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Part II: A Forest of Friendships

Previously Published Jun 2. 2021

Previously Published Jun 2. 2021

For her eighteenth birthday, I promised my Co-Editor-in-Chief Alena that I would spark her Philz addiction. An odd gift, but a necessity, and in hindsight, a foretelling.

It’s hard not to fall in love with everything you will ever lose. I thought this as Main Street Cupertino flickered alive under the soft January sun. This was only the first of many poetic musings that my sacred shrine afforded me. I hadn’t even finished senior year yet, but I was already missing that fleeting warmth, the knowledge that home was never too far until your college acceptance letter tells you otherwise.


Conversation between Alena and me over Philz:

“Wow! That’s really nice.”

“I know, right! Rich, but not too sweet. Not too bitter either.”


“I don’t know how I’m going to make friends next year.” 

Subtext: I’ll miss you.

“You’ll be fine. You’ve had no problem thus far. You forget everyone will be eager to meet new people and make new friends.” 

Subtext: And you’ll still have me.

“You don’t know that.”

Subtext: I’m scared.

“I do. And I believe.”

Subtext: I always have believed.


Excerpt from my College Counseling Peer Anecdote assignment about Alena:

As the clock struck midnight, a miracle blossomed from the digitized pixels. Alena and I (though mostly Alena) had done it. The video was finished and preparing to export. Even with the risk of damaging her laptop, Alena willingly selected the 1080p, full resolution, high-quality video option. What emerged from the womb of her iMovie icon was indeed a mini cinematic masterpiece. Together, we rejoiced to the track of “The Greatest Show” that Alena had trimmed and selected for the background of the video. We laughed as our faces appeared on screen, our smiles wider than those of clowns. Perhaps it was the midnight adrenaline or the serotonin explosion of having accomplished the impossible, but we grinned until our lips stretched from one side of our face to the other. 

Our video was an instant hit. Alena had not only helped save the club, but she was now responsible for its growth from ten members to twenty-three. Though our challenges in running a publication this year are mammoth, I can say without a doubt that Alena’s faithful optimism and tenacity will see us until the very end. 


The filters refused to layer correctly. The images refused to download in the right format. I was running late for a meeting and still hadn’t finished harassing the staff of the Quill for their overdue articles in lieu of our “Zooming in on the Year” feature.

So, of course, I did the one thing I was trained to do in moments of intense panic this senior year: I messaged Alena. 


Conversation between Alena and me on March 13, 2021:

“here’s the instagram post for the release:”

“i like itttt

graphic design queen”

“Aww thank you 😘💕

Okay we just have to get the articles up hehe”

“sounds good

also also

i got into uchicago :D”


wait send me the acceptance letter so i can relish in it with you”


Excerpt from Alena’s UChicago Acceptance Letter:

Dear Alena: Congratulations! It is my great pleasure to inform you that you have been admitted to the University of Chicago’s Class of 2025. With your exceptional academic record, strong voice, and impressive accomplishments, you have distinguished yourself in one of the largest and most competitive applicant pools.

For over a century, the College’s academic tradition has thrived because of students like you who crave ideas that captivate, provoke, and transform. We imagine you in our laboratories, and on our performance stages, in our libraries, and on our athletic fields, immersed in your passions and engaged in the pursuit of knowledge. As part of our College Houses, you will create and inhabit a vibrant intellectual space with your peers and professors.


Ever since freshman year, I have entertained this theory that the reason college reaction videos are clickbait kryptonite for the mindless masses of ambitious teenagers coming of age in the world is because everyone wants a piece of the thrill. 

That was before I became an intrinsic part of the thrill, which is to say the day Alena received notice of her UChicago admission, which is to say Ivy Day, when I cried more joyful tears than my tissues could soak up.


‘Twas the night before December 15, 2020, and all throughout my dreams, I quivered in my chair at the end of a lake. My laptop lay on the picnic table, my friend by my side. But what was I to do when I checked my decision and anticipated derision?

In this dream, I fell off my chair into the lake. The outcome was so unexpected that I was fished out of the lake drenched in sparkling lavender soda. I came up with two explanations: 1) I played too much Candy Crush as a kid (hence the lavender soda lake) 2) I was morbidly psychic.

I reconstruct this dream every time I tease my friends about predicting the outcome of Ivy Day. One friend even went so far as to swear by the Reddit post: “I’ll run 10 miles for every Ivy I get into.” His rationale for such an absurd wager? “[I] won’t even need to leave my chair 🤩” I told this friend he would be running twenty miles. Unfortunately and fortunately for him, I was right, and we knew I was right once I flung my stuffed Roar-ee (the lovable mascot of Columbia) at his Zoom screen on Ivy Day while the chorus of “ROAR LION ROAR” blared in the background.

In New York City, another friend dug her Princeton jacket out of the closet. It fit perfectly.

Elsewhere, lions and tigers and Quakers and kegs and bulldogs and bears stormed the earth.

Instagram stories: a flurry of blues, oranges, crimsons, forest greens, and browns. Confetti. Obnoxious mascot stickers that I couldn’t bring myself to hate just yet.

Other predictions did not pan out the way I thought they would. Still, April 6, 2021, was joyful nonetheless, and a week later, everyone logged into their new admitted student portals, satisfied and relieved.

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Serrina Zou, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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