Never forgot

ritchielee_online2

I’ll never forget where I was in fall 2016 when I ran for editor in chief. The three weeks leading up to the election felt like the sky was falling down on me, and I was in a bad place. I was barely eating. When I get anxiety, I can’t eat. I have zero appetite and food is a burden.

I didn’t understand why I was reacting like this. It should have been all good. When I ran for EIC, I thought I had nothing to lose. But it ended up being nothing like that.

It felt like I had everything to lose.

If I hadn’t won, I would have gone down a bad road. And it took until after I became EIC for me to reflect on those three weeks of campaigning and why it affected me the way it did. It all goes back to Mission High School.

Mission High School in San Francisco didn’t have the highest test scores. We all ate free lunch, and white people were a minority. We didn’t have parents who went to college. The students didn’t come from the best neighborhoods in the city and few resources were accessible to us.

It didn’t have the best reputation. But it wasn’t because the students were bad or had less ability. It was always a lack of opportunity and privilege.

We didn’t have it all. But I was one of the privileged few who had enough to compete with suburban-ass white people. I was given this rare opportunity in the form of a full-ride scholarship to go to UC Berkeley and a chance to run The Daily Californian. So I felt if I lost this EIC election, I would have wasted this opportunity and failed everybody.

It was all in my head and something I put on myself. I was a wreck who ate three bites a day when I ran for EIC.

It shouldn’t have been me. I am a flawed vessel, and even at my peak, my capabilities are limited. So why was I given this opportunity over stronger and more confident people?

I’ve seen the damage that a lack of opportunity can cause, so my main goal during my EIC tenure was to increase our outreach to underrepresented campus groups and give a platform to people who historically have not had one. I wanted to shape the Daily Cal into a place that created opportunities for people.

There was a lot I couldn’t accomplish. But I hope my efforts sparked a change in culture. And my wish is that our younger staff can continue what I tried to start and do it better than I did.

The Daily Cal has a long way to go. And so do I.

I’ll probably never shake off the guilt of jumping from Mission to Berkeley. Graduation should be a celebration. But it doesn’t feel right for me to do that. I just want everybody I came up with to be here with me today.

My pride is in Mission. I can’t even say I rep UC Berkeley like that. This school’s too white. They’re not my people. This was never home to me.

Still, I will forever be grateful for the resources UC Berkeley gave me. The Daily Cal, my Cal Opportunity/Fiat Lux scholarship, the Educational Opportunity Program and the handful of accessible professors who have consistently made themselves available all helped me grow.

We’ve always been underdogs. And when my no-AP-credit ass got into UC Berkeley, I was already a step behind. But Mission taught me there’s no shame in catching up. I had to do what I had to do to become editor in chief. Mission created a leader out of me. So I can’t take all the credit. I am a product and a reflection of my city and my high school.

I’m not a complex person. I just want to make my city proud of me. I make mistakes all the time, but I’m always growing and trying to get better for the next play. I’ll never forget where I’m from, and I’ll never forget about the people who were denied equal access to social mobility. I was never extraordinary where I was from and that will always be my truth. But I can’t let that guilt and insecurity consume me anymore.

To everyone at Mission and to everyone not with me today, I still look up to you. Your influence on my past is what guides my decisions in the present.

My roots will always keep me humble, but I realize now my victories were no mistake. Everything I’ve been through has led me to where I am today. And I know that no matter what happens, I’ll always find a way, because that’s how Mission made me.

Ritchie Lee was the spring 2017 editor in chief and president. He joined The Daily Californian in fall 2013 as a sports reporter before becoming online managing editor in the summers of 2015 and 2016. He is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history.

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  • Cruz Grimaldo

    Ritchie! I am deeply honored and blessed to know you! Your brilliance and eloquence are inspiring. Gracias!

  • Ricardo Ortega

    The irony of an Asian guy calling Berkeley “too white” is rich.

    • disqus_WY0lMtiMpe

      why don’t you go choke

    • John Yang

      There are a lot of Americanized Asians in Berkeley.