UC Berkeley students share their scar stories

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“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion once astutely said. Scars, in a strange way, act as physical markers to remind us of key events in the imposed narrative in which we view our lives. They serve as permanent proof of our experiences whether we like them or not, because they hold the stories of our lives, locked away in their unassuming, wrinkly and slightly shiny surfaces.

It may sound cheesy, but being asked about our scars allows us to share personal experiences. These scars may hold stories that are only side notes in the grand scheme of our personal narratives, or they may take up whole chapters. Given the importance, big or small, of scars in shaping and representing people’s stories, the Clog decided to ask some UC Berkeley students about their own scars.


Zackary Kiebach, freshman 

Staff/Nora Harhen

“I was a sophomore in high school, and it was a cold winter day. Actually, it was summer. Let me restart this: I was a sophomore in high school, and I was skateboarding to a local burger joint. I was not wearing a helmet or any other protective gear. I decided to see if I could bomb the steepest hill in my neighborhood without any way of breaking. I pretty much only did this from the halfway point, because I figured that would be enough and I would be able to slow down at the end. Then, my board took out speed wobbles, and I crashed and broke open my chin. I got a bunch of weird scars on my hand and my chin. The guy that ended up picking me up in my car because I took a bad spill look very concerned. He was also very mad at me because I got blood all over the back seat of his car. The doctor put suture stitches in my chin. When it was time to take them out, my dad decided he didn’t believe in doctors anymore and could take out the stitches himself. He took a pair of pliers and started tugging at the stiches which was actually more painful than actually breaking my arm.”


Grace Jung, freshman 


Staff/Nora Harhen

“I was in middle school, and I was really pissed at my mom for something I don’t remember. So I went longboarding to release my anger. I fell, basically, and I felt really stupid because I was crying for two reasons: because I was mad at my mom and because I fell and now I had this huge scar. It was actually therapeutic in a way, because the physical pain took away from the emotional pain. It kind of released my anger at my mom.”


Janis Le, sophomore


Staff/Nora Harhen

“My uncle, who flew in from Arizona, had a portable iron and he left it on, and I guess it tipped over when he tripped over it. It went ‘ssssss,’ and I freaked out and didn’t know what to do. So I just stared at it while it, like, simmered on my leg. I think my uncle apologized for it and bought me a lot of candy. My mom was so angry. She was like, ‘Now my daughter has an ugly leg because of you.'”


James Perkins, freshman


Staff/Nora Harhen

“When I was two years old, I was standing up in a rocking chair, rocking backwards. The chair flipped, and I landed on a bike pedal. The edges of the pedal split my eyebrow open. I went to the ER, and they glued it back together. A lot of people ask me about it. It’s been there for so long I don’t really notice it anymore.”


Claire Asselstine, junior


Staff/Nora Harhen

“I fell off a horse when I was six on vacation in Colorado and broke my arm. I went to a hospital in Denver. It was a horrible experience. Basically, they said you can get surgery in San Francisco. So we drove all the way back to San Francisco, with me in a fake cast. I sat in the back seat of the car. I was so little, with a stack of  towels to keep it elevated. I got surgery, and they cut open my arm. The surgery left a purple scar. I put sunscreen on it a lot as a ginger, and they said that scar tissue is really prone to cancer so I have to remember to always put it there. Now, it’s just turned into huge freckles because I’m really freckley. It hasn’t really affected me any way. It’s kinda cool. It reminds me things get better, if you want a metaphor. I was mostly mad at the people who I was riding with because they didn’t believe me when I said my arm was broken.”


Jordan Bloem, freshman


Staff/Nora Harhen

“When I first started breakdancing, I was inspired by one of my friends at school. We would just hang out in the hallways, and I would just practice my windmills. Every time, I would do it on my left shoulder. I was just beginning, so I would always scrape my shoulder against the floor. So my shoulder wound was continually opened up — so that became this scar. ”


Leo Steinmetz, sophomore


Staff/Nora Harhen

“I was just carrying a potted plant with my dad. It broke while I was carrying it. I regrabbed it and put it down. I looked down, and my hand was completely covered in blood, and it had cut deep enough to sever all the nerves, which is why I couldn’t feel it. You could see the bone. It was a really bad cut. We were actually really surprised that my finger still worked, because it was right next to the tendon that runs your finger, and it was extremely deep. My finger’s completely fine now. There’s a possibility that it’s weaker than it used to be. It took a long time to heal, but it hasn’t affected me in any way.”


Matthew McAllister, sophomore


Staff/Nora Harhen

“My cat liked us, but she was kinda bipolar. You know, some days she would rub up on us, and other days she would get in a mood and she would just lay in her bed all day and would not like other people to get near her. She scratches sometimes. That’s all I can say.”


Collin Jarvis, senior


Staff/Nora Harhen

“The most recent ones I have are the ones on my arm here and there where a pick line went in. A pick line is basically an IV that runs through a major artery right next to your heart. I once had two pick lines in at the same time. One line was being pumped with nutrients because I needed to gain weight quickly, and the other was pumped with antibiotics because I had an E. Coli inflection in my spleen. The infection was actually a result of another scar. I have a scar that runs from my belly button down about four inches. That’s where they did an ileostomy, which is where they took out my large intestine because I have ulcerative colitis. My large intestine was in bad shape, so when they were taking it out somewhere in there, part of the  naturally occurring E.Coli stayed in there and presented itself months later. I have a major scar on my back related to it. I had a drain going directly in between my spleen and pancreas where I had a buildup of fluid. Ulcerative colitis is is when ulcers line the inside of your colon. It is an autoimmune disease, which means there is no specific cause they know of. My case of ulcerative colitis is very rare. Normally, there are a lot of people who just get little flare ups. But I was on the extreme end of things. I have a bag with me right now, which is a stand in for my large intestine. This fills up with my digested food. I’ll have this for another year, and then this will be another scar. I can’t go anywhere without back-up ostomy bags in case I need to change them. I’m very limited not so much on the quantity in a day but in one meal. My athletic endeavors are totally different than they would have been before. I have a lot of other scars, like one on my wrist and this other one that I broke my wrist. That’s one I look back on and I’m like, ‘That was really stupid and I learned my lesson.’ This one is a little different. I wouldn’t say I would look back on it and appreciate the scars or how I got them. I would say it changed the way I look at thing,s because it was such a major part of my life. The things that caused these scars altered the entire way my life will go. Before this happened, I was on track to do something completely different than I am now. That being said, a lot of aspects of my life have changed for the better. I think it made me a better person. I’m a lot more appreciative of everything I have and I had before. I’m able to look at it from a removed view and see that, yeah, what happened to you sucks, but it could have been much worse.”

Image Source: handels via Creative Commons

Contact Nora Harhen at [email protected].