Confidently lost

Off the Beat

Hi, my name is Mary Ford, and I have a talent for losing things.

For example, over the weekend, I lost my earphones — and not for the first time. I lost my jacket the week before — also not for the first time. The week before that I lost my room key. That one was for the first time, and that $75 replacement fee really hurt.

Clearly, I have developed a knack for misplacing valuable possessions. Items such as reusable water bottles, jackets and phones have managed to make their way out of my hand, my pocket or my bag and move on to goodness-knows-where.

One time, my phone ended up in the fridge. This I can explain, as the frequency at which I visit that mecca of cold goodness is astounding. Another time, it ended up at Taco Bell. That one doesn’t really make sense, because I hate Taco Bell.

At home, losing things didn’t have drastic consequences. My world was small, and my water bottle or my jacket would eventually reappear, either at school, at a friend’s house or in my own home.

At UC Berkeley, my world is much bigger than the hometown I could walk through blindfolded. The stakes for losing things are higher. That jacket I lost is as likely to be on the floor of Pimentel as it is to be in Phi Kappa Tau’s laundry room. Those earphones are as likely to be somewhere in Tilden Regional Park as they are to be in a jean pocket headed for the wash.

And that $75 key? Well, I know I lost it somewhere on the Berkeley Fire Trails. That bronze coating blends in perfectly with the dirt. Let me know if you see it.

Sometimes, Berkeley just seems too large, and my odds of finding what I’ve lost are subsequently just too small. Sometimes, it just seems like too much of a commitment to invest the time into finding what I lost.

How in the world am I supposed to remember the five classes worth of homework I have, the three clubs worth of activities I’ve committed to, the names of the 40,000 people I’ll meet here and where I last saw my keys?

Should I write a to-do list? No, that’d be too proactive. Should I invest in a planner? No, that’d never tell me my phone’s location.

I think that the overarching overloaded feeling that comes with being a student at this campus has contributed to my upspike of losing literally all my earthly possessions.

At home, I didn’t struggle with finding a place in the community in the way that I didn’t struggle with finding my keys — I knew the places to look to find them. In the same way, I knew where to go to ground myself: going to those friends I had known since preschool, to the trails I had carved with my own footpath or to the neighborhoods I could walk through with my eyes closed. It’s different in Berkeley, where everyone is too busy to help you. Sometimes, we’re too busy to help ourselves.

Falling into that cliche has been hard, because I know I’m better and brighter than it. I was the one with a plan in high school, with the confidence that my future was as bright as a San Diego day, any day of the year. My friend said UC Berkeley tests your limits. Specifically, it tests how much you can take on without cracking under pressure.

This semester, I’ve faced some of the only rejection I’ve ever received, for reasons out of my control. I’ve not only lost material things, but I’ve lost out on opportunities too.

But I’m also finding places or people that make me laugh, smile or feel content. To me, when I find these things, I feel that burst of emotion, that swell in the chest, that sigh of relief that I do when I’ve found something I’ve lost. It’s brilliant, beautiful and fleeting.

It’s the way I’ll feel when I hopefully find my headphones. Fingers crossed for me, please.

“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.