It’s another day getting home from classes after commuting to campus. In search of some rest from academics, I turn to the one show I can questionably count on to let my brain clock out: “Love Island USA.”
While this series promises love, I found instead that it provides occasional lessons making it the “reality” show that it is.
So when I tuned out my rationale and tuned in to the third season, I was pleasantly surprised to take away a sliver of wisdom from one of the singles on there. Sharing some advice, one contestant said the magic words of the episode I was on: “Take the risk or lose the chance.”
The mantra, though used before, felt like the first time stepping onto UC Berkeley’s campus; feeling as though I knew only a little more about what I was doing there than the contestants on a dating show know about finding genuine love.
All my work finally paid off when I made my way through Sproul Plaza as an official student. At that moment, I refused to “lose the chance” — but realized this did not necessarily mean I was truly taking the risk.
Then it hit me. If I didn’t watch where I was going, fliers from the masses would have nearly taken out my face as eager students tabling for clubs reached out with their sales pitches and fistfulls of papers. Pretty soon, fliers I amassed were commiserating at the bottom of the backpack I threw them into.
Somewhere in the sea of tabling raffles, bake sales and free candy, I found myself gravitating toward those who reminded me of who I wanted to be.
The initial step toward recognizing the community values I resonated with was identifying what my own values are. I knew I wanted to honor my family and Latine culture that brought me to where I am today, so I invested time into a student organization uplifting individuals who shared similar sentiments. Inspired by my older brother’s venture into the profession, I also knew I wanted to pursue a career in law, which led me to get involved in pre-law initiatives supporting minority representation.
But as UC Berkeley’s community began to feel more like my own, I realized community for me also meant honoring and investing in community for others. And that’s where the risk comes in — not only in pursuing those communities that make us feel at home, but rather bringing the community within you to the communities beyond you.
I found myself seeking leadership at this very publication with that exact motto. When interested writers told me publishing an article for a newspaper didn’t seem like an opportunity for them, I sat down and had a conversation until I could change their mind. Communities with the most lasting progress don’t settle for barriers that limit certain people and cushion others. It’s simple math, and I’m no mathematician — but when ambitions become more accessible, more potentials can be realized.
My own experiences with walls built against me have made me so adamant about inclusion when it comes to community. Becoming more brutally honest about disabilities I have, I’ve been able to weed out those unwilling or unable to see how my battles have only made me that much stronger. Any community that couldn’t take even a small chance on me when I have taken the risk to confront my pain can suffer the loss.
Where did I stand though, having all these loyalties seemingly in multiple places and with different parts of who I am?
Honestly, I imagine it’s hard to stay put in one definition of community when you have so many things that add up to you. As someone already busy enough, there seems to loom the pressures of narrowing down who I can and cannot be.
But intersections of identity don’t have to leave you at a crossroads, choosing one part of you over another.
On “Love Island USA,” the whole idea is that you get to know everyone as best as possible to find who you are most compatible with. Part of the risk is also allowing yourself time to get to know what interests best couple with who you are. The only way through this is trial and error, which means your chosen community won’t always look the same — but perhaps one day it will feel more for you.
Now that my younger brother is a freshman at UC Berkeley, I’ve had to reflect on how I can describe finding a community without minimizing what it is and glorifying what it’s not. It’s exciting, introspective, adjustable and dynamic. What it’s often not is easy — but that doesn’t mean you should let yourself lose the chance of finding what works for you.
No matter where you go to find your community — whether it be to college or onto a dating show — remember to take the risk.