The times they are a-changin’

Hungry and Foolish

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions. Seeing as school’s over in a couple of weeks, after which I definitely won’t know many students enrolled at UC Berkeley anymore, it’s safe to say May will be the last month I bum around campus. Suffice it to say, also, this one’s going to be a smidge sappy. Transitions are something any of us can relate to, though, because you don’t need to be a nail-biting, second-semester senior to have life changes on the brain. Take, for instance, the shared change all of us are just gearing up for as summer approaches. It might mean a change in curricular activities, a move to a new place or just a simple shift to shorter-sleeved apparel, but seasons come and change the times with little regard for the impacts they invariably have upon us in our daily lives. It takes just four of them to sweep all of us up and drop us off elsewhere — literally and figuratively. When the dust settles, you might find yourself surrounded by a whole new group of peers, far, far away from your family and/or out of school.

It’s a somewhat vague and broad phenomenon, but one that makes sense for your humble narrator, seeing as my life has been in a state of flux for the past few months. With one foot firmly planted in Berkeley soil and the other moving forward clumsily to find a new balance, I have had a long and bumpy transition. If the “postgrad experience” was one of well-adjusted, fully-realized adults happily typing away in their cubicles, there wouldn’t be much to talk about. A bit vague and broad, yes, but it is aligned completely with — and maybe even origin of — the design of this strange quasidiary.

I’ve never been one to handle change very easily, always being somewhat envious of those who wholeheartedly embrace it without a care or qualm in the world. But regardless of your attitude toward change, if any of you have had an experience like the one I’ve had at UC Berkeley, you can sympathize with my trepidation. If, truly, you’ve found your niche here, along with all of the people who populate it and act as your family away from home, you know why leaving is going to prove difficult. Returning to Berkeley is probably always possible. But if the people you know are mostly gone, will it be the same? My co-op houses will always have a raucous group of kids in them, but they might just be vessels of past memories for me, empty except for nostalgia. Of course, this is likely what instills the most fear in us: the fact that in a year or so, a mere few seasons away, we might have scattered to the wind.

It’s funny that these are usually the times I feel the least amount of permanence and steadiness in my life, because they are also the times I’m the most existentially cognizant of where I’m situated in life. Leaping from one school to the next or from one coast to another makes you realize abruptly and forcefully how far you’ve come and where you’re headed. I’m unsettlingly aware of how fondly I will look back on these days years from now, as if I’m already watching the home videos.

Then again, obviously, moving on is good for us. Even with all my neuroses and irrational anxieties about change, I know this to be true. As much as I’d like to become one of the lost boys of Neverland and refuse to grow up, I know we can’t linger too long in one chapter. I have an excitement that is born out of an undeniable desire to be done with this feeling of stasis. We go to college to learn, grow and make strides of progress. The curriculum here is so filled to the brim that your intellectual and scholarly hunger will never be starved — even if your intellectual curiosity diminishes. But at some point, one has to take what’s been learned and dive into the unknown. And if your strides weren’t great enough at the end, the unit ceiling won’t really care to wait for you, anyway.

So what have I accomplished with this column? If anything, I doubt I imparted much wisdom, because I definitely have a long way to go before I can say I possess that myself. If even one person can say they relate to my words or share my fears, I think I may have achieved what I set out to do. I hope my silly ramblings have humored you or provided some illumination for the puzzling future. Graduates and nongraduates alike, I wish the best of luck to you all, and may the next season bring fruitful changes to your life.

Max Rosen writes the Friday column on life after college. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @RosenMax.