height of those tall redwoods so characteristic of our school– like side-scrolling across a space only tangentially coinciding with my very human one.

Back home, it has always felt like I had to compromise — I have these interests, now I have to convince myself, somehow, that my curriculum is related to them in this and that way; that I will learn things I don’t necessarily enjoy, but it’s all part of the Grand Plan. For the first time in my academic life however, I feel so — completely fulfilled: the courses I take intersect beautifully with what I want to do. The one course that doesn’t (computer networking), I took only because I needed it to fulfil my own university requirement. My other three courses (Game design practicum, Poetry writing intermediate, Game design research seminar) are amazing — it seems like for the first time I fit in with my curriculum. I never realised how satisfying it is to receive that type of support that UCSC gives to my two very distinct interests. Every Tuesday and Thursday I sit within a circle of people so dedicated to poetry-writing — none of that wearying sense of pulling people along when I go for writing workshops back home, or even initiate my own. I never thought it would make so big a difference, the other people in a workshop, but it does — when people actually write on their own, are comfortable with their own voice, are sensitive to word choice, line breaks, sound. Even if you manage to gather enough people for a workshop back home (and I assure you, this is tres difficult), most of the time they are merely dabblers; they go to that workshop probably because I-want-to-try-this-out, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it will never be satisfying to the people who know that they want to do this, who don’t just write poetry when asked. And then game design — when NUS says, it will have a game design specification, it merely means: I am going to cobble together a few modules that I think will help in your game design career, and make you take them. They won’t even be about making games. When UCSC has a major in game design, it means: I will hire game design specialists, and you will take courses to make games. We think that game design is distinct from pure computer science or pure media, and we will carve out a niche for you. And that is why UCSC’s game design is thriving, while NUS is shutting down that major and making everyone take a Computer Science degree instead.

I have so much more to say, about my apartment, my apartment mates and house parties, but I will leave that to a later date. For now, the noises of people making food for the potluck later float in from the kitchen; Jes and Brooke are having a potluck tonight, and the house is twinkling with christmas lights.

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4 comments

  1. Stephen Horn · December 9, 2012

    beautiful. we’re all crying inside. okay maybe on the outside too.

    • melodily · December 9, 2012

      Stephen you’re always so nice! Please please let us watch your video when it’s done, I’m sure it’s going to be lovely no matter what you say about it.

  2. Ben Leong · December 9, 2012

    Look forward to seeing you soon. Come and have coffee with proffy when you’re back and teach me what you learnt? 😛

    • melodily · December 11, 2012

      Sure thing! Looking forward to catching up with everyone when I’m back (:

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