This is a love letter.
Today is Valentine’s Day, and since we can’t do all the happy, gushy things we normally get to do on this day, I wanted to write a special post documenting the things I love the most at Oberlin and about Oberlin, focusing especially on the new things I have learned to love during my almost 4 years at this amazing place.
I started dancing ballet at the age of 5, so it’s pretty safe to say that movement has been an important part of my life for a long time. However, when I came to college, I knew I wanted to branch out from only doing ballet and try out other forms of movement. At Oberlin, I’ve been able to dabble in swing dance, tap dance, community arts programs, yoga, rock climbing, tumbling, and other things I can’t even think of at this point. Even though I sometimes miss doing ballet in the intense way I did during high school, I’ve come to love learning to move my body in new ways and finding the joy in myriad forms of movement (here's a post I wrote about joy in movement). Oberlin has given me a chance to explore that for myself and to see others explore it too, and I’m thankful that I’ve been able to reaffirm how important movement is for me.
Given the two (yes, two) back-to-back posts I’ve written recently about food, I think it’s not hard to tell that I love food and being at Oberlin has made me love it more. Don’t get me wrong, I have always liked food, but like a lot of people, my relationship with it has been complex in the past. Despite that, being at Oberlin has let me find joy in food and now I love eating, cooking, and the community that comes with those things that I’ve been able to find here (I have a post entirely dedicated to food and community here). Whether it was being part of a co-op or joining a gardening ExCo this semester (stay tuned for more about that!), I am finding new ways to engage with and love food in all its complexity and beauty.
This one, too, is obvious. I came to Oberlin in part because of the thriving arts scene here. But what I encountered was even better than anything I could have imagined as a wee 18-year-old hopeful prospie! The absolute range of artistic talent at Oberlin, from the Conservatory, folk concerts in co-op lounges, real music festivals, Big Parade, slam poetry performances, theater productions and student-run plays and musicals, visual art exhibits, and some of the best circus and dance shows I’ve ever been to, being at Oberlin is a veritable feast of talented artists and musicians (here's a post about a typical arts-filled weekend here). While I’ve been here, I’ve engaged more with the arts as an audience member than as an artist myself, and this is both inspiring and frustrating. But regardless, I’ve come to realize once again just how much I love and value the arts, and how important it is for me to have them be a part of my life in the future, whether it’s picking up my clarinet again, taking more dance classes, or learning to play a new instrument or paint a watercolor landscape. Another thing I love about the arts at Oberlin is that people are so open and kind about beginners. I’ve been surrounded by so many people who aren’t afraid to try a new skill, and seasoned hip hop dancers get as much praise and enthusiastic applause at shows as beginner tap dancers do (I know this one from experience). It’s a welcoming and enthusiastic space to engage with the arts, and I love them more now than I did when I arrived.
I always enjoyed hiking, camping, skiing, and other outdoorsy things, but at Oberlin, I have come to truly love being outside in nature, rather than just passively enjoying it. My sophomore year, I took a fall break trip in Michigan with the Oberlin Outings Club during a time where I really needed a break from the stressors of a very busy and overcommitted semester. I can honestly say that that trip was healing and transformative. It was such a positive experience that I went on a second trip in Kentucky during the following spring semester. That summer I worked at a camp in rural New Hampshire and realized how healing nature can be for other people too, especially kids. Being in nature, even if it’s just going on a walk to the nearby arboretum and nature preserve in Oberlin, or a quick bike ride on the Oberlin bike path, is something I always love and something I know I need to be a consistent part of my post-grad life. Sure, I may have an interval in a large city somewhere, but I’ll definitely be that person taking two-hour train rides to get to a trailhead on weekends or spending all my free moments reading in a park.
Clarity of values
This one’s a little more nebulous. Oberlin students are strong-willed. They have opinions and aren’t afraid to share them, loudly and confidently. While my voice is more or less loud depending on the situation I find myself in, I can say with confidence that throughout my time at Oberlin that my values have not only changed, but become much clearer. I know now, more than ever, what’s important to me and what’s non-negotiable in my future life (indeed, all my previous sections in this post prove that). I love being in a place so full of ideas and people with strong ideals. I’ve been able to explore new things and find out what truly matters to me. I’m sure that a lot of this is attributable to the aging process but being around people who know what they want and who know what’s most important to them is something I love most about being at Oberlin and something that has contributed to my personal growth in a major way.
How could I write this post without mentioning the heart, soul, backbone, blood (etc.) of Oberlin, and my life in general: my relationships with so many beautiful, wonderful people. I also came to Oberlin for the passionate, excited, caring, learning-loving people, and I have not been disappointed. The relationships I’ve made here are relationships I know I will carry with me the rest of my life. And yes, while things may have been lacking in the romance department (I’m sort of kidding here…mostly), I am so fulfilled by all my friends, colleagues, peers, teachers, and otherwise found family. The best part about Oberlin too is that, even though I have had an amazing core of friends since my first year here, I have also been able to form new relationships and make new friends every step of the way. I feel like the luckiest person alive that there are so many people I get to love.
Blech, you may be saying, this was SUCH a mushy post. All authorial self-consciousness aside though, there are really just so many things that I love about being an Oberlin student, and so many things I will miss when I graduate. Over the past four-ish years, I’ve been able to keep loving the things I already loved, grow to love things that I knew I could, and come to love things I didn’t even know there were to love. I am so full of tender gratitude for this place and the people I have been privileged enough to call home for the past four years. And I can’t wait to find new things to love when my journey here comes to a close.
With love, always <3
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May 3, 2021