The melancholy of a 21-year-old pseudo-adult: A personal essay


So, before you embark upon this mess that comprises my thoughts, I thought you should know that I’ve already made many attempts to write a coherent piece that documents the thoughts I’ve had regarding my imminent graduation. These failed attempts have led me to structure my thoughts as follows:

May 2, 2019

The last statistics lecture (ever)

There exists a time of day at which the sun shines at such an angle so as to shroud my field of vision in a golden, misty haze.

I desire to return to that time of day as I sit in the very last statistics lecture of my undergraduate career. The professor in question has elected to conduct a review session of sorts, and as he reviews material I’d begun to absorb a mere three months ago, I begin to question the passing of time. These thoughts linger briefly in my mind, just as the professor begins to go over the random effects model and I return to a state of being that calls for deep focus.

To encapsulate the conditions of my existence these past few years means to relate transformations of self, solidification of identity and, perhaps less so, recognition of purpose beyond that which satisfies practical means of existence. Unfortunately for me, fulfillment for yours truly derives not from the pursuit of rigorous study relating to the concepts of supply and demand, or the rejection/failure of rejection of an arbitrary null hypothesis; rather, it comes from the art of articulating my thoughts in the written word. I realized this truth much too late in my undergraduate career, but at the end of the day will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in statistics.

May 3, 2019

A black, worn-out pair of leather Chelsea boots

I’m not entirely sure when I stopped wearing my black, worn-out pair of leather Chelsea boots.

I believe I’d made such a decision after having taken too many risks by telling myself it’s like I have ESPN or something, that my clairvoyant tendencies trumped those of the weather forecasts. Certain days would see the success of my prophetic inclinations (because I’ve got some mad fortune-telling skills), while other days would see my leather boots soak in the rain (oh fuck).  But I still wore them after the fact, eager to have this pair of boots contribute to my edgy, ripped-jeans-and-all fashion aesthetic.

Or maybe I’d stopped wearing them after a particularly irritating experience back in September, when I’d begun to walk home at a relatively late hour after a midterm study group session. A car had driven suspiciously close to the sidewalk, leading me to increase the speed at which I had been walking, only to trip on a broken piece of fence, slashing my black pair of leather Chelsea boots. I definitely wore my boots less frequently after the fact, finding myself reluctant to replace them but even more unwilling to throw them out.

But upon deep and uneasy reflection, I’m certain I stopped wearing them this past October.

On one particular day, I had been making my way to the west side of campus to meet a particular someone for dinner. Once I arrived, this individual had commented on my outfit and had said, “You look nice.”

I observed that the individual had deviated from his default attire, in efforts to look presentable. His attempts served him well, and I found myself a bit shocked (and flattered, of course) at the notion that someone had tried at something for me. As we began to engage in conversation, a hostess greeted and sat us down across from a window/pseudo-mirror. I caught sight of our reflection and noticed that I looked perceivably older than he did.

Not that he ever really cared. He never told me to stop wearing those boots. But eventually I noticed that on certain days, his clothing choices reflected attempts (some successful, some not) to match my style, to look around my age.

It felt only natural, then, that I should do the same.

The individual is long gone now, lost to the vices associated with immaturity and fate. Four months have passed since I saw him last, and though painful, our untimely end now feels oddly opportune as I begin to close the books on my undergraduate career.

We’d managed to spend enough time together that my black, worn-out pair of leather Chelsea boots would no longer be a part of my aesthetic. But I notice them today, sitting near the door of my apartment, before leaving to go to class. They sit in the same space I had last left them, seemingly unperturbed by all that had transpired in the time I had not worn them. I stare at the boots for a bit and proceed to go back upstairs to my room.

I change my entire outfit to that which comprised my aesthetic before October, and put my boots back on. And though they still fit incredibly well, the leather shine is long gone, the smoothness eradicated by those slashes. Regardless, I resolve to don them today, on the last day of classes.

