Families are not escape plans

Off the Beat

It feels odd to write my goodbye to Berkeley without having graduated yet. Next semester I will be braving the forces of an East Coast winter and moving to Washington, D.C. as part of the University of California, Washington Center internship program. My job search, much like other areas of my life, is pretty undetermined. I will be coming back to graduate onstage next spring, but as of right now, these next couple of weeks are the last I will spend as a student on this campus.

As my job as The Daily Californian’s fall multimedia editor reached its end a week ago, many of my dear friends around the office have been asking me what I am going to do next semester. It’s not anyone’s fault that this question fills me with bits of dread. With my time at UC Berkeley coming abruptly to an end, I keep asking myself this question… so what now? The hardest part of it all is that I will not get to make attempts at figuring this out along with my graduating friends.

And so I feel inclined to say goodbye to my friends and to try to make plans to see them before we all disperse for winter break. But only a week after finals end, I will be traveling to Peru with my family for the holidays. And then I will be flying straight from Lima to D.C. for the semester. This leaves me with exactly five days to say goodbye to all the people that I love and hold dear to my heart.

At this point you’re probably thinking I’m being a tad overdramatic. It’s not like I’m moving away forever. But see, I have never had a problem with change. On one hand, I feel the dread, fear and nostalgia. At the same time, my brain is pretty sporadic — it forgets things a lot and can adapt quickly to new environments. Part of me knows I am going to fall in love with the East Coast, and the other part knows this experience will change me, and the person I am now will never come back. I am no stranger to change, as my identity has constantly shifted throughout the years. During these past few days — in peak nostalgia — I have realized that my family has given me the privilege of stability to continue to grow.

The teen rebel in me tried to leave my house at 18 and not look back. But for one thing, my family is Hispanic and you just can’t do that with a Latina mother. They simply will not allow you to leave the house before you’re 30. My family lives in San Francisco, and during my freshman year, my mother would constantly bribe me to come visit with the promise of home-cooked Peruvian meals. My dad would always be there offering his bear hugs and a spot next to him on the couch to watch fútbol and World War II documentaries.

I would always leave my house feeling more relaxed and well-fed than I would after any night out with my friends. It took a while for me to admit that my family had become an escape plan.

Most of freshman year was spent in a back-and-forth blur between San Francisco and Berkeley. I was attached at the hip to my high school best friend, which allowed me to not make an effort to fully open up to Berkeley’s new environments. Unlike any of my other friends, she was the only one I felt comfortable bringing home to meet my family. Although we’re pretty illogical around one another and disagree on most things, the fact that she is from Mexico allows her to connect with my family in unique ways. So, thank you, best friend, for all these electrifying years.

After my freshman year, I became more determined to leave home. So for two consecutive summers, I studied and interned abroad in the U.K. Along the way, I met a fellow English major in the most unpleasant English 45A discussion section. We decided to attend the London Global Internship program together. As confused and lost as I may have felt, our friendship was solidified through our love for Britain’s tea and literature. So, thank you, best friend, for that unforgettable summer.

But come junior year, I hated thinking that my travels were simply making me an expert at coming home without having a community in Berkeley to call my own. That is when the Daily Cal crept into my life. I had applied and been rejected twice before. I don’t know if it was luck or the fact that my old editor found the smell of my perspiring desperation to be charming, but that semester, I joined the multimedia staff. Come the next fall, I would become the department’s assistant editor.

The beauty behind video production is that it forces you to collaborate with your peers in ways that written content does not. The beauty behind the newspaper is that it then allows you to share your work with other people who care to listen. So the Daily Cal became my second home — the first home I did not feel pressured to run away from or to use as an escape from my troubles.

Because these friends have become my family away from home, I’ve now personally experienced how there are millions of ways to compose a family. These friendships, which offer their endless support and empathy through food runs and late nights, were formed in Berkeley.

Even when we all graduate and leave this city, this will always be the place where we grew up a little more. To all my graduating seniors, hang in there. Cherish your final weeks. Be spontaneous. You won’t remember the exams or your final grades when you leave this campus. You’ll remember the impulsive late food runs and concert trips. And most importantly, you’ll remember the people you have surrounded yourself with here.

The friends I have made and the families that I have formed here are no escape plan. They are a part of me. I could never stay away. Berkeley, you will always have me.

“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.