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Torrent Magazine

28 April 2009

tor-rent [tawruh nt, tor-] (noun)

a rushing, abundant, unceasing current;

a violent, uncontrollable outpouring;

the mouth of a mountain stream.

I went back to Scripps College last weekend for the second annual AASU Reunion.

The campus looked exactly the same. It smelled the same, felt the same, and as much as I know this couldn’t be true, the faces looking back at me seemed the same. It was as if time had completely stopped in Claremont, California, even as the world changed around it.

The reunion activities took place in the new SCORE office – a space that was built the summer after I graduated. Current AASU members counted off into small groups that were divided among the few alumnae present. My group had four sophomores. We were supposed to be talking about my experience on campus as an Asian American woman, my major, my favorite professors, life after Scripps.

I remember being a sophomore. I remember not really being afraid, or even curious, about what might happen after college simply because Claremont had felt so comfortable. I didn’t even read the news back then, so removed was I from what happened outside.

George W. Bush was reelected to the Office of the President.

Hundreds of people were held without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay.

By any means necessary.

It all seemed like it was happening to a different world, with consequences that, in all honesty, would probably never touch my life.

Anyways, I was too busy with Scripps drama, classes drama, friends drama, to really notice.

Hello, I’m Shiyuan, class of 2008, and I was a Politics major.

Spring of my junior year, Jessica, Rachel, and I went to stay with Rachel’s brother in Santa Monica. Jessica had gotten us tickets to see Better Than Ezra at the House of Blues and we were beyond excited. Jessica and I hadn’t spent real time together since we stopped being roommates the year before, and I had never really hung out with Rachel before. As it turned out, spending the night at Joey’s apartment, three blocks from the ocean, in a neighborhood that never went to sleep, so far away from campus that it could have been in a different country, was way more exciting than the House of Blues.

We couldn’t fall asleep after getting back to Joey’s place – and in truth, none of us really wanted to. Instead, we grabbed some food at a late-night pizza joint just down the street from his apartment and walked down to the beach.

Three years later, I can barely remember the details of that night. The concert, what Joey’s apartment looked like, how well I slept, what kind of pizza I had – those memories have long since blurred together. But what I do remember, with startling clarity, is how I felt digging my toes into the warm sand, spreading my arms into the breeze, and lifting my face towards the pale moon.

I told Jessica later that in that moment, with our toes curled on the beach, how I felt right then – that’s how I always imagined college would be. Days and weeks marked by late night pizza runs with my girlfriends, concerts in LA, peering into the ocean at 3:00am, seeking for its other shores; I thought that there would be, just hovering around every corner, the sense of endless possibilities, the sense that I could be anything, that this was just the beginning.

My mom told me that I should be a pharmacist when I graduate. She says they make a lot of money and I guess she’s given up already on me being a doctor.

I understood immediately. Her mother’s concerns, her concerns, they had become mine, too. So, I said what I was supposed to say.

Get good grades. Take advantage of your opportunities here. Don’t bum around all summer – get an internship. Go to graduate school. Become a professional. Make your parents happy.

But as I rummaged through my past for nuggets of wisdom to pass on, suggestions that might allow her to succeed where others had failed, all I could remember was the Santa Monica skyline. How, standing on the beach in the dark of night, stretching my arms out as far as they could go, everything that I could become, everything that had yet to happen, the world as I knew it, just seemed like miles upon miles of possibility. How, the moment I graduated, when the warm haze of Scripps College wore off, when the pressure of life and bills and responsibilities tightened around me, threatening to cut off my air supply, everything I could become, my future, was reduced from the seven continents to one square inch of real estate.

I felt so viscerally, so physically, my dreams slip away.

Maybe I could get my paralegal certificate. The work’s not terrible and the pay’s actually pretty decent. Should I go to law school? I could do public interest law. What about graduate school? I could get a Masters in Public Policy, or Non-Profit Administration. Or, business school. A business degree never hurt nobody. Or, when I’m feeling particularly indulgent, an MFA in creative writing. Or, journalism. I could write for a living. Wouldn’t that be the life.

In an AASU brainstorming session that took place during the spring semester of my senior year, I asked everyone: What would you want for us if anything was possible?

There are a lot of reasons why I haven’t been more sincere in my efforts to get this magazine off the ground – some of them valid, some of them less so.

But right now, in this moment, even if I can’t do everything I had ever wanted, even if I can’t quit my job and write full-time (the dream – right?), I can do this.

I can start somewhere.

– Shiyuan

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