On my way to campus, I pass by a shoe repair shop and linger for a brief moment, comparing the sentimental value I allocate to my pair of boots to the amount of money in my wallet. Unsurprisingly, practical matters trump nostalgic means of expression, and I continue on my way.

I have made a decision.

After today, I shall bid my black, worn-out pair of leather Chelsea boots a long overdue and permanent farewell.

May 4, 2019

Berkeley Espresso, 85C and Philz

It is currently 12:12 p.m. as I sit at a small table near a window at Berkeley Espresso. Two hours ago, I meant to commence my studying for finals here but ironically have spent a majority of my time staring emptily at a Latin squares packet, taking a long walk down memory lane.

I’d begun to study in cafés my sophomore year. Sick of the distance from my apartment to all accessible studying locations on campus, I decided I’d had enough in September when, instead of turning onto Hearst from Shattuck, I’d walked into Berkeley Espresso. I sat myself down and proceeded to watch Wood’s webcasts of Econ 100B, desperate to catch up on course material.

Iterations of such study sessions would occur over the next two years at 85C and Philz (for some reason I just never went to Victory Point) and here I am, bearing the inclination to study but wildly lacking in the stamina required to get on that grind. And as I sit, I compare the amount of endurance I had to keep pushing two years ago to that which comprises my current energy reserves.

Needless to say, it is time for me to graduate.

May 5, 2019

Mildly lethargic tendencies

The last time I possessed an abundant amount of time to screw around the weekend before dead week: fall 2015. But today, even though I should engage in rigorous study, I find myself lying in bed, contemplating the opportunity costs associated with my mildly lethargic tendencies.

It is currently 7 a.m.

I manage to roll out of bed. I go downstairs to eat breakfast. I stare at the pile of dishes in the sink and go back upstairs. I wash my face and brush my teeth.

I climb back into bed. It is now 8 a.m.

I pull my lap desk from under my bed, prop it on my bed and grab a stack of packets from my backpack. I internally evaluate which concepts I have yet to understand fully and settle on a packet named “split-plot designs.”

Approximately three minutes later, I am befallen yet again with another case of pining for the past, and I’m reading through compositions I’d written back in 2018. I smirk at the degree of melancholy I impart to my state of existence then and wonder how much is left:

“So as the hole in my heart commences a long overdue healing process, I make one particularly risky decision.” -Ru-Ping, spring 2018

What, pray tell, is the decision in question?

To undeclare my econ major and to pursue a career that lies heavily in the practice of qualitative research rather than that of quantitative research. To end my recruiting for data science internships and to focus my energies on the cultivation of my identity as a writer …

… that is to say, to live my best life.

It is now currently 12:12 p.m.

May 6, 2019

A blessing, perhaps?

As of late, Berkeley has not seen the golden, misty haze time of day. The weather has not been conducive to achieving such haze, and the last time I saw it, the cherry blossoms were still in full bloom.

The cherry blossoms are gone now.

I took notice of their absence at a rather inopportune time. Two Saturdays ago, as I made my way to campus to take grad photos, the trees had already begun to fade back to green, and I sighed, slightly disappointed at the fact that these flowers would live only in my memory.

I now wish for many things, of which no list in this world could accurately depict. If I had done things differently one year ago, would I still be me? To engage in such thought processes means to waste a great amount of time, but regardless, I wonder how the Ru-Ping in an alternate universe lives her life.

My phone begins to vibrate. My GSI has sent an email: A review session has been scheduled for the statistics class in question, specifically on Thursday from 9 to 11, in Etch 3106. An increased amount of air exits my nostrils as I smirk at the number of my fortuitous encounters with Etch 3106 (that is, I’ve had class in 3106 in spring 2017, spring 2018 and spring 2019).

But I suppose they don’t matter anymore, the serendipitous occurrences, the odd strokes of fate. Because the golden, misty haze has gone, along with the cherry blossoms. And in 12 days, the Berkeley of today will be my Berkeley no longer.

It shall live only in memory.

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Contact Ru-Ping Chen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @roxychen_56.