Considering it’s only my second year, It might seem a little early to begin reflecting on how much I’ve changed since I began my journey at UC Berkeley. That said, I firmly believe that I’ve grown more in just one year than I did in my first 18 put together. Between the numerous new faces and names I had to memorize to scrambling to find out what my housing situation would look like this year, I, along with many other freshmen, dealt with unprecedented levels of uncertainty.
When I think back to my first memory at Cal, I think of the ice cream social held on the Clark Kerr campus the day I moved in. I didn’t realize it then, but the people I met that day would shape my college life just as much as my academics.
That said, my first month in Berkeley was still a little lonely. Since I lived in a single room, it was easy for me to fall into isolation. I’ll be the first to admit that putting yourself out there can be scary — but as I soon learned, staying stuck in my room was not going to make me any happier. That initial loneliness I felt allowed me to push myself to join clubs and make new friends when I used to be a wallflower.
Once I took the steps to become more involved in campus life, I started to feel like a Berkeley student for the first time. After that initial hurdle, everything fell into place. It felt like nothing could go wrong.
Then came the next crisis.
About midway through my freshman year, I realized I hadn’t actually clearly thought about what I wanted for my future. I imagined I would stick to the plans I made when I was in high school rather than explore my options. College was a fresh start after years of being trapped within the confines of my hometown, but I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be yet — having access to so many opportunities I never had before was quite daunting.
As a result, throughout my first year, I wrestled with the anxiety of making the wrong decisions. Should I join this club? Should I take this class? Should I pick this major? I often stressed about whether I would follow the wrong pursuit and waste the precious time I have here. I’m still working on unlearning the notion that my worth is tied to my productivity. I admired my peers, who seemed to have it all figured out, until I realized that they didn’t, either.
Over the course of the year, I’ve come to accept that there is no perfect path from here to graduation and that the fear of regret was actually holding me back. “Step outside of your comfort zone” might sound like nothing more than a cliche, but when you continuously develop new experiences, you also gain clarity regarding the person you want to become.
My copious amount of internal dialogue has allowed me to recognize that if the choices I make no longer provide me with fulfillment, that doesn’t mean I followed the wrong path. People are variable, not fixed, and starting over is an inevitable part of the process.
Compared to my little freshman self who was scared to step outside of their room, I’m excited to make more mistakes because I’ve learned that now is the perfect time to do so.
One of the primary purposes of higher education is to expand your worldview. So, to all incoming students: When you step onto campus this fall, be prepared to embrace change. Every day, try to do something that you’ve never done before. Challenge yourself, but respect your boundaries. And most importantly, never let the fear of failure be the reason you take one path instead of the other.