Kicking away the bucket list

Off the Beat

I didn’t expect my last day of classes to end sitting on the outside of a circle of seniors as they played “Never Have I Ever” on the steps in front of Doe Library.

The evening had been an adventure of sorts — one last chance for my graduating friends to check items off their bucket lists: find the shelf with their initials in Main Stacks, write a deeply poignant note inside a bathroom stall, take a picture with the T-Rex skeleton in Valley Life Sciences Building. When a close friend of mine had invited me to join, I couldn’t say anything other than yes. I wasn’t about to pass up what I knew could be the last chance to enjoy this time with her. The campus became our playground for one last night before the real world drew her away.

As we sat in front of Doe, confessions came pouring out. “Never have I ever gone up the Campanile.” “Never have I ever studied abroad.” “Never have I ever had sex on campus.” Those of us in the party who had a year or two left before we had to face the impending doom of real life were happy to let our senior friends have their fun as we sat together. One by one, they listed off the goals and bucket-list items that had remained untouched in their four years here.

It was hard not to put myself in their place.

Time seems to accelerate in college. Freshman year meandered by as I slowly got my bearings and looked around in wonder, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at every new experience. Now, at the end of my junior year, I feel like I’m on a runaway train, full-steam-ahead with the scenery flashing by too quickly and no way to put on the brakes. High school couldn’t have been more than five days ago, but suddenly I am a year away from the great wide world beyond Sather Gate, and everything is a blur.

In many ways, the end already feels nigh.

Every time I thought about it, the panic set in a little more, and I found myself wondering if this was too early to consider a quarter-life crisis. I couldn’t remember a time before I was a student, and I couldn’t quite imagine a time after. My four years at UC Berkeley always seemed like they would stretch on forever. It was alright that I still had never rolled down 4.0 Hill or hiked up to the Big C or witnessed the Naked Run. There was time.

There will always be time, until one day there won’t be. One day I’ll find myself sitting in a chair at General Commencement with a bedazzled grad cap and a navy blue stole, and I fear I won’t remember exactly how I got there. I wonder what my bucket list will mean to me then.

Every time I think about my impending senior year, I can’t help but reduce it to a list of checkboxes, of firsts and lasts and things unfinished. College becomes an isolated segment of life, and in my panic, it becomes more about what I’ve done than how I’ve grown or what I’ve learned.

But instead of feeling accomplished, I feel limited. My bucket list never included changing my major. It never mentioned auditioning to be a choreographer for my dance group four times and getting rejected the first three. It never allowed for personal realizations or learning experiences that challenged but bettered me. The list I’ve felt so rushed to accomplish belongs to someone who values checkmarks over the beauty of new ideas and paths. But one year from now, if I find myself sitting in that same circle playing that same game, I don’t want that someone to be me. My empty boxes won’t represent missed opportunities. If I let them, they’ll represent letting life happen to me instead of trying to force new experiences.

If I close my eyes and take a deep breath, the world stops flashing by, and the spinning earth slows to a pace I recognize. Suddenly I can see the future, the year to come stretched out wide in front of me, not chasing me down. Suddenly when I look at my graduating friends in the middle of the circle, I can tell they aren’t leaving me behind but hold their hands outstretched, patiently waiting for me to join them. The bucket list falls out of my hand as I slowly take my first steps down the winding path towards them, and I don’t even notice that I’ve left it behind.

“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the Summer semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected.

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