I could start my farewell with the beginning of my freshman year, or maybe by describing the overwhelming insecurity I felt my sophomore year, or even with my most transformative time at UC Berkeley as a junior. Nevertheless, as I am a graduating senior and will soon be diving into yet another unknown, I think it would be more than appropriate to start at the end, with my senior spring break trip to Cancun, Mexico.
You will never know how truly small yet essential you are until you are standing next to the massive Mayan pyramid in Chichen Itza — to witness the creation of a civilization’s legacy and to feel a sense of responsibility to your own people in helping to create the next wonder of the world, or simply to leave your story behind. It was an impactful experience and gave me a new perspective on my being, my work and my goals at UC Berkeley.
You see, when archaeologists uncover lost civilizations such as these and enter worlds that have long since been destroyed, you know what they discover most often? They find stories, ancient languages and words from people who have been gone for thousands of years. Chances are, like you and me, they told their stories to try to make sense of their lives and their tragedies so that one day, it could help us make sense of ours.
Your story might be similar to mine: first-generation Latina student, first in the family to graduate from college or growing up on a ranch in a small town. Our stories are different as well, but they are part of a collective work of memories, ambitions and dreams — pieces of art that will outlive all of us and may help inspire future generations’ sense of belonging.
When I was 14 years old, I started writing a lot, mostly because I could not bear to speak the words, and putting pen to paper helped. I hesitated to share some of it, but my gut is telling me to keep going, just as it has been telling me since the first day I stepped foot on this campus.
“September, 2007. Dear Mom, I’m in Leadership class! Oh, but I burned the tortillas again, dad got mad. I just can’t make them like you use to.”
“Dear Mom, They took me to the cardiologist again. I have (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), but looks like we have the same heart.”
“March, 2011. I got into UC Berkeley, Ma! You know, it’s the number one public university, right? I’m in, just as I promised.”
“June 19th, every year. Querida Mami, I miss you.”
Writing brought me back from the grave. It gave me an outlet for all the grief I tried to protect my family and friends from by not speaking. It was my therapy and my way of dealing with my mother’s absence, my diagnosis and the seemingly inevitable fear of self-destruction that tormented me. When I entered UC Berkeley and The Daily Californian, I was proud and grateful for my experiences, my writing and my story.
The point I am trying to make with all of this is that even though we all have our own stories and our own paths after graduation, we are helping to make the history of our generation. No one man built the pyramids alone, and none of us got here alone.
We have our parents, who have worked hard with their hands so that we could have the chance to work hard with our minds, and friends, who have helped us survive finals, and heartbreak and have celebrated our victories with us. We also have to credit the angels watching over us. I cannot thank everyone enough for the wonderful memories I have made here as a proud Golden Bear, and after today, not only must we continue our paths toward our goals, but we must help others to reach theirs — never forget — and be proud of where we came from.
Natalie Nunez joined The Daily Californian her freshman year as an arts and entertainment reporter and moved to the business side to establish the first fundraising department as its manager. She is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in media studies and business administration.