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MAY 24, 2017

College. A confusing mix of muddled parts. A puzzle that doesn’t completely fit together. A wrong turn here or there. And while using the navigation to get to your final destination, you may have to be rerouted.

I was never lucky enough to stay in one place for the majority of my life. Over the course of my childhood, we moved from Texas to Seattle to Tennessee. From 5 years old to 15, Tennessee was home. Then, my family relocated to Michigan in the middle of my high school career. Getting acclimated to a new high school in a new state felt surreal, like I had two different lives in two separate places.

I did not feel rooted to any place growing up. So naturally, as a high school senior applying to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be. My parents, being California natives, had always wanted to go back, and I, being a frequent visitor, could definitely see myself as a California girl.

So I reached out to schools in Northern and Southern California as well as in Michigan. Unfortunately, I had convinced myself not to apply for University of Michigan. I didn’t feel like the smartest or the best or the bravest. Truth be told, I felt that I wouldn’t succeed because I felt that I would be left behind.

I don’t know about you, but I am good at convincing myself to not do things. I don’t like to take risks. This may seem weird for someone who has had to move and encounter new things as frequently as I have. But I was forced to put myself out there.

I have been learning that it’s okay to step a little outside of my comfort zone in order to grow.

But then, I didn’t dare put myself out there for University of Michigan. As I had expected, I got a handful of rejections and a few acceptances from the other schools that I had applied to. Soon, when I felt like all the doors had closed and all I could see were pale gold and maroon lights for the dismal Central Michigan, light was shed on the Bay Area, on UC Berkeley.

California. The dream.

In the spring of my senior year of high school, I came to the bay for my spring break. When I set foot on campus, everything felt right. I felt hope, like I had found a new home.

UC Berkeley was the best public school in the nation. I was frightened out of my mind, and those feelings of inadequacy were present in my early undergraduate years. In my first year at UC Berkeley, I struggled to pass my stats class, and I had to enroll in college writing. I saw failure looming in the distance. As a hopeful English major, I was devastated. I really second-guessed my ability to be a writer, to be successful in this environment.

Sometimes I still do.

Now, going into my fourth year at UC Berkeley, successful for the most part and with a smile, I can’t believe that I didn’t feel smart enough to do well at University of Michigan. My decision not to apply to that school might have been one of the best decisions I have made. Because, here I am. One more year and I will be a graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, the No. 1 public university in the world, as the token phrase goes. I will have passed courses that I never thought I could. I will have forged my way through Berkeley Fiction Review and the Blue & Gold Yearbook. I will have had a truly unique life experience that no one can take away from me. Because I earned it.

This summer I will be writing about the choices we make and how they define us. Because we may define ourselves by the school we go to, our major, our job, our sport. These things are important but they aren’t the whole picture. We are constantly shaped by the choices we do or do not make. This is the process of trial and error.

Even though I don’t like taking risks, I find myself taking a lot of them, finding myself in new situations and places that I have never been before. That is how I’ve grown.

And I am writing this to all of you who feel significantly less than not good enough, to those who feel like drifters, disappointers or bad decision-makers. I am you and you are me. Take a risk, even if you don’t feel qualified. You never know when it may be your chance to bask in the sun.

Morgan Robertson writes the Wednesday column on risk-taking. Contact her at [email protected].

JUNE 21, 2017