An alumnus’s ambitions through adversity

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I never was one of the proverbial prodigies or superstars. I knew what it was like to feel alone and voiceless — and my awareness of being overlooked, doubted, bullied and discriminated against was silent and choiceless. Like a social pariah among victors with seemingly endless opportunities, I tactfully observed a living system of privilege and oppression that causes present and generational pain. I refused to submit to this feeling as I forged a new way forward through treacherous waters and solemnly swore to be a man who follows his path even in his own dreams — to honor those that came before me, are with me now and will come after. 

Based on my journey, here are lessons I learned along the way and words of encouragement for when you are in need of some inspiration. 

We live in a world where it’s easy to remain enshrouded by various consciousnesses of darkness. Whether it’s a means of social, political, economic or legal dislocation, our souls, goodness and unity as a country are rendered to a depravity that is both decadent and shallow. This proves especially true with the notion that societal despair breeds destructive energy — a concept that both reigns and quivers at the whim of scarcity as it holds opportunity hostage and squanders potential with negative energy and futility.

Nevertheless, I have learned that energy, whether it be positive or negative, is still energy. And if we, as a beloved community, retain and channel it with a collective and conscious intent, it has the capacity to rile up the imagination and act as a gateway to the truth: that our lives are not in vain. This truth often feels like an act of rebellion in a world where everything can feel like a momentous lie, especially when many people only see what they want to. Even so, this revelation brings us from a point of nowhere to now here

My “now here” was at UC Berkeley during the Milo Yiannopoulos riots, historic California wildfires and PG&E power outages, as well as the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — all of which twisted and turned my energy in priceless unforeseen ways that I will carry forth till the end of my days. I acknowledged all of the unique and remarkably perceptive people that brought light to my life, feeling less alone and different from others as I thought myself to be. 

Whether my fellow students were from the Bay Area, of differing nationalities, without housing, Berkeley Underground Scholars or parents, I saw a passionate colleague that found meaning in pain and patterns in the chaos. I was privileged to work alongside them and speak of justice reform and critical race theory from intersectional scholars. At the same time, I learned of their hobbies, favorite foods, struggles, dreams and drinks of choice during late-night grind time at Moffitt Library. 

Reminiscing these memories as an alumnus, I am reminded of a wonderful scholar, mother and grandmother by the name of Ms. Jules Means, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in my course on deviance and social control with professor Andrew Barlow. Together, we worked on a panel presentation called “Racism in America.” Her ability to understand my struggles with racial inequity and steadfast belief in my dogged work ethic and intellectual potential was a breath of fresh air. 

The empathy from Ms. Jules starkly contrasted a confrontation I had at the gym, where a man questioned my attendance at UC Berkeley and attempted to discourage me from pursuing a law degree. Despite my assertions, he responded with misogynistic jokes about women who used the “minority card” to get into better law schools than him, said that the main reason I would get into law school was because I was Mexican and suggested that I should lie about my gender and sexuality to appear as a more “diverse” law school candidate. His words ironically proved he thought it a privilege to tokenize me as a racialized prop, as he characterized my identity like it was a choice. A year later, he asked if I thought his suggestions over — after I already told him his words were bigoted and misinformed with a veil of insecurity.

During periods like this of confusion and impostor syndrome, I remembered that a champion of order battles chaos in all forms — including from within. But for each of us, this is no easy path. It requires a level of vulnerability that is foreign to many but capable of eliciting comprehension of feeling. 

And it is with this feeling that I understood I cannot stoke my fears for the sake of justice, faith and peace, but that I must rather use my understanding of feeling alongside the unity and strength of the diverse as a means to get through the darkness of a daunting world. This persistence calls on us to embody a system of ideals, no matter how unrealistic our opponents foretell it to be. It fuels my own resilience as an accomplished second-generation graduate and prospective first-generation Mexican law student. We are therefore interwoven with one another in the ceaseless pursuit of a sunrise that transcends the barriers of ambition and reality. 

From all of my experiences, I encourage you to always take some of the faith you have in those around you and instill it in yourself. And if you do not have faith in others, just know that although I may not know you or have had the pleasure to cross paths with you, I have undying faith you will burn brighter in the darkest of depths surrounding you. Take pride in who you are and continue to become, and as always, fiat lux

“Our Voices” columns are by writers outside of the Daily Cal and separate from the semester’s regular opinion columnists. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.