Well, welcome to my 30-for-DT.
Frankly, I feel like I shouldn’t be writing this. I think I’m still that sophomore since March 2020. I see myself leaving my GE at Taper Hall, looking at my phone while walking through Trousdale, and getting this email. I am Han Solo in carbonite. I should rely on this joke, but I’m tired after all these unprecedented events. Although I see them all the time in the story, this one seems defining.
I always wish I had been more at University Park instead of my “campus” where I spent Zoom University. I wish I hadn’t transferred with just one semester to USC when the pandemic hit. I wish I wasn’t a commuter weighing how much social engagement was worth the time of a car ride. I wish I could narrowly dodge more skateboards and surreptitiously cry in more hallways. I would have liked to take more photos. I’ve had my best and my worst times here (and online). I embarrassed myself, bit my tongue a thousand times and wanted to fall through the floor – at this point, that’s a special skill on my resume.
I could poetically tell you about my time at USC — my abbreviated time and my extraordinary time here. The times I fell in love with campus again at golden hour. But that’s not what this column is about, is it? It’s about books and honestly, it got me here.
I remember the Passover Seder when I was nine. My aunt handed me a book as a “just because” gift when I walked through the door. I finished it within an hour of the seder starting, and from then on my reputation as a reader quickly took hold. Everyone quickly understood that I was in love with stories in all their forms.
When I was young, I loved the “Rainbow Magic” series, the “All of a Kind Family” series, but it was the “Junie B. Jones” series that made me the reader I am today. today. And, of course, as I mentioned in my first column this semester, Percy Jackson & Co. is responsible for at least half of the reason I’m so bored with books.
As I got older, I started loving the young adult section – the books known for “I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding”. No one wanted to walk me to the bookstore, and they still won’t, but I had a $10 in my pocket, and I needed to make an informed decision about paperbacks! My local indie has regularly branched off on backlist books that have led to, among other things, a collection of series about teenagers who, after falling asleep, end up in Disney World as holograms to battle Disney villains. . I loved “The Raven Boys”. My reading speed was once again a feature, and I guess most people would prefer to leave high school prom king, but “That Girl Who Read a Lot of Books Really Fast” is perfectly fine too.
I wanted to highlight “The opposite of loneliness”, which I discovered in the second year of high school. I had chosen it by chance via Goodreads, obviously my favorite social network. It was a series of works by Marina Keegan, who died in an accident just days after graduating. After his death, his graduation speech went viral. The way she so lovingly described her college experience made me realize that I wanted to be – and write – like her. She’s right on all counts: the idea that it’s too late to do anything is comical. The thought of losing the circles we formed during our college years is terrifying. The beauty of everyone being on the same team, behind on the same read, in the same city. The late-night lyrics of “Wanna come with? Please?” The tenderness of the little moments we cling to. The walks from here to there and back.
For me, USC was never a slam dunk. I never believed this could happen and I still believe the acceptance letter was a dream. I saw people on tour taking pictures and thinking, “Wait, wait, wait, I’m going here. They think it’s something worth photographing. This is my school.”
It’s the pride of taking a photo with Tommy Trojan as a prospective student and realizing that you will pass it every day and not take the same photo until you graduate. It makes my tongue twisted and pissed off. That’s why I dug my heels into the sand this semester and fought off waves of premature nostalgia. The whole thing was everything and nothing I had hoped for, in this emotional gray space.
I started at USC terrified, and now I’m leaving with a little more joy. A little more in love with Los Angeles, and a little more impressed with those I’ve met. It’s strange the kind of beauty you can find in unprecedented events.
I’m lucky to have studied history and “heard the people sing”—those never heard from and those long dead. I will miss spending time in class doing long soliloquies about my historical obsession of the day and wondering what happened in the missing 18 and a half minutes of the Watergate tapes. I will miss working on this column, even though it was barely work. For me, USC was all literary genres rolled into one. So if you saw me tripping over my own feet at Trousdale or Taper, SOS and CPA at least once a week while on campus, no, you didn’t. USC, thank you for inviting me. Fight forever – and please…read a book today.
Rachel Bernstein is a senior writer on arts and entertainment books and news. His “Read a Book Today” column aired every other Friday.