Liminal Spaces

Picture Credit: Daylen Yang

lim·i·nal

ˈlimənl/

adjective

1. relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.

2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

After graduation I found myself suspended in time and space. Everything I had known for years evaporated. I was here, but I didn’t know where here was. I thought I knew where I was going, but I didn’t. So much of my life led up to that moment, to graduation. Years of hard work, late nights, and stress culminated to May 13, 2017.

Graduation was the happiest day of my life. The day was a blur of tears, friends, family, love, and moments I can never forget.

The next day I awoke feeling disoriented, unsure that it actually happened. Did I actually graduate from my dream school with a bachelor’s degree in something I love? Yes, it did happen. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Cognitive Science with the help of my friends, family, and everyone that ever believed in me.

It was the end of an era. The week following graduation I said goodbye to Berkeley: the city, the school, the people, the feelings, and a part of me I’ll never get back. I spent four years getting lost in the city, lost in the infrastructure, the way the air felt at 2 A.M, and the way the pavement glistened in the rain as I walked to class — umbrella and books in hand. I spent four years learning in a place where knowledge was not confined to lecture halls and textbooks. I spent those four years finding myself and losing myself, reinventing and reconstructing, deconstructing and dismantling until I knew who I was. I passed some classes and I failed some, too, but that wasn’t the point. The most important part of it all was that it showed me who I am, who I want to be, and how to always be that person. I spent the majority of my time with friends who taught me more about the world than anything else; I met people brimming with more love and compassion than I knew possible.

Saying goodbye was difficult. Moving back home was difficult, and some days it still is. The first few days I felt like a visitor, a tourist in my hometown. The city seemed different, but I realized it wasn’t the city — it was me. I grappled with moving back home and living with my parents for some time. I tried to escape my hometown for so long. I told myself I would stay away as long as I could, but I didn’t know that meant four years and six days after graduation. I tried to run away from the person I was growing up until I couldn’t; I was left with the ghosts of who I used to be. If I stare at the walls of my room long enough I can trace every person I was, every person I no longer am. Moving back home forced me to revive parts of myself I never wanted to revisit. I had grown used to moving forward for so long that I didn’t know how to calm the past inside me.

For the first month and a half at home I felt like a failure. I thought none of it mattered anymore. It didn’t matter that I was the first in my family to attend college. It didn’t matter that I went to Berkeley. I was defining myself by inability to stay away from Bakersfield. Moving back home felt like a step back for me, a step I was not willing to accept. I compared myself to every person I could think of. I asked myself what they had that I didn’t. How did they manage to avoid moving back home when I couldn’t?

I refused to acknowledge that sometimes shit happens, sometimes shit doesn’t work out they way you expect it to when you want it to. In my mind I trapped myself in Bakersfield for the rest of my life, ignoring every voice in my life telling me it was temporary. In my mind my fate was sealed. In my mind I was living with my parents forever. It didn’t matter that the thought was outlandish. What mattered, to me, was that I failed.

I spent the better half of my summer thinking this way. I made myself miserable because of the arbitrary definitions of success and failure I placed on myself. Moving back home isn’t a failure, it’s part of what is next for me. It wasn’t until recently that I realized comparing myself to people is a game I will lose every time. It is a dangerous game that perpetuates self-doubt and diminishes self-worth.

A few weeks ago while browsing the Internet, I came across a post talking about liminal spaces. I scrolled past it before scrolling back to it. Liminal spaces included waiting rooms and highways. I am living in a liminal space. This is not the end for me. Bakersfield is the stop between Berkeley and the rest of my life.

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