We stood on top of the roof of my friend’s apartment building, peering out across the lit-up, somewhat hazy Berkeley nightscape, pacing from one edge to the next, side-to-side, looking and looking, seeing the fading traces of the blinking lights up on the hills, up on the dorm buildings, up on the windows with the curtains half-drawn in quiet solitude. From this vantage point, I saw faint images of myself from different parts of the past four years walking to and fro right in front of me, and I pointed them out to my friend wondering how I got to be who I am — mentally, emotionally, literally — at this very moment in time. As my past self strolled through the streets below me in my mind’s eye, I felt a bittersweet twang that arises along with complex nostalgic revelry.
Brief snapshots flashed across my eyes: Posing with a thumbs-up in front of the Campanile as my dad took a picture on Cal Day in 2012. Listening to music in my dorm room with my new friends sitting on the floor. Pacing outside my apartment talking on the phone with my mom about transferring schools. Looking out across the Bay while holding a loved one’s hand. Eating ice cream on Sproul Plaza with a friend as graduation was quickly approaching and wondering together, “Who knew that life would move this fast?”
And as all those snippets haphazardly combined together to form the narrative or album or painting of the past four years, one blatant fact presented itself: I am not in control.
When I first stepped foot on campus, there was no way I could have predicted the experiences I would see from atop a roof four years later. They merely happened, creating an improvised jazz rhythm that crescendoed to unabashedly create my 22-year-old self in April 2016 in a way that is outside of my own doing.
If I were in control and if everything were certain, right now I would be sitting in a cafe at UCLA, applying to medical school and planning a future with my girlfriend. Instead, I am standing on the top of an apartment building in Berkeley, searching for jobs in Australia or Europe, wanting to be a writer and thinking about love lost.
And so, from my viewpoint on the roof, I locked eyes with each of my former selves strolling along the streets, and we wondered, together, in unison: How in the hell did we get here?
All these unplanned events, circumstances and growth that have all weaved together — sometimes clumsily — to shape the current moment make any naive notion of having a life plan disappear. And that can be terrifying, for we naturally like to think of ourselves as the almighty drivers behind the wheel.
But, although I thought I knew what I wanted and although going to medical school would be way more stable, the detours that were thrown into the middle of my life have led to a route that is truer to myself. The ideal plan I had may have been more picture perfect, but my current situation is far more exciting simply because it has not been a stringent path from point A to point B, but rather a meandering journey that has uncovered what truly fulfills me — travel, creativity, emotionality — piece by piece. My microscopic view inward, which would have persisted if everything went according to plan, has expanded into a full panorama.
And thus, whereas I started this column at the beginning of the semester by declaring my fear of not ever knowing what I was doing, I will now end my “Lost in Confusion” column by saying this: Rather than being afraid of the uncertainty that presents itself in my life, I have learned that I must thrive amid the question marks.
Instead of going through college or facing graduation with fear of the unknown, you should eagerly look at it as a phenomenon where countless possibilities are able to bloom and as a space for your true self to become unveiled. Learn to trust and accept this uncertainty, for without it, the underlying beat of emotion that creates the uniquely human experience would be missing, leaving us with a mechanized melody without any soul.
Snippets of poetic trauma or poetic beauty in the shape of surprising twists will always continue to be written whether we like it or not. While you’re in the middle of it, it appears to be a jumble of nonsensical chaos, yet when you take a step back, it is a perfect, precise, pristine poem where every heartfelt letter is indescribably lyrical.
People come and go, places come and go, time comes and goes, but whatever it is that comes and goes, it is uniquely coming and going for you. And it is all in its right place.
Just as sudden bursts of inspiration and emotional tugging lead the artist to the easel in selfless creative outpouring, so too will unexpected moments continue to paint the picture of my life. And as this painting continues to be created in front of me, I have no idea what sorts of colors, strokes or textures will delicately or forcefully be added to it. But I am excited to find out, because I know it will turn out to be heart-wrenchingly beautiful beyond my imagination.
Taran Moriates writes the Monday column on the dos and don’ts of college. Contact him at [email protected].