This past weekend San Francisco had one of the most glorious winter weekends I’ve ever seen. It was a balmy, sultry sunny day that reminded me of long summer breaks. A few friends of mine decided to take advantage of the day and headed into our old stomping grounds, Berkeley. While driving around and visiting all our old favorite shops and restaurants, I began to reflect back on my time in Berkeley and haven’t been able to stop. A part of me feels like I’m just taking a brief hiatus from the campus. That this is my year off to “find myself” before returning back to school. A sort of backwards Gap Year. But then I realize that in fact, I’ve graduated and that my last class was 3 years ago. In so many ways it still feels like yesterday that I was walking down into the depths of Doe to sit in on dark Art History lectures. How vivid is the memory of walking onto campus and stopping off at the Free Speech Cafe to grab an Iced Tea before class? How many times did I stop off at “Mecca” (the holy site of stationery stores) to go pick up more 5×7 flashcards? (5×7 flashcards are worth their weight in gold to any AH student – and during midterms and finals are generally hoarded and traded on the black market for blood diamonds or human kidneys)
Everyone always says that your college years are the best years of your life. I knew “they” were right when I was IN college. Although it was harder to convince me of that fact when I was pulling all-nighters trying to write 25-pg term papers or cramming for midterms. During my time at Cal, I was keenly aware that I was part of a utopian community where all the people around me were the most gifted in the country. Everyone was excited and happy to be there, grateful to interact with other innovators and intellectuals. On our Saturday drive, my roommate and I drove past our old apartment on Euclid and Hilgard and together we looked up at our old living room window, looked through to the garage and remembered fondly that time Mike left a christmas trees in our front lawn for months or when our neighbors called the cops on us for playing music too loudly. It was here that I can pinpoint the nucleus of my collegiate life. The core of my happiness took place largely within those 4 walls. I thought I was untouchable. Living with my best friends, taking classes together, studying together, learning from the leaders in our field – what could have been better? We dreaded leaving. I felt that I was leaving before my time, a straw dog, an offering to the adult world for which I was unwilling. If I could have, I would have stayed…possibly forever. Roaming the campus this weekend the shadows of memories kept springing forward. Old rooms, old cafe’s, places where I studied, paths I walked – are now all being occupied by new students. The places where I used to live have new tenants. In a way I’m so envious of them. They get to continue these wonderful experiences. I was reminded of that line from Garden State where they talk about home as an imaginary place that doesn’t exist any longer but you still miss it. I still miss this.
But as we crossed the bridge back into the city, I looked forward and onto what I have now. I’m so blessed to continue to live with my college friends, continue to work and be surrounded by some of the brightest and creative minds, and live in a city that pulses with innovation, design, tolerance and creativity. While my class schedule might have shifted into a 9-5 job, and my rent might have doubled (city living) it doesn’t mean that I have to stop being a student of life and end my passion for continuing development, learning and education. No matter where I end up, I’ll always be living in Bear Territory.