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Stable ground: Lucky to be here

The room lurched.

Last Friday, half an hour away from my dorm room, a 5.1-magnitude earthquake rumbled below a city called La Habra. The week before, a smaller earthquake shook downtown Los Angeles.

I slept through the first and shopped past the second. (I’m now convinced that the local Target has the best seismic-resistant structure around.)

However, I did sense one of the aftershocks that followed the La Habra quake. I was sitting on my bed, thinking about doing homework, when the walls wobbled. The best way I can describe the experience is that everything moved but nothing was moved. It was the most inappropriately exciting three seconds of my entire semester.

I hope you’ll pardon me for pointing out the obvious, but earthquakes are bad. It’s bad for people, for urban society, for the economy, for your dog’s nerves — it’s just bad. But it’s also really exciting. Amazing, even.

After a while, we tend to forget that we’re lounging around on this gigantic ball full of dirt and water but mostly dirt. We forget that we’re constantly spinning around the axis and the sun and the galaxy. We don’t notice any of it.

Rather, we don’t appreciate it.

I don’t particularly care if it’s scientific or divine, but I think it’s a miracle that we all managed to end up here in the first place. I just feel really, really fortunate to be alive and at the mercy of tectonic plates. Geologists have been saying for years that California is overdue for “The Big One.” They say that the San Andreas fault can snap any day now.

Usually, such warnings are wasted on me. It’s pure rock underneath; how fragile could it possibly be? How likely is it that the ground will actually swallow me up? It’s just about as likely as living on a planet that happens to have oxygen.

On a less Earth-shattering and equally amazing scale, my father once told me that compared to most people, I was unfairly blessed. I do believe he’s right. So many things — some of those, I’m sure, at the expense of others — have worked in my favor.

Being out here in one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country made me much more aware of how privileged and fortunate I am. Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder if I really deserve to be here, not really in the self-deprecating way but in an is-this-the-real-life kind of way.

I haven’t figured that out yet, but I do know that I’m very lucky to be here, stable ground or not.

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and attends college in California.