1,356 days ago was move-in day. A million years ago! Yesterday.
I had plucked my eyebrows, painted my nails, straightened my hair. I knew my roommates liked Harry Potter, I knew we all regretted being in a cramped triple, and I knew they were just as excited as I was. Were these going to be my best friends? What would be our first inside joke? How would I ever decide which one would become my maid of honor? This is the moment I thought everything would click — because this is college. This is the time of memories and stories. That time on Memorial Glade. Late Night. Retreat.
My first semester at UC Berkeley, I started to work at The Daily Californian and quickly fell for the combination of dedication, excitement and adrenaline possessed by those around me. It gave me a purpose, an outlet, a social circle — all things I felt that I had missed in high school. It taught me early to push myself and my capabilities. I learned to open up. I learned to ask questions.
During dead week, my editor called me up and asked if I wanted to be on the 11 p.m. to 4 a.m shift with Occupy Cal protesters. “Sure,” I said. It was in case they decided to break into Sproul Hall. While I hung out with the protesters, we talked about philosophy, motivations, finals and what made them believe that their voice mattered. What was their story? The night ended, and I headed back to my residence hall, trying not to wake my roommates. Spoiler: I wasn’t best friends with them. Second spoiler: The protesters didn’t break into Sproul Hall that night, and I thought I’d left without a story. But I was wrong. I had a story — a story of what makes a student camp out. A story of writing a paper on Sproul the night before it’s due. A story of desperately trying to make a difference in the world. This was, is and always has been the UC Berkeley story.
The Daily Cal was the not the most important aspect of my college life — it was my college. I majored in Daily Cal, and I minored in UC Berkeley. I learned more real, practical skills here than I did in any classroom. The affirmative action bake sale. ASUC elections. The explosion. The late-night phone calls. The emergencies. The daily blasts of emails. The time we brought the couch to the office. The time we went on the roof. The time we made a paper without Internet. The time we wrote a book. The nachos. I was a colleague, I was a leader, and I was busy! (I think I’ll miss that feeling of important yet indescribable busyness of UC Berkeley.)
So that was it, wrap it up — I had “done” college. I had worked hard, and I had a real accomplishment to show for it. I felt important, I felt loved, I felt smart. I had great friends and amazing roommates.
Yet it was my senior year of college, and parts of it still felt disappointingly like high school. I had not left all of my insecurities behind. I faltered and let myself become defined by those who did not love me. I lost my voice. I grew up throughout college, but that didn’t leave me with the wisdom to stop making the same mistakes. My weakness felt like it still defined me, and I was worried about the underlying thought that something was still wrong with me.
I have sat in classrooms with a lot of you, but my real knowledge of your achievements and your strength came from recording all of these moments for the Daily Cal. When you wanted to raise your voice against Ferguson. When you pulled off remarkable protests fighting for affordable tuition. When you ran for student government. When you won battles and when you lost them. Through your protests and your passions, I’ve learned that my voice and my experiences matter, that each voice deserves to be heard and each story deserves to be told.
Over the last two, three, four, five or six years, we’ve all gone from confused, excited, nervous students to confused, excited, nervous graduates. I have fought my way through harsh criticism and hatred. I have scars and stories from my time at UC Berkeley. College has changed me. I have found people to love, and they love me back. I have worked hard be here today, and you did, too.
In the next few weeks, we’re going to graduate, and for most of us, we’re going to leave UC Berkeley. But we’re graduating with more than degrees. We’re graduating with the knowledge that our voices matter. Knowledge about who we are and what we care about. Knowledge that we’re going to be OK after graduation.
The people I worked with at Daily Cal were remarkable and continued to surprise me with their brilliance and tireless effort to evolve the newspaper. I didn’t want to let it go, and I will miss it terribly. But it’s time to move forward. Say goodbye to the people we were on our first day, on our best day, on our worst day. But don’t forget, because UC Berkeley was your story. It’s been an honor to tell you my story and to hear yours.
Chloe Hunt was the 2014-15 editor in chief and president and now serves as the chairperson of The Daily Californian’s Board of Directors. She joined the Daily Cal in fall 2011 as a news reporter before becoming an assistant blog editor in spring 2013 and the blog editor for fall 2013 and spring 2014. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in history.