There was this incredible lightness that I felt during last spring when I knew that all the summer internship application deadlines had passed. There was nothing I could do but accept the fact, which I did quite willingly and with joy. I had not applied to a single one. There was definitely a sense of shame that I had to overcome, but in the end, I had done what was best for me.
Coming in as a transfer student, I felt so behind. It felt like every single person had resumes and experiences while I was desperately trying to keep my head above water in my classes. This arena of success, sacrifice and competition was something new and overwhelming for me. There was something in its unspokenness, a looming time bomb or scoreboard hovering around me constantly. It was a race that I was always losing. The lack of hope and confidence made me feel like nothing mattered. By the end of the spring semester, I was burnt out and completely defeated. I worried about my health and lack of confidence. My choice to take the summer off was crucial, not just for my academics during my upcoming senior year, but my overall well being.
As an English major I went into Berkeley with a love for literature and left my first year with a dread for the whole art. It wasn’t coming easy to me anymore and felt more forced than enjoyable. During the summer, I was finally able to pick up books that I wanted to read for fun and during my own time. I read stories that I hadn’t read since childhood that reminded me why I loved them in the first place. I finally had time for the novels that I had sworn away in a heat of insecurity and frustration. I was able to love the whole subject again.
This rekindling of my love of English inspired me to finally tackle what I wanted to do in the field. I had repressed this difficult conversation with myself for so long because it felt hopeless and almost foolish to address it when I felt like I hadn’t done anything worthy of having a dream post-grad. I despised the idea of it and avoided the question of what I wanted to do with my life for as long as I could. However, finally remembering why I decided to study this in the first place ignited a forgotten passion.
I decided I wanted to go to graduate school. I felt foolish at first for even considering it, after all I couldn’t even get myself to apply to a summer internship. However, I feel a new sense of confidence. The fact that I’ve even chosen this as a possibility is an exciting thing. I’ve realized that I love to learn and want to continue learning. I want to explore past the boundaries that I’ve been so fascinated with and contribute my own ideas. Having the summer off was helpful in figuring out whether I could take on something like this. I was able to look at different programs across the globe and the application processes. I never would have even considered grad school as an option if I didn’t have time to slow down and remember why I was at UC Berkeley. I was able to look at my studies in a place of gratitude and awe rather than dread.
With all this free time, I was also able to look into the possible career paths within my field. I decided that I want to go into book publishing. Revisiting books in my youth and getting to the novels I’ve been wanting to read all year reminded me of the power of storytelling. It made me feel rejuvenated in a euphoric and emotional way. I remembered the resonance to stories like my own and the excitement of a perspective completely new and unique. I want to help contribute to this feeling of finding a captivating book. Along with researching doctorate programs I’ve been looking into publishing houses, the specifics of what the job entails and the workings of these companies.
I finally feel excited about my future. The slowness of summer gave me the space to explore my interests in ways that I would have been too discouraged, and honestly depressed, to explore over the school year. What was most valuable for me is that I was able to heal much more than my academic anxiety. I was happy again.
My one piece of advice for any student at UC Berkeley is that it is okay to not have an internship. Time taken to recuperate and figure your life out is not time that is wasted. You are on the right track and you are doing enough. If you aren’t, like I am, that’s okay too.