It’s such a bittersweet feeling to reminisce and ponder about the moments before the tide rolled in.
I’m packing up my luggage a quarter past midnight, while listening to a “Lady Bird”-inspired playlist I found on Spotify while sitting in the center of my childhood bedroom. I was feeling oddly out of place between the four walls I grew up in. Around me are littered objects and memories of the past in a disarray.
Books I’ve read and neglected to read over the years scattered about; notes and letters from loved ones leaving their trace on my carpet; recycled decor that would soon be hung up on my dorm room walls. These same decorations would eventually cause the cheap, flimsy walls to peel in a few months. T-shirts and sweaters stolen from my father’s closet when he wasn’t looking — a common activity I’m known for doing. These fabrics would keep me comforted, even on the bad days.
Most importantly, I’d no longer have the comfort of my feline friend. My cat would never really know why I was missing, though. My mother would later tell me that my furry companion wanders the house meowing for me. I don’t really believe this is true, but it’s a nice thought to entertain.
It’s 2 a.m. in my childhood room not knowing what to expect for the years to come. On one hand I’m feeling empowered. I’m leaving the house at 18. This isn’t something everyone has the privilege of doing — especially in my culture. So why was I more nervous than happy?
Sure, I’m from a small, agricultural town. You know you’re close to the area just by the stench of farm animal manure that surrounds the entrances of town. My high school’s graduating class was about 102 students and it was rare when I met someone entirely new. One’s own identity was quickly traced to an older cousin or sibling. It was a town that remained stagnant.
It’s for exactly these reasons, alongside many more, that I simply wanted to escape my hometown. It’s odd, though. My town didn’t necessarily do anything wrong when I think about it in retrospect. Despite said epiphanies, I still felt stuck, like trudging through thick, muddy water all while being suffocated by the weight of just being present.
Truth is, I’ve never felt at home, nor comfortable, there. Perhaps this is why I was frightened to begin the cycle once more.
I’m the type of person whose personality resembles that of a realist and a perfectionist. I suppose the tides were pulling me in both directions leaving me washed ashore with a blanket of confusion robbing me of my peace.
So yeah. I was terrified. Filled with nothing but apprehension, I felt myself begin to weep there in the middle of my room. Tears slowly ran down my face which quickly transcended into a heavy sob. Definitely channeling my greatest “Lady Bird” behavior with this one.
This was the summer before my first year at UC Berkeley.
Flash forward to my first couple months away from home, I was nothing more than stunned. Life moved quickly in the city — bustling crowds, construction noises blaring during the morning wake, rivers zipping through busy streets. Of course, I knew all of this coming into my first year. Yet somehow I still had this inclination that I didn’t belong neither here nor there. What if I didn’t belong anywhere?
Pretty soon, immense feelings of anxiety rolled in as easy as waves crashing against the rocks ashore..
Whether walking to campus or communicating with friends of mine, I felt like I was walking on uneven grounds. The funny thing is, these heaps of nervousness seldom occurred before I entered UC Berkeley. I’ve felt nervousness before, but nowhere close to what I felt surrounded by the ivy green trees among my fellow Bears.
Perhaps I could blame the common diagnosis of impostor syndrome. I definitely felt unworthy of my placement — especially as a first year. The feeling of not being good enough nor doing enough tormented me in ways I never thought possible. My nights were spent in sorrow not knowing how to articulate these new emotions I’d been feeling.
Speeding forward into the present was the light at the end of the tunnel I aspired to see. The good news is, it’s not so scary now. I’m walking these dusted streets feeling safe and sound. While I still feel the anxiety I felt during my first few months, it’s certainly not as present. It comes in waves — some days it’s a slow moving current while other days I never see it coming.
Blindsided by the innate nature of such intense emotions, I’ve developed ways of coping. While my experience is personal to my own mysterious ways of dealing with a brain that functions like a malfunctioning clock, I’ve turned out okay.
Now going into my second year, I feel as though I know what to expect. Between pre-conversation nerves to anxiety driven knuckle cracking, I’ve been down that road before.
You’re a product of your environment, or so they say. I’ll make my environment a great one, and my home will soothe me directly into place, similar to an abyss of water swaying to and fro — from here to there.