About a year ago, I told a couple of friends that I’d have the most boring college life ever.
Given UC Berkeley’s reputation for rigor, I envisioned academia slowly sucking my soul away as I labored through assignments and pulled all-nighters; my fun-loving nature was to be a martyr in the name of attaining a GPA worthy of the most competitive law schools.
As if the school’s inherent difficulty wouldn’t be enough to manage, I tend to measure how “deserving” I am of something positive by reflecting on how many negative things I’ve had to overcome to reach whatever it is that I want.
It’s a decidedly overdramatic mentality for someone like me, someone who’s never faced real adversity. I’ve never gone to bed hungry, feared for my safety or faced discrimination on account of my skin tone or sexual orientation. My life is relatively easy, but I love to pretend that it’s hard.
Victories are a lot sweeter when I convince myself that the odds are against me. You’ll never hear me boast that I barely studied for a test or that I didn’t break a sweat hitting weights at the gym. It’s quite the opposite.
I’ll drone on about a sleepless night spent memorizing formulas or my efforts to get a girlfriend, and I probably come across as unconcerned about other people’s problems like they don’t have their own. I guess this fits a few unflattering UC Berkeley stereotypes, but I’m working on it.
Knowing this about myself, I anticipated that my time at the UC flagship would be a cycle of working and complaining, hence my now year-old comment to my friends about my then-future college life and how boring it’d be.
Fortunately, my prediction didn’t come to fruition.
It’s not because I went out partying. I can count the number of alcohol-fueled events I attended during my freshman year on one hand, and the number of nights I got blackout drunk on zero.
I didn’t make loads of new friends. Don’t get me wrong, I made a few, but I’m about as eager to approach someone I’ve never met as an older person is to walk toward a coughing youth without a mask these days.
I’m an extrovert who hates introductions, and I roomed with two people I knew long before I walked the halls of Unit 3. Those two factors weren’t exactly conducive to making new acquaintances.
So what did I do? Why didn’t life suck during my freshman year?
Well, I made my own fun.
I took showers at the same time as one of my roommates, so the two of us could rap along to Kanye West with unabashed attitudes rivaling that which Yeezus himself possesses. Going to the gym with my other roommate became a frequent highlight of my days. I talked trash to everyone who played pickup basketball with me and backed it up maybe half the time (whatever, it made me feel dangerous).
Sometimes I got weird. I rode swivel chairs across the lobby floor of Priestley Hall. I wore hot pink short shorts when I hit the treadmill. During the holiday season, I attached a disembodied noggin from an Oski bobblehead to a decapitated Elf on the Shelf, then rotated my monstrous creation around different spots in my dorm hallway on a daily basis.
Hopefully, those stunts brought some laughter to a fellow student’s day. Maybe they just made my hallmates worry about that guy from Room 402 who always walked around shirtless, but I had fun nonetheless.
At this point, you may be wondering why I’m telling you about my pseudo-struggles, the voices in my head that tell me that I’m more deserving than other people because of my tenacity, the honesty that drowns those voices out and, most recently, these mischievous but benign escapades of mine that draw sideways looks.
I know that a lot of people are like me, almost reluctant to have fun sometimes. At a school such as UC Berkeley, it can feel wrong not to spend every waking moment trying to accomplish something. But believe me, there’s always a place for happiness.
When school is in session, you may feel like you never have time to party or to take a trip to San Francisco or to do much of anything that would sound fun to other people in the traditional sense. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your college experience even more than your peers who make different choices.
Many activities that can make you overcome with childlike glee or strengthen your connection with friends old and new hardly take any time out of your day and may have a lasting impact on your life.
These days, it may seem harder than ever to enjoy yourself, but there are countless ways to have a good time while social distancing. Park next to your pals at a drive-in movie on a Friday night. If you’re itching for adventure, check out a nearby hiking trail. It doesn’t matter what you do — all that matters is what you make of it.
Take it from someone who looks back on the last couple of semesters favorably but hardly ever left campus: Being a student on one of the most competitive campuses in the country is not an excuse to have a miserable undergraduate experience.
Get creative, and make your own fun.