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Breaking rules

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MAY 13, 2021

I broke a lot of rules in high school. I skipped mandatory seated lunches, chapel talks and school meetings. I deliberately misinterpreted assignment prompts and did math homework in my biology class. I refused to talk when I should talk and laughed when I shouldn’t laugh. I was always late to things and was voted “the most likely to be late for commencement” for superlatives. And when the days were done, I displayed all the resulting demerit and detention notices, as well as a retention letter, on the wall by my bed, like trophies of rebellion.

And I specifically remember an incident where, as the dining hall staff swore to punish me with a detention for leaving campus services early, I turned around as I was leaving and shouted back — “I don’t care!”

It might be true that I didn’t care about the punishment itself. But in high school, I was always breaking rules and pretending to not care about everything in order to mask my fears — my fears of not speaking English well enough, of not being cool enough, of not having enough friends, of being socially awkward once in a while.

Here at UC Berkeley, I have continued breaking rules. But I have gradually learned to break rules in different ways and for different purposes over the past four years. I now break rules because I deeply care about things and want others to care too. I break rules because I am confident that I can bring changes to people and society, and that is what I want to do. 

I’ve learned to break out of my fear of lacking — because Berkeley taught me to believe in my potential to grow as long as I’m not afraid to push myself and try something new.

I’ve learned to break out of my hardwired setting of being self-centered and seeing everything through the lens of myself — because Berkeley taught me that we should be critically aware of our living environment and learn to interpret things from others’ perspectives.

I’ve learned to challenge history and the representation of history — because Berkeley taught me that there is always a missing side of history erased by those in charge of the telling.

I’ve learned to dig deeper into social issues, into things that those in power would not want me to know — because Berkeley taught me that our society is built upon one myth after another, and these myths truth deep under the cold ground.

I’ve learned to speak out, to resist the status quo and to question hypocrisy that uses morality to justify harm against humanity — because Berkeley taught me to break the spell of imposed words and let people’s lived experiences speak for themselves.

I’ve learned to trespass and expand the boundaries of existing concepts and theories — because Berkeley taught me that those are not enough to define the fluid, plural and contradicting beings that we are.

And finally, as an aspiring writer and filmmaker, I’ve learned to make rebellious art that brings to life the reality of death — because Berkeley taught me that art is about bringing absence into our presence. It’s about opening up access to past experiences, especially those of human suffering, that haven’t been recognized but need to be. It’s also about creating new possibilities for reinterpreting and reimagining what people lived through. Berkeley taught me that, in our own time of crisis and injustice, we have a social mission to make these still inaccessible, unrecognized, forgotten or unconscious experiences come alive.

I would not have learned all these if not for UC Berkeley — a place where boundaries are constantly broken, where lasting injustice is bravely questioned, where communities thrive through individuals united by shared commitments and actions. UC Berkeley is a place that has granted me a faith to act and strive toward ideals — artistic or social — with my best.

And because of this faith I now have, I will always have a burning torch inside my heart to light my way through darkness, to the bright side of life, to the light of a clearer self and world.

Fiat lux. Thank you, and I love you, UC Berkeley.

Raina Yang joined The Daily Californian in fall 2017 as a Weekender staff writer. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in film and cognitive science. She will be pursuing an MFA in screenwriting/directing at Columbia University.

MAY 13, 2021