Three Berkeleys, zero sincerity

Throughout the process of writing this column, I was hard on myself.

I wasn’t getting it right, wasn’t nailing what I could possibly say to offer some profound insight into the college experience.

At first, my idea was to write about the concept of three Berkeleys.

That idea was born in a Friday dusk as I sat on Memorial Glade. I took in the Frisbees, sunbathers and soon-to-be graduates posing for photos. I was just beginning to process the onslaught of nostalgia. So I desperately clacked on my keyboard until I penned something more aesthetically pleasing than it was meaningful.

In this previous version of my column, I wrote to our Berkeley, their Berkeley and my Berkeley. The topic had felt particularly salient at a time when a spectrum of warring ideologies were co-opting UC Berkeley to make some sort of point about the world — that free speech germinated and “died” here, that we advocate violence, that we’re a bunch of whiny brats with an entitlement complex. I wanted to delineate what Berkeley is for all those misinformed.

But when I stepped back to look at the piece more objectively, I had to admit that its elegance didn’t equate to value. We ascribe to the notion that we can claim anything as our own — “my” college experience, “my” newspaper, “my” future — but Berkeley doesn’t work that way. It’s a 149-year-old institution shaped by the millions who have called it home for a small fraction of their lives. It’s arrogant to assume that means it belongs to anyone. So the entire premise of the column no longer resonated with me.

In a dissatisfied slump, I tried to shift my theme toward the concept of impermanence — how we occupy vessels on this campus until, instinctively, we know we must relinquish the hollow shells to the next crop of credulous kids.

Pissed that I had spent hours working on the three Berkeleys piece, which led nowhere, I tried to incorporate the defective abstraction into my latest brainchild. I threw all the cluttered bullshit together and prayed for a miracle.

Grudgingly, I had a friend look at it. She was blunt: I had tried to tackle too much. Though I’m hesitant to admit fault, I owned up to my shortcoming. The attempt to cram every last abstract thought into my column had backfired on me, and now I was scrambling to sift through the shambles.

After unproductively indulging in frustration and vowing never to touch my column again, I had an epiphany: I could still salvage this hot mess. So I wrote what you’re reading now.

As it stands, this column is pretty no-frills — not my usual writing style. I don’t know whether I’ll care for it in 20 years when I need to remind myself that I must have been young and impetuous once. But if anything, it stands as testament that taking on too much can leave me feeling empty. I felt this floating pressure to produce a column that encapsulated everything I’d felt in four years at UC Berkeley, but it diluted the point. Now, nothing I’ve written is edgy or esoteric. I’m OK with the simplicity. At least this farewell column means something to me.

Sacrificing the showy for the sincere is the best wisdom I could impart to anyone with a little too much on their plate. I hope that means something to you.

Before I hit the road, I want to thank some people who, for all kinds of bizarre reasons, made UC Berkeley meaningful to me:

  • The formidable spring 2016 news-editing team — Suhauna, Alex, Addy and Ivana, plus Katy: We’re trailblazers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of women give so much hell with so much grace.
  • #NotMyEditorsInChief: Thank you, Pitcher, for giving me the opportunity to pilot my very own hyper-local news website, if only as a murder-mystery character who was needlessly crucified. And thank you, Ritchie, for the most entertaining Twitter “feud” of my life. On a more serious note: Michelle and Ritchie, thank you for your trust.
  • Andy and Logan: Thanks for bearing with my antics, most of which you provoked.
  • Ann: I am grateful that Vodkrea tweeted at you on New Year’s Eve to expose your peculiar take on the English language. But all the meme tags translate to “I love you” in Andrea, a language you have mastered.
  • Mom and Dad: Maybe my writing was never for you, but it helped me process how much I care about you.

P.S. For the record, I’m keeping my day job as a journalist who sticks to the facts and has a tempered obsession with the metaphysical.

Andrea Platten was the fall 2016 and spring 2017 managing editor. She joined The Daily Californian in fall 2013 as a copy editor before becoming assistant night editor in fall 2014, night editor in summer and fall 2015, and assistant news editor in spring 2016. She graduated in fall 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in media studies.