At the start of an unpredictable journey, fear and doubt darken nervous corners of the mind. With your identity in jeopardy, your insecurities interrogate you. They thrive on vulnerability, questioning your confidence and composition. Parts of you will perish; parts of you will persist. The question of who you will be at the end of this new journey can only be answered by you.
Despite these changes, your resilient heart remains at work, beating for you with every step toward your destination. It runs on faith in the unseen and trust in the unknown. You can never truly lose to your fears and insecurities, regardless of their mirage of defeat. Your identity cannot die; it can only grow.
Though the unseen and unknown may feel faker than a mirage, they are the most authentic notions to the heart that believes. This kind of heart grows from endurance amid suffering. It empowers you at your lowest points. Starting a new journey with this heart is ideal. However, doing so is likely impossible, for it forms throughout the process. Pivotal moments shape your character.
With a few hesitant first steps, you commence your journey. As you once feared, you begin to stumble down the path. Defeat feels imminent. Doubt creeps into your mind. Then, you look into the eyes of a loved one, and you rediscover comfort. Your heart feels safe, but you eventually look away to face the remaining distance. This time, instead of stumbling, you trudge onward, feeling every ounce of fear along the way. Reflecting on your worth, you find purpose. You embrace and overcome, and though you stumble, you never fall.
My first year at UC Berkeley often fit this narrative. Long nights working toward an infinite list of goals taught me the importance of sleep. I feared I was never doing enough. My loved ones can attest to this observable burden. In my first two semesters, I lost a lot of time with them, and I sacrificed necessary moments of relaxation. At the expense of people and experiences held dear within my heart, I pursued fickle definitions of success.
While I am proud of my accomplishments, I recognize the lack of sustainability of my freshman journey. Regardless of how much I studied and worked, the lessons I learned were minor in comparison to my experiences in the community. I soon discovered my internal puzzle had a missing piece: reaching people I care about and spreading compassion.
Once delicately set into place, this piece completed all of my pursuits with a refined purpose. At every corner and destination in life, your reason for persevering will be questioned. You may not immediately have an answer, but it is imperative you pause and take time to reflect. The best advice I can offer to incoming students is to sit and think about your purpose before compiling an endless list of goals and marking calendars with distractions.
Navigating UC Berkeley, or any journey, requires purpose. Having one will not guarantee a simpler path, for purpose is subject to change and always far from its hopeful destination. However, pondering and caring for it will add meaning to your journey. When you stumble and feel discouraged, this meaning will replenish you. Whether you fight for justice, spread love or pursue a combination of many purposes, knowing the foundation upon which you stand will keep you from falling.
A purposeful foundation forms from your internal gifts. External materials will eventually crumble, reduced to ash from your inability to control the world. As I complete my freshman year, my purpose remains under construction. This process requires time, patience and investment in yourself. At any station in life, including UC Berkeley, your arrival is not an accident.
You approach a doorway with gifts in hand. Peeking through the threshold, your eyes shutter at the sight of a dark, foreboding hallway riddled with challenges. The crucial decision to step through this liminal space requires courage. A single courageous step forward can set you in rhythm.
Instead of leaving your gifts at the door, take them with you and collect more along the way. Wrap them in the scraps of every challenge you overcome. Fortify them with layers of resilience. Your unique gifts enrich your purpose.
If your current threshold is Sather Gate, be sure to have grace with yourself as you take your first step. Failure is inevitable, but it does not need to terminate your path. My freshman year taught me to unflinchingly face challenges. It also taught me to slow down and appreciate how blessed I am to be loved and supported in my journey.
The most relieving aspect of a purposeful journey is that you do not need to walk alone. Surround yourself with people who motivate you. Set your heart and mind on goals that challenge you. Listen to yourself when you need a break. Time persists and expectations grow, but your purpose remains at work.