Tuesday, September 13, 2011

berkeley revisited

Hours from leaving the Bay Area. The air is so cool and crisp here. It feels positively cleansing. So far, everything about this part of my trip has felt like a boon. As if the Universe, fully recognizing that I'd had my fair share of crazy recently, decided to finally give me a break.

For one thing, coming out here has created space. I'm far enough from the elements that were giving me discomfort to see more clearly, more objectively. You can only see so much when you are at the center of a whirlwind.

Also, coming out here is an important part of my journey. One that I probably needed to do on my own too. Its been over 7 years since I've been back in the Bay Area. But I have history here. When my family first moved to the US, we first landed in South San Francisco. I spent Grade 5 in a small Baptist school there, a new immigrant, totally awkward and uncertain.

I returned for college, taking a BA in Literature and a minor in Creative Writing at UC Berkeley--still awkward and uncertain. After I graduated, my sister did her undergrad in Berkeley too, then lingered on in Oakland before moving to New York, giving me reasons to return and visit.

Last Saturday, I took my less awkward and less uncertain self on a long walk through my alma mater. I ambled across campus and through Telegraph Ave. I walked up College Ave, past my old apartment, and all the way to Rockridge where I eventually met my old college friend Q, who drove down from Sacramento to break some Zachary's Pizza with me.

Overall, I feel how things change, yet at the same time things feel the same. Throughout my walk that was a major theme. There is a newness, probably inherent to all college towns, new students, new establishments, new buildings. At first, I felt disoriented, the newness threw me off a little. Soon enough though, the paths became more and more familiar. Names of buildings started to pop back into my head, along with memories of classrooms, lecturers and fellow students.

I walked past my favorite spots, the Eucalyptus Grove, the Life Sciences building, Moffit and Doe libraries where I worked, Bancroft--my favorite building with its Mary Poppins roof, the Study Abroad offices. When I got to Wheeler Hall, where many of my English classes were held and where many of my English teachers held office hours, I felt the urge to go in. Check things out.

Despite all the changes, there is also a feeling of consistency. The essence of Berkeley is unchanged. The spirit of learning lives on, though the torchbearers that flow through constantly. There's always another me, an archetype of me, walking about campus, discovering for the first time the meaning of being free.

Berkeley was the first place where I felt I could start to explore who I was as a person, as a sentient being. I remember the sensation of seeing my family drive off after helping me get settled into my dorm that first move in day. And then the excitement as I wandered down Telegraph with some dorm mates. I didn't know anything about anything. And it was glorious, this feeling of uncertainty, everything was full of possibility.

I am feeling that now--and have done so many times this trip, whether I was walking around the brownstone lined streets in Brooklyn, or absorbing the stunning scenery of Colorado, or jumping up and down a trampoline to take a glimpse of Mt. Rainier in Seattle's Capitol Hill, or contemplating the sunset going down on Puget Sound in Washington. Sometimes this feeling is good, blessed. Sometimes it is fraught with anxiety.

I feel grateful that there is a continuity in that feeling, that somehow that thread of light has lit the way across the landscape of my experiences. There were times when I had less or no hope, and those were always the darkest moments. But times like now, when I fully acknowledge the incredible creative potential that comes with the unknown, I am filled with awe of the gifts not yet presented, so many lessons and so much love yet undiscovered. Yes, I welcome change. If the infinite potential of the universe comes with it, how can we not embrace it?

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