This is my 30th, and final, piece for The Daily Californian.
Sometimes articles flow out of me like memories, and sometimes writing them is like mud wrestling an elephant. This was one of the latter.
When I can’t order my ideas, when they’re bumbling around like the balls in a wire bingo tumbler, I pull on my shoes and go for a run.
I’ve run through Berkeley since I was a freshman, and I never take the same route twice. Since my time living up the Southside hill, it’s become a routine. I’ll conjure the most atrocious outfit I can find, usually centered around high school PE shorts, an old t-shirt and mismatched black socks, and I’ll be off on my bouncing, bowlegged way.
This afternoon, I kicked a pebble out of my left shoe and set off toward campus. I started near Haas and ran around the top rim. I passed the Greek Theater where my friends and I saw Louis the Child, past the corner that always has a hot dog cart during football season and off toward Etcheverry Hall where my poetry class was held last year. I tried to push those thoughts out of my mind because, of course, I was trying to think about what to write. I needed focus.
I wound my way back toward campus, caught a glimpse of Doe in the distance, then saw a tree-lined path I didn’t recognize and started down it instead. I have a rule that I must take any path that interests me, so naturally, I’m usually lost. I found myself by the new construction site, which will someday be a building I don’t recognize, and flew down the road bordering Li Ka Shing, where I pleaded with my professor after sleeping through a statistics midterm freshman year.
But memories later, I have a piece to write.
Around the corner, I found BAMPFA, where a panel of professors once ripped my art presentation to shreds. I turned back to campus and rounded the lower grass pavilion where my dad and I sat and ate takeaway ramen when I came back to school for the first time.
I shook away those moments and found my old friends — the redwoods. Those trees by the stream watched me improvise a fencing match with an actor friend when COVID-19 forced our drama class outside. The fun and the freedom of that moment washed over me too. I tried to keep myself on track, but they kept coming.
I ran by Durham Theater tucked behind Dwinelle, where my parents and friends watched me pour myself into a Chekhov piece last year. I passed under Sather Gate and saw the place my friends and I spent a week asking people to support a campaign I still believe in. I ran past Wheeler, where a friend and I brought a Bluetooth speaker to our 61A final so we could dance the whole way home.
I passed the Campanile and ran down the steps to 4.0 Hill, which I never rolled down, and dodged a family of oddly dauntless squirrels. I remembered the group of researchers I watched train crows on an obstacle course in the wooded areas of lower campus and wondered if our animals were smarter than most.
And I kept running.
I cut up past the anthropology building, where I had one of my favorite nights drinking red wine and making art in a painting studio on the second floor, and lounged in that memory for a moment. Then, I was staring at Strada, and every hangover it’s cured. That café held a conversation with a high school friend the first time I toured campus, and one where I told my now-girlfriend that I missed her for the first time. I ran through those moments, too.
And then, it was uphill again, up through DKE’s glass-sprinkled parking lot and onto Piedmont circle, where I pulled out my phone and began to write this, because I couldn’t wait to get back to my computer.
The ideas were alive, crackling and colliding. The bingo balls rolled to a stop. Moments from each year I’ve spent here appeared to me and blended into one triumph of moment and mind. My chest was burning, and my legs ached, but I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.
Every pair of running shoes I burned through, every rainstorm I braved, every clashing outfit all melded into one endless run that started the first week I got here, and that I was finishing, finally, four years later.
The threads of memory that seemed frayed and tangled braided into this beautiful tapestry of accomplishment. They were all there, inside me. All I needed was to put on some shoes and set off in search of something so that I could return and let my sweat-slick hands produce, well, this.
This paper has been my home for three years and has housed a huge part of my creative life. Saying goodbye is understandably bittersweet. I can’t thank you all enough for reading my work, for listening as I told stories, for cheering as I wrestled elephants. You have given me a greater gift than you can ever know.
As I mentioned before, I’m off across the pond. Come September, I’ll be starting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, and yes, you counted correctly, that is 14 syllables.
I will keep writing, I just have to figure out how. When I do, you will be the first to know. So, when you have the time, or even better, when you don’t — go for a run. For me.
And I hope, with all my heart, that the next time you sit down to do something you love, you’re just a bit out of breath.
Luke Stiles joined The Daily Californian in the summer of 2020 as a sports reporter. He worked as an opinion columnist in the summer of 2022 and as a member of the editorial board in the spring of 2023. This will be his 13th contribution to a special issue. He is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political economy with a minor in theater & performance studies and will continue his theatrical studies at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts this fall.