When I contemplate who I was at different moments in time, I recall the music I listened to during those periods of my life. The library of music I accumulated has grown to be an extensive database detailing the eras of my psyche throughout my young adulthood. Creating playlists is like a craft to me; they are how I facilitate experiences and explicate my everyday interactions. Music has become how I interpret the world. But there was a day when no songs were added, no new albums were saved and my world fell silent. During the summer of 2021, my brother passed away, and there was nothing I wanted to hear.
After anxiously awaiting the return of in-person instruction and the rush of college life in my junior year, I instantly wanted nothing more than to be alone in my room, asleep in my dreams where I could hold the faintest idea that my reality was fabricated.
When people reflect on their time in college, they think about all the things they gained: lifelong friendships, an abundance of knowledge and career opportunities. It is difficult to think about the things I have found when much of my college experience has been defined by loss.
I spent my junior year going through the motions of what I believe mimicked the everyday life of a UC Berkeley student. Inside, I fluctuated between phases of absolute numbness and intervals of immense emotion. Every moment felt wrong. They often still feel wrong. People always tell me that my brother would want me to continue to live and experience all that life has to offer. I hate this. I hate this because although they did not know my brother, that is exactly what he would want.
When my brother was alive, he lived.
Nicholas was an artist. While I interpret the world through music, he captured it through film and photography — all of it. From the communities and people that others would ignore to the parts of the Bay Area that everyone avoided, he depicted the injustices in our society through his artistry. While some of his pieces were interpreted as too raw and gritty, it’s because they were exceptionally honest and candid.
As much as he loved making art, he loved seeing those he cared for thrive and succeed in their work. To his friends and family, he was their most loyal supporter. He was incredibly intelligent and wise beyond his years, and people naturally gravitated toward him. But he always had his edge, never afraid to voice his truth, even when others wanted to hear silence. He was constantly on the move, traveling between coasts he was persistently exploring and learning. He was committed to understanding what piqued his interest and developed a unique repertoire of skills that ranged from music recording to crafting gold grills. No matter where he was, he was always impacting people’s lives.
When my brother was alive, he lived.
As I entered my senior year at UC Berkeley, I began to more critically examine if what I was doing was living. I often think about how this was supposed to be our time together now that I was older. We won’t ever get to have these moments, but throughout this year, I sought to find ways I could replicate what would make him proud.
During this past year, I interacted with more people than I have in any of my three previous years. While I always knew Berkeley was filled with highly intelligent and gifted individuals, I was still astounded by the creative work of the students — especially the artists I met as I became more involved with BARE Magazine.
I checked off a number of UC Berkeley “firsts”: the Big Game, 4/20 on the Glade and Cal Day. This led to an obnoxious amount of photo dumps on my Instagram. I spent nights in the city, walking the same streets my brother frequented. I pushed myself to the front row at Outside Lands to see one of his favorite Bay Area rappers, Larry June. I collaborated on creative projects with friends. I forced myself to embrace the “Haasshole” in me and “networked” with finance bros. And I added a music minor — way too last minute — to further engage with my passions.
Finally, I joined the Daily Cal, where I wrote my first published piece. Nicholas always had a way with words and was a great public speaker. My nasally, pre-pubescent-sounding voice coupled with my anxiety-induced stage fright has generally made me a quieter person, but I wanted to find a way to share my voice. And the Daily Cal made that possible.
While I spent my junior year ready for college to be over, I found in my last two semesters that leaving would be harder than I anticipated. I’ll miss the people I met and the people I’ll never get to meet. I’ll miss the routine of classes and the familiarity of campus. However, Nicholas taught me that life is not meant to be stagnant. He showed me there is excitement in uncertainty and change, and I think that’s why the future doesn’t scare me.
Sofia Sar was a social media designer. She joined The Daily Californian in the fall 2022. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a minor in music.