I don’t think I have ever had a good February before — at least from the Februarys I can recollect. I know I have had great Aprils and fantastic Julys before, but a good February? I can’t recall any.
February instead fills me with angst and dread that might make Kierkegaard envious. Wedged between the rejuvenated hope of January and the lurking doom of summer, with its graduations and internships and scramble for jobs, February leaves me in a wintry limbo about my present and future.
The February of three years past, when I was a freshman here at UC Berkeley, was the worst of all bad Februarys. It was the month when many dreams were broken, but new dreams were born from the shards.
It was the month I considered dropping out of Berkeley for a new start.
Unbeknownst to most of my current friends, I came to Berkeley as an environmental science major, hoping to become a scientist or a doctor. I loved science and detested writing. I drew up a game plan for life before I came to Berkeley, and the first and easiest step was to get that B.S. degree from here in four years.
Fall semester certainly was a wake-up call in its difficulty, but my spirits remained high. I thought my grades were only going to get better. At the time, I believed in self-reliant progress in which I can perpetually improve myself. I had enjoyed academic success all throughout high school, so what’s going to stop me now?
Of course, life has its curveballs, and I struck out looking in the month of February. There was no moment of revelation in which all things fell apart: It was more of an accumulation of frustration in seeing my test scores continuously falling short of my expectations and the feeling of growing detachment in my science classes. The lecture halls were so huge that I sometimes felt like a single bacterium in a petri dish.
Soon I reached my tipping point. One February morning, I stormed out of my Biology 1B lecture in an act of rebellion against myself. My passion for science was all but chipped away. My confidence was shot. My dream seemed dead.
My friends from the dormitory, whom I am still close with, probably don’t know this story: I regret that in hindsight. I tried to keep all this hidden from the only support group I had in Berkeley at the time. It was too much for this prideful freshman, tasting his first taste of failure, to confess.
February was a very lonely month. I would come back home from Main Stacks at 2 a.m. every other day, wandering the empty streets alone. The silence always listened to my grievances.
There were no other channels to let out my angst. I was too innocent to know alcohol or marijuana. I was too late to rush frats in a desperate attempt to fit in.
I was, however, just in time to join The Daily Californian as a sports reporter. I didn’t enjoy covering women’s tennis at first, but it at least gave me an excuse not to do biology lab reports.
This phase of floating through life was tough to swallow, and it ultimately led me to consider dropping out of Berkeley. The thoughts were there, sure, but the actions did not follow. I was too busy wallowing in my dread of a potential post-dropout life to go talk to a counselor or even collect the proper paperwork. I now know this was a very unhealthy way of resisting to drop out of Berkeley.
Soon, February rolled out and March rolled in. The thought of dropping out began to fade as spring blossomed. I finished my science classes that semester, received underwhelming grades and said farewell to science.
It would take me two more years to figure out what I want to do after graduation. With graduation months away, I think I have found my career in journalism, and I am content in where I am heading in life.
I know that some of the large introductory science classes will have their first midterm of the semester in the near future. I also know there will be hundreds of students who will be weeded out from these petri-dish science classes.
If you are one of the weeded-out casualties, I can assure you that it is not the end of the world. It is not the end of anything. Now that I am a senior, I am more incredulous at people who finish Berkeley with the same academic interests they started with.
Life is anything but teleological, and Berkeley might be the only place to experience life’s organized chaos without crippling repercussions. Failure allows you to evaluate your options after being hit by one of life’s curveballs. That is a luxury that the unfailed cannot enjoy.
And make sure to talk to someone about where you are. Once you open up, you may be surprised by the generosity of your peers.
To me, February still remains an unforgiving month. But it taught me more about myself than any 30-day month ever did and could.
“Off the Beat” guest columns will be written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion writers are selected.