Footloose and fancy free

I don’t like having fun.

I don’t do board games, roller coasters, scary movies. It takes ludicrous amounts of alcohol for me to dance, and if someone mentions a prank, I will likely have to physically stop an eye roll from making its orbit around my skull. This is most definitely a character flaw, but the habits of a curmudgeon die hard.

When I came to Berkeley, however, I was ready to indulge in all the typical hallmarks of entering the college experience. I was ready to break out of my calcified shell as an angry band nerd, ready to spend my days reveling in the California sunshine after 18 long Minnesota winters. I would step into the Version of Me I had always envisioned, for four years of boozy nights, a new cadre of best friends, the greatest times of my life (Read: fun).

But when I eventually rolled up to the Clark Kerr Campus residence hall in August 2015, the abstracted image of the person I wanted to be quickly dissipated in a fog of anxiety, uncertainty and the sheer struggle of making it at an extremely large and bureaucratic institution. Like many on campus, I was quickly lost in the mix. Rather than becoming the Fully Realized Me I thought I was going to be, I clammed up and went back into my shell — minus the French horn.

After a winter break back home, I returned to Berkeley with a renewed dedication to make something out of my time here. I figured, if I wasn’t having fun, I would spend my time doing something, anything. My method was to join as many clubs as possible in hopes of finding somewhere to comfortably land.

Amid the slew of informational meetings and applications, I found myself predictably drawn to a position that was ostensibly no-nonsense (Read: no fun). As a copy editor at The Daily Californian, I would be sifting through the finest grains of grammatical details, a stringent guard of the newspaper’s most niche style rules. I applied, took the copy test and, by some miracle, was accepted.

My first night on the job, I was ready to grind it out into the night in a sea of commas and em dashes, fun be damned. But like so many things that don’t turn out as they seem, it was within this outwardly rigid department (the Harvard of the Daily Cal, one might even say), that I found my ability to let loose.

Through the long nights at the night desk and infinite ciders downed in between cubicles and ridiculous conversations, college started to make sense to me, and I found a place where I truly wanted to be. In these moments, I started to find a version of myself I could be proud of, and a composite of lighthearted, fun and funny moments emerged out of the months of haziness.

Over my years at the paper, it continued to be a place where I found myself having the most fun, even as we were all working incredibly hard. Many of my best college memories have come from this organization: There exists somewhere a video of me actively pumping my fist and chanting during some sort of boozy game at a retreat, and if this isn’t a testament to me letting myself go, I don’t know what is.

When it comes down to it, there were so many people along the way who helped me get here and formatively shaped my Daily Cal experience. Thanks to Janani, Kayla and Patricia for hiring me and setting me on a path that made my four years here what they were. Thanks to Arjun, Ketki and Nick for being the best department mates and trivia teammates I could ask for. You mean the world to me. Thanks to Bobby, Hooman, Dani, Aslesha and everyone who was around in summer 2017 for a truly life-changing and life-saving summer in Berkeley. I can’t begin to unpack the memories and the impact those three months had on me. I’m so grateful to have people in my life who inspire me to Keep It 100.

Thank you to Brittany and Sarabi for being there for me throughout these four crazy years. Clark Kerr may have sucked, but it did something right in putting us in the fateful 212. Thanks to the Solid Seven for being a port in the storm. And thanks to my family for supporting my batshit dream to move as far away from home as possible to pursue some half-baked California dreams.

It’s unfitting with even a semi-reformed curmudgeon’s agenda to conclude on such a sentimental note, so I’ll end on something I said during my first and only desk signing — a semesterly tradition for outgoing Daily Cal editors. Then, like now, I wasn’t quite leaving Berkeley or the paper for good, but it was the end of an era in many ways. So, to the Daily Cal: I don’t like a lot of things, but I like you. Thanks for all the fun times.

Camryn Bell is the summer 2019 staff representative. She joined The Daily Californian in spring 2016 as a copy editor before becoming assistant night editor in spring 2017, night editor in summer 2017 and assistant night editor again in fall 2017. She also served as a general-assignment news reporter in fall 2016, as the special issues editor in fall 2018 and spring 2019, and as a film and television beat reporter in spring 2019. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in Portuguese.