With the sheer volume of events that occurred this past year, it’s hard to pick out just one specific moment that encapsulates the positive change I underwent. January 2022 me feels like she existed lightyears in the past, but that’s because my life is so different now than it was just a few months ago. Even though there’s so much to process, while I reflect on everything I’ve experienced this year, there’s one moment in particular that stands out the most.
For this to make sense, we’ll need some context. January 2022 me was finishing up her last semester at community college, anxiously waiting to hear back from colleges and still entirely uncertain about where she would end up in the fall. To be completely honest, I was a hot mess back then. COVID-19 had taken a bad toll on my mental health. All my friends had built exciting new lives for themselves at four-year universities while I was stuck at home attending community college. I spent my days logging into Zoom classes with a sea of blank screens, while my friends were busy exploring the world with their newfound friends. To make a sob story short, I felt devastatingly lonely and desperately longed to transfer to a UC this fall — I felt like I couldn’t escape soon enough.
The acceptance letter from UC Berkeley came with a golden halo; it meant freedom and a chance for something better. It meant I could finally move to a new city, make friends and explore everything the world had to offer — or at least everything within driving distance of Berkeley.
The summer passed and I eagerly moved to Berkeley and started classes. To my surprise, I made new friends pretty quickly and had a solid friend group by week three. There’s no way to describe it — it was like we all just magically clicked well with each other. I like to think of it as the universe’s gift to me after so many tolling months of online classes and isolation.
We found ourselves coming together regularly. Whether it was cooking a meal together, watching a movie, going out on the weekends or simply studying, we explored Berkeley and had fun together. It was a welcome change compared to the infrequency with which I saw people just a few short months ago.
This brings me to my most cherished memory of 2022, a moment when I felt a little less lonely and lost, and a lot more like I finally belonged to something.
It was a pretty typical Friday night: Three of my friends and I were excitedly making our way to a live music event, something we found ourselves doing frequently. Out of all the new things we have tried in the four months we’ve spent together in Berkeley, live music is definitely our favorite. I don’t know if it’s the overwhelming energy of a mosh pit or the contagious smiles of the people around you, but I have yet to find a better way to feel carefree and happy than listening to good music with my friends.
I had a Yerba Mate in one hand, my friend’s hand in the other and the sounds of Loose Leisure filled my ears. I felt lighter than I had in months at that particular moment. I didn’t have a single worry floating about in my head. It was just the high energy of the music filling my ears and carrying me around with no destination in mind. Looking at the elated smiles on my friends’ faces as we jumped around and let loose all the stress of the months before, I finally felt like I belonged to something. I belonged to them. I belonged to these little moments that filled us all with joy — all the silly little mistakes that brought tears of laughter to our eyes, all the congratulatory hugs when one of us accomplished something and all the smiles we shared while simply feeling content in each other’s presence.
So, there it is — my fondest memory of 2022. I know it might seem like a simple moment, but it’s when I realized how much my life has changed for the better since January. I’m no longer the lonely, isolated 20-year-old girl stuck at home staring at blank Zoom screens. I’m out in the world now, surrounded by people who genuinely care and with endless opportunities to explore everything out there. Although 2022 started out rough for me, it’s been gratifying to discover just a small portion of all the wonderful things the future holds for me and the amazing friendships I’ll build along the way.