You, baby Bear, were lifted up from under your arms, out of the cradle of your hometown. You were dropped off here, on the unending floor of freedom — college.
The umbilical cord has been cut. Now that I’m a big girl, blowing out the candles of my two years in Berkeley, here’s my advice to you on how to make sense of it:
You might be tempted to spit out the pacifier, comb down the tufts of hair sticking up from your head and put on a little suit. Become a Boss Baby and dash to adulthood. Take yourself, and have everyone take you, seriously.
I glee in telling you that might not work. Instead, I recommend regressing by about 18 years. Go back to the mindset from when you first tried to comprehend a home bigger than the womb you were used to.
Get lost in the mall. Like you did when your mom was calculating what 15% off on that dress would come out to. Explore your new city, even if you don’t have a friend to drag along at first. Rely on your imaginary ones. Intend to take a bus to Safeway and accidentally ride to Oakland. Seek out the activities you’re curious about. Ask to learn a routine with one of the dance troupes at Haas Pavilion and return devastatingly humbled. Then, crawl into the next store with a flashy sign.
Pick your friend’s nose. Knowing new people can be daunting. Their toy collection spans years and it feels awkward and intrusive to ask about every single trinket. But do it anyway. Stick your finger into the booger of their lives with no boundaries. Demand to watch their deleted YouTube tutorial of the cup song. Listen to their trauma. Get all up in there.
Have ice cream for every meal. Weight gain is a physical manifestation of this phase of life, just like dyed hair, matching tattoos and under eye bags. It signifies diverse cuisines and out-of-whack food combinations. Newfound obsessions with boba and Yogurt Park. So get the Freshman 15. Your belly will be rounder with memories, your cheeks stuffed with happiness. People love you for your goofy, toothless smile and sunshine giggle, not some Lego blocks on your stomach.
Run like the wind. Wearing matching sets to RSF and 12-3-30 on the treadmill gets boring fast. Race outside for exercise, against time, speed and incline and get a smacking cold lemonade to slurp down afterwards. Don’t dance hot at Kip’s — do the Liam Payne and dab feverishly with your friends while everybody who thought of approaching you backs away horrified. Wild fun doesn’t always look pretty.
Throw a tantrum in the grocery store. When you’re uncomfortable with a system or practice, wail and scream at the top of your lungs, and inconvenience the rest of us too. You’re a part of this community and can call it out on its fudging bull spit.
Take fat naps. You need rest. And there’s no greater accomplishment than having drooled on every table in Main Stacks.
Read the same bedtime story over and over. That recitable episode of “Friends” in your blankie at night can put a Disney bandaid on all the boo-boos of the day.
Randomly say, “I want to go home.” No explanation required. Don’t feel obligated to keep pursuing anything because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do.
Hold onto your parent’s finger with a death grip. Don’t let go of your past relationships.
Get distracted by dogs and flying frisbees on the Glade.
Belonging is visceral and tactile, so lick everything and squish your face against every surface. I didn’t feel like I belonged until I started writing for our newspaper, scribbling through the walls of Berkeley with my crayons.
Cal is just another playground. You’ve set out with your sippy cup, but there will be swings waiting to whack you and slides you think are too tall. Whoosh down them anyways.
Your sandcastles won’t be as magnificent as you imagined. Build them regardless.
Befriend the others so you can hold hands in the chaos and sing “Ring Around the Rosie” together. If you scrape your knee, your dad is sitting right by the benches. You can run to him.
Stay doe-eyed and mischievous so that at the end of the day, your diaper is jolly heavy, with all your new experiences, sweet and stinky.