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“We depend on our surroundings obliquely to embody the moods and ideas we respect and then to remind us of them. We look to our buildings to hold us, like a kind of psychological mould, to a helpful vision of ourselves. We arrange around us material forms which communicate to us what we need — but are at constant risk of forgetting what we need — within. We turn to wallpaper, benches, paintings and streets to staunch the disappearance of our true selves.”

The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton

Why do we feel like we belong in some places and not in others? It's interesting to me how the idea of a physical space can have so much impact on our identities - no matter that it's our first time there, or our thousandth. It's also interesting how our relationship with a place evolves: like how a place we dislike will later on become monuments of a certain part of our lives that we will eventually look back on nostalgically.

I think my favorite part of going on a trip is getting this feeling of "I belong," on the most random of places. I can honestly say that I don't see myself permanently residing abroad ever - but I'm going to lie if I say that there aren't parts of other countries where I can imagine myself being a part of its picture. There are places that resonated with certain parts of me, echoes that only the inner, most secret versions of myself could hear. And it was oddly comforting event though physically - all senses considered - they are alien.

Consider this carousel: before my trip, I only saw it once, on a video montage featuring a particular love team. But my feelings for said pairing notwithstanding - I instantly felt so much joy and excitement. Like I've never seen a carousel before - even though I have, a hundred times. I don't even like riding carousels. Something about it just spoke to me - maybe the colors? The innocence of children's laughter? The chilly, snuggle-appropriate weather? Whatever it was, it spoke to a part of me that longed for carefree, happy Saturday afternoons.

What does that say about me? A lot, but also, maybe, not much.

"Place makes memories cohere in complex ways," writes architectural historian Dolores Hayden. And I think that's true. How else can we have a memory of something if it doesn't have a setting? A backdrop?

I don't have a steady grasp of my "true self" lately. I'm not sure how much of my likes and dislikes right now are permanently part of "Karla, the person." But I'd like to think that this year is going to be all about reconciling these impulses to the identity. I'm in for a long period of introspection inside my room - aside from all the studying, of course. Personalities change, just as much as surroundings do. But the self can change too even when the place does not. Here's to hoping I like whatever version of me that comes out from this cocoon of a year.


Faculty Center: One last look

I went to UP yesterday to fix my clearance; and on my way to the OUR I just had to pass by this place again. It's been more than a year since the fire, and it still stings. I was there that night. My friends and I went to accompany another friend, a professor at the History department who thought he could still salvage his things.

As I stood in the same spot I did a year ago, I was again reminded of everything that was lost in the flames - records, undergrad theses, thousands of books, costumes, scripts, poems, novels, works of art, memories. Stories. Corners and corridors that witnessed our every failure and joy. Sometimes, I still wonder, how can its end be so cruel? To have left absolutely nothing behind but ashes?

I stood in front of it yesterday with a heavy heart - heavier than my usual sentiments of missing CAL as I crawled my way through law school. Turns out, today the building is being demolished. FC was home, perhaps even more so than Malcolm ever was. And to lose it so permanently just as my stay in UP was ending - it felt like salt on my battle wounds.

But if there's anything I learned as a student of this college, it's that there is beauty to be found in starting over. Stories end, time passes. Life comes and goes, often taking away parts of us we can never get back. The most we can hope for is that this sadness will eventually carry us through. To new narratives, new perspectives, new meanings. For now, we grieve. Tomorrow - as with all tomorrows - we will pick up our pens and write again.


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