Passion: A Dying Pursuit

Near the south end of the UC Berkeley Campus is a run-down basketball court on the edge of infamous People’s Park. The ground is unlevel and the hoops have accumulated a fair amount of wear and tear over the years. It’s not the most exciting place in this historic city, but it’s where I spend a good majority of my free time.

I’ve been very lucky in the sense that I’ve found several things about which I’m incredibly passionate. Basketball is just one of them. I spend far more time pursuing these activities than I probably should. You’ll often find me avidly supporting Andy Murray in his tennis matches and subsequently trying to mimic him on the court. You’ll find me taking photographs of every inch of the Berkeley campus. You’ll find me fervently air-drumming along to my favorite songs. You’ll find me shooting hoops at People’s Park.

And the reason I say I’m lucky to have found these passions is that they’re a big part of how I’ve been able to get through three semesters here at Cal with little aside from contentment and pride. You see, one of the great things about UC Berkeley is that everyone here is incredibly career-driven and motivated. It’s an environment not of thinking or hoping, but of doing. The issue with UC Berkeley, however, is that everyone here is incredibly career-driven and motivated. People often lose sight of things that aren’t directly relevant to their success in the future.

A girl who used to live in between the pages of books lets her favorite novels collect dust. A former track star leaves his running shoes in a box, crammed in the corner of his closet. They think not of these forgotten passions but of all the responsibilities to which they need to attend. Such is often the case here.

This semester, I met a bright-eyed freshman who, much to my surprise, hated her time here at Cal. I didn’t understand it; she had a close-knit community of friends, found great success, and seemed to radiate happiness. I would ask her to grab lunch, play basketball, hang out. “I can’t, I have to study for my midterm next week.” “I have to prepare for an interview.” “I need to work on my paper.” She was never available. It started to make sense. It wasn’t until she learned to set time aside for the joys in life that she began to find more fulfillment here.

And of course, my point isn’t to say that we as students should ignore our responsibilities and indulge in our passions and pleasures whenever we feel the urge to. That would be equally detrimental. But when the question is asked, “What do you do for fun?” and there’s no answer, it becomes an issue. When your friend needs you but you’re so preoccupied with your work that you refuse to care, it becomes an issue. When you don’t realize that a 30-minute break every here and there is perfectly acceptable, it becomes an issue.

As students, it’s important for us to find the right balance between work and play, stress and calm, busy and free. It’s easy to spend our free time worrying about all the responsibilities we seem to be neglecting, but it’s crucial not to let the boundary between these two spectrums be convoluted. Set time aside for work, and go hard at it. Set time for relaxation and for passion, and be completely free.

My roommate, Felix, once told me a story of a classmate of his. They were struggling to complete a Computer Science project, and the clock was running down; tensions were high. In the midst of the chaotic coding session, this classmate stood up and began to leave. “Where are you going?” he was asked. “I made a promise to myself months ago that I would go to the gym every day. I don’t plan on stopping now,” he said.

To many, it may seem a foolish decision of one whose priorities are out of order. I, however, see it as a commendable effort not to let stress within academia affect external values and commitments, an effort too many of us lack.

He later submitted his project, and he did just fine.

There’ll come nights where Felix and I will both be up late into the night, trying to stay afloat amidst the waves of stress and responsibility crashing down on us. “Do you want to play basketball?” he’ll ask. We make the trek to the run-down court, dribble our basketballs on the unlevel pavement, shoot them through those worn-and-torn hoops. Making these trips to the basketball court clears my mind, relieves my stress, makes me calm. And I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

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