On Sunday, May 19, 2019, I lingered with my fellow BA candidates backstage at the Greek Theater on the UC Berkeley campus. We were awaiting the presentation of our faux Bachelor of Arts degrees in English–from the top-rated English department in the country. It was a time to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in two years. People who shared my first English 45B class. People, who like me, wondered if we’d ever see this day.
I (re) started school at Los Angeles Pierce College in the Spring of 2013, intending on obtaining a Certificate in Addiction Studies. Instead, I caught the academic bug and set my sights on entering UCLA and majoring in English. But somehow, UC Berkeley accepted my application and I moved north to begin a two-year journey as a transfer student that can only be described as an intellectual meat grinder.
Cal is a different beast. What it lacks in school spirit (and Pac-12 football talent) it more than makes up in academic and intellectual rigor. My two years here have been a series of bipolar panic attacks. That I have no business here. That I’m an imposter. That I’m too old. That I will write the next great American novel while hobnobbing with the elite of the literary world. That I WILL fail the class I’m currently in.
I’m guessing I’ll fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum as I begin my journey applying to grad schools.
Cal is home. Cal is grade deflation and holding on tight to your cell phone while walking on Telegraph. It’s wondering if the mentally ill homeless person walking into your class has a knife or gun to wondering if you too can win the Pulitzer Prize someday. Cal is a microcosm of all my hopes and nightmares.
I’ve not ONCE regretted my decision to forgo UCLA (my lifelong dream school) and go to Cal.
We’re told to line-up stage left and begin our descent into the orchestra pit. Pomp and Circumstance erupts from the speakers. And so does the sky. God lets loose with a 3-minute micro cloud burst that soaks graduate and family members alike. A rising crescendo of cheers and cries break loose from my graduating class and before I know it, my eyes are filled with tears. I’m on the verge of sobbing as I take my seat in the downpour. Every late night, early morning angst about that test, that next paper, has culminated with a cleansing rain from heaven that makes it all worthwhile. And before the Chair of the English Department begins to speak, the rains stops. The anointing of the Class of 2019 is complete.