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Davis, California

Monday, February 26, 2024

Column: Bye bye!

OK, so they have this thing in France called l’esprit de l’escalier. Actually, we have it in America too, but we don’t have a pretty name for it like they do in France. Anyway, l’esprit de l’escalier literally means “the spirit of the stairs” and it basically refers to that feeling you get when you’re leaving the party and you suddenly know exactly what you should have said in response to that stupid Kevin guy when he called you an over-educated, under-informed pseudo-intellectual. Or whatever. Not that that’s a true story.

Anyway, it’s a phrase to describe the familiar feeling you get when you figure out the perfect comeback, but a few minutes too late. And I graduate in June, so I’m working real hard on not realizing, as I load up my minivan and hit highway 80, that I figured out my perfect comeback to my four years here just a little too late.

So here are some things I want to say before I leave this party. Some of these are observations I’ve always wanted to share, some are requests for what you should do once I’ve left D-town, some are just rambling. Here goes.

#1 – I’ll miss you. For reals! All of you! Davis is full of some really spectacular people. True, there’s about as much racial diversity as a meeting of the Martha’s Vineyard Yacht and Khakis Appreciation Society. But there’s tremendous diversity of brains. Everyone has a different passion — for dance, for rugby, for contemporary politics in the Middle East or pottery or math. It is so amazing to be surrounded by smart, interesting people all the time. And it’s something kind of unique to college. So what I’m saying here is that I’ll miss your wonderful brains.

#2 – You people who are staying? Y’all need to get more aggressive about defending your education. I didn’t do nearly enough while I was here and I regret it. That doesn’t mean you have to go to every protest or camp out on the Quad. Those tactics don’t appeal to everyone and that’s OK. But honestly, if everyone on this campus did one thing a week — sent a letter, called a representative, started a respectful discussion with a family member who says they’re not willing to pay more taxes to support public education — our voices would be so loud that no one in the state capital would be able to ignore us. You can do it! Save the UC’s!

#3 – Davis Noodle City is the best restaurant in this town. The food is cheap, fresh and delicious. Go there right now for lunch. Do it in my memory.

#4 – I’ve hated on it in the past, but the City of Davis is one heck of a nice place. I used to scornfully call it a cow-town, but now I call it that with pride. Davis is a little green gem among the fields, where the coffee shops are abundant, the trees are tall and lush and the bike racks stretch as far as they eye can see. It can be easy to get so immersed in campus life that you forget that we live in a beautiful and friendly city. But Davis has a lot to offer. It’s pretty cool.

#5 – Bro, if you’re not into books, don’t take an English class.

#6 – I have absolutely no real-world skills beyond a passing familiarity with power tools. And that’s OK. I’ve concluded that the purpose of a formal education isn’t to make you ready for jobs because you’re going to get on-site training for pretty much every job. Rather, education’s purpose is to make you a more interesting and effective person, someone who thinks deeply and broadly, who is aware of how much you don’t actually know and how nice it is to learn. Which leads me to my last point.

#7 – Ordinarily, I don’t condone taking anything in life very seriously. But I was kind of serious about this column. I really loved discovering strange new things about eccentric topics and I loved communicating that stuff to you. I intend to keep doing that kind of thing. I plan on continuing to learn weird trivia about human biology and religious history, and, like, herbs and junk. It was super fun and I thank The Aggie for the opportunity. But you don’t have to be writing a column in a college newspaper to enjoy learning. I hope that all of us, in our own ways, will stay curious and open to the joys of knowledge. There’s a whole big glittering world of ideas out there. Let’s go learn!

If you ever want to know anything about contemporary American architecture, or depictions of dance in post-colonial Caribbean fiction, well don’t e-mail KATELYN HEMPSTEAD at khempstead@ucdavis.edu, because she’ll be overseas. Just Google it.


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