As winter break came to a close, I did a lot of thinking as I put some farewell miles on my trusty Prius. I had a great first semester at Columbia, and I’ve made new friends that might last a lifetime, but as I packed up my bags and relished in some of the last bits of warmth I’d know for a while, I couldn’t shed a certain feeling of dread. I realized that amidst the hustle and bustle of New York City, I have started to lose an important part of my identity. Thus in preparation to spend 2018 at Columbia, I decided to make a resolution never to forget one core fact about myself: that I am from California.
Back in September, I knew that, though I’d be living on the East Coast, my heart would always be back in the Golden State. In fact, I’ve never introduced myself without explicitly mentioning it: “He/Him/His, Columbia College, Burbank, California”. But after NSOP, I found myself assimilating more and more to my peers in some mislead attempt to fit in with the other first years. Sure, there are other students from California, but here we’re nothing but a scattered minority, a misplaced people. As I tried to make NYC feel like home, I inevitably wondered whether I should have attended UCLA or Stanford or Berkeley: places where I would never have to bite my tongue when I felt the urge to ask if anyone wanted to longboard down to the nearest Jack-in-the-Box, places where I could be myself
The more time I spend in Morningside Heights, the more I know and regret that I’m being indoctrinated into East Coast culture; I don’t know how to resist it. Last week, I had to correct myself while suggesting that my friends and I rollerblade over to Shake Shack after we finished shopping for brightly-colored sunglasses and tank tops. I’ve been eating In-N-Out Burger since I first learned to wax a surfboard, but that slip up made me realize that I am truly losing touch with who I am. I’ve traded in my Vilebrequin board shorts for a Canada Goose jacket, but I still eat an avocado before bed every night and always load up my dining hall food with sriracha.
Thus I pledge that during my second semester, I will hold onto my California identity with a greater tenacity than ever before. And as the temperatures drop, whenever I need to put on anything heavier than a t-shirt, I may do so, but I pledge to use the opportunity to remind my peers of the fact that I am a Californian.