Here I am on the last day of living in Berkeley, graduated from college. Here we are, all gathered to hold vigil for the last four years of my life that are of course intertwined with the eighteen years before that. Where if you happen to read this I have touched your life in some way and I hope it was positive. I hope you smile when you think of our memories together.
Behind me stands a concrete jungle. It looks exactly the same and completely different than the day I arrived. All the buildings stand the same, there’s new buildings where construction once was and new construction where old buildings once were. What colors the buildings now are my memories, my sweat, tears, and laughter. My late nights and early mornings. My rushed walks to class and my running hugs with friends. My food sales and flyer outreach days. My sharp breaths of stress and my sighs of relief vibrate the air between the buildings. The buzz shakes the city in my memory. The apartment buildings, frat houses, dorm rooms, and cooperative housing around the campus have my footprints in their fabric, my spilt drink in the carpet, my wet shoe mark on the tile, , my empty cup in the trash, my ashed butt in the tray, my finger prints on the wall, the echo of my laughter in the paint. A piece of each of us who have ever been a part of this lives in the energy of our memories shared among those who’s time spent overlapped. It has truly been an honor of mine.
In between the lines that make the pictures of my memory of this place are the pieces of my life I brought with me. The people, the experiences, the personality of my life that I brought with me. Those all came with its own history that intertwined itself with my experience here the last four years. The evolution of my life experience outside the college experience wound itself up in the college experience and are yin and yang, one does not exist without the other. And so the tears and the arguments and the missed calls and the endings and beginnings and anger and joy and accomplishments and responsibilities and surprises and accidents and mistakes and resets and imbalances and late mornings and early nights and late nights and traumas and blessings and all the things in between and around stitch themselves into the tapestry of my diploma and the diploma of the people’s whose feet hit this campus during the time that mine did. We all brought our baggage with us here and helped each other hold it.
And now the sun has set on my time here. What a bittersweet moment; the kind that fills your heart with excitement and anxiety and fear and pride and worry and hope and sadness and joy and sends chills through your body.
I look at four years memorialized on a piece of paper, self doubt and self assurance both packaged on the ink in my diploma.
A fist size rock sits in my throat. This is real. Here I sit, a different person than when I arrived, overwhelmingly aware of how and why I changed and simultaneously in disbelief and unaware how.
What a beautiful contradiction to exist as. Full of so much potential: the period in the semi colon that ends a though but the comma reminds you it keeps going.
As I close the door on the last four years, the last two which I spent in this small overpriced apartment whose walls I just scrubbed clean of my time here, I realize that it’s bittersweet. There’s so much of this tiny cramped apartment that I hate. I can see the shadow of my panic attacks stained on the floor. I can tell you where I was when I broke up with the boy I had been dating for 6 years, I can tell you where I was sitting when my mom called to tell me my grandpa was not doing well. I can tell you where my roommate stood in the kitchen when I came home crying. I can tell you which seat I sat in the classroom after working through the night. I can tell you every class I fell asleep in. I can tell you every exam I was too exhausted to study for. I can walk you through all painful memories of this place.
But I can also walk you through happy ones. I can walk through the finished papers. I can walk through the movie nights. I know where I stood when my friends brought me cupcakes on my 21st birthday. I know where I was when J Cole responded to my snap chat. I can tell you where I was when I opened my letter for grad school.
I can tell you how my best friends and I walked in protest with UC Berkeley students for more than fifty blocks to Oakland the night Donald Trump won the majority of electoral votes until three am.
I remember my student orientation in June of 2013. I remember hugging strangers. I remember hugging strangers on election night. I remember hugging strangers on graduation day.
When i arrived to this place I was a stranger. And i leave having left my mark. However small. I came to this place.
It is the yin and yang engraved in my heart.
Congratulations UC Berkeley graduating class of 2017.