Remember last year?

Cal in Color

Photo of Marina Román Cantú

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I have a fixation on trying to remember things in the most accurate way possible. My whole life, I’ve attempted to make my memories something tangible; something I can hold. This has led me to accumulate polaroid pictures, film camera rolls, bar wristbands and past concert tickets.

For me, writing — an inherited hobby from my parents — has been the best vehicle to vividly remember. I learned this from my parents, who have made it their life mission to curate thorough documentation of my life through the letters they’ve addressed to me, their Facebook posts and the poems they’ve written on the back of old photographs.

I decided to take a leaf from their book. Consider this an epilogue and a love letter to the past few months I’ve been far from home, studying abroad at UC Berkeley. I’ve now realized that I’m homesick for a place that isn’t technically home, even when I have yet to leave.

It’s not like I’ve never left places behind; I’m well acquainted with goodbyes. But what has struck me these past two weeks is the feeling of déjà vu that has invaded my everyday life. I spent the largest part of my adolescence in what I’d consider Mexico’s own “Berkeley bubble”: Oaxaca.

I grew up in Mexico’s most liberal environment surrounded by art, traditions and protests. Then, I left at age 15 to move to quite the opposite type of town — the same town I’m going back to now. The slow yet sudden process of reaching the end of the semester and the imminent event of moving out have brought me back to my last months in Oaxaca.

It feels as if I’m 15 again, scared of moving back to my hometown — because it’d be a lie to tell you that it has ever felt like home.

Berkeley has been full of “firsts”: my first time living alone for a prolonged period of time, experiencing a tsunami alert, celebrating 4/20 on the Glade with hundreds of people and getting to meticulously know my roommate out of the habit of living together. I can now read her like the back of my hand and know even the weirdest details about her, like how she prepares her salads at the dining hall and the fact that when she sleeps, she still looks slightly awake. Living in a 12-by-9 foot dorm room does that to people, but we somehow managed to make it work.

Beyond my journal entries and what I usually write on my Facebook timeline, this was also my first time venturing into writing about my experiences and sharing big chunks of my life with the internet. During this semester, I’ve realized that it’s relatively easy to carry your opinions and experiences with you, but it’s a whole other thing to formulate them in words and dispatch them to the outside world.

I’ve become accustomed to my words and the solitary activity that is writing. I’m glad my memories are embedded in every story and every sentence that I’ve ever written. Berkeley has reminded me of the beauty of writing and telling my story through my own voice — and on my own terms.

Being here has definitely taken me outside of my comfort zone. I’ve lived without privacy in a dorm room with no ceiling in the kitchen. I’ve had countless late-night identity crises, questioning who I am over and over again. Berkeley has dug out my deepest-buried anxieties.

As my college experience is surely drawing to an end, I’ve become comfortable in the discomfort created by uncertainty. I have no idea where I’m heading — and that’s OK.

I have finally bought my plane tickets to go back home. Yesterday, with what I thought to be one of the most believable jokes, my friend told me that our best flight alternatives consisted of having a connection in either Panama or Bogotá before heading back to Mexico (which logistically makes no sense).

Because of all the craziness this semester has offered us, I just nodded, blindly agreeing that if those were our best options, we should just buy the tickets. It only felt right to travel by a weirdly unconventional flight back home.

I have a Facebook post that comes up in my Facebook memories every year: A small text that was supposed to be an autobiography for a literature assignment in eighth grade. The last line of that text reads something along the lines of “I really don’t know what the future holds, and at the moment, I don’t have the answers to many questions adults frequently ask.” These were deep revelations for a 13-year-old.

As I’ve grown, I’ve responded to this text on my Facebook feed. At first, I did it out of fun, but it has now become a tradition for me and a couple of my Facebook friends. I’ve been thinking about what I may add to it this year, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to sound something like this:

Hello Marina, it’s been nine years since I first wrote this, and I still don’t have answers to those questions. But we’ve now stopped looking for them. Remember last year? You would never believe where we ended up…

Marina Román Cantú writes the Friday column on being a person of color at UC Berkeley. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected], or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.

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