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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Column: The difference

I think I did college wrong.

My longboarding skills are amateur at best, face-removing at worst. The five-year-old I babysit just got better at guitar than me. And I don’t have a favorite band that no one’s heard of – though I can fake it in a pinch. “Well, I’m really into, uh, Nomadic Rice Farmer right now. Their new stuff is okay, but their first album is sick. What’s it called? Oh, uh, Paddy Wagon. Yeah. So legit.”

Of course, there’s more to the undergrad experience than recreational hipsterism. I also missed out on some collegiate cornerstones on the academic front. I pulled more all-nighters in sixth grade than I did in my four years at UC Davis. It’s not because I learned to stop procrastinating – by no means. I’m worse than ever about turning things in late.

Maybe I’d have burned the midnight oil if my professors had assigned me to write a children’s book about the daily life of Cooper the Capybara, complete with colored pencil illustrations. There’s nothing like watching the dawn break as you hunch over a drawing of a giant rodent, whose eyes will not be symmetrical no matter how many times you erase and redraw. As it was, I just couldn’t keep my eyelids apart past 2 a.m. writing why phenomenological consciousness isn’t intersubjective.

“Well, did you really come to Davis to study all night and learn to shred?” you may ask. The answer is no. I came here to hang out with my boyfriend and get a degree in English.

We broke up. Then I changed my major.

There’s a question that scares me a lot more than that one: “Did it make a difference that you were here?”

I want you to try something. Get out a piece of paper and pen. I’m serious. Do it. I’ll give a Twix to the person with the best answers. Now, identify the following people:

1. Three players from the UC Davis football team’s upset of Stanford in 2006.

2. The UC Davis professor with the most papers published.

3. Two ASUCD senators from every year you’ve been here.

4. The 2009 UC Davis graduate with the highest GPA.

5. The UC Davis alumnus earning the highest salary right now.

Now draw a line under that list and write another one, identifying these people:

1. Three people who have listened to you talk about what a terrible/awesome/weird day you had.

2. A professor who changed the way you look at your field.

3. Two people who gave you cookies, swiped you into the DC or took you out to dinner.

4. A friend who took care of you when you were sick, inebriated or stressed out.

5. Someone who helped fix your bike or gave you a hand up when you crashed.

I don’t know about you, but my second list is looking a lot better than my first. The people on the first list worked hard and achieved some degree of fame or fortune. And I have no idea who they are. The people on the second list gave of themselves and impacted my life, some in small ways, some in big ways. It made a difference that they were here.

Truth be told, I don’t remember all the names of the types of people who should be on the second list – I only remember that it matters they were in my life, however briefly. Like the girls who found me in a campus bathroom my freshman Picnic Day, rain-drenched and addled by hypothermia. They offered me a sweatshirt, let me call my mom on their cell phone and walked me back to my dorm.

When one of them recognized me at an ATM a year later, I had no clue who she was until she told me. But you’d better believe that if it wasn’t for her and her friend, I might still be rolled up in the fetal position in the Plant and Environmental Sciences Building, grabbing at the ankles of unsuspecting passers-by in an attempt to commandeer some dry clothes.

And frankly, I’d much rather be on someone’s second list than their first, even if anonymously. I don’t care if you know how to say my last name, or remember my name at all in 10 years. I’m okay with the fact that no one’s made a DavisWiki page about me.

I’d rather you recycle this copy of The Aggie and learn that love is an action.

I’d rather you dismiss my stupid puns and realize that you and I aren’t the center of the universe.

I’d rather you forget my name and remember the name that makes the dead alive – Jesus of Nazareth.

That’s the kind of difference I hope I’ve made.

BETH SEKISHIRO will miss her loyal readers – you three have been great. You can catch her blog at bethsekishirothefishingnet.blogspot.com. And, as always, you can e-mail her at blseki@ucdavis.edu. Au revoir!


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