Go Bears: Can Bears Really Go All the Way? — Exploring the Privilege of a UC Berkeley Experience
I’m a recent graduate from the #1 public university in the world. In reflection of my time at Cal, I realized how the ceaseless pursuit of a career and the constant fear of rejection/taking the wrong path in my life has meddled its way into my life as an insatiable insecurity. An insecurity that built a comfortable home in my mind.
At UC Berkeley, generally when my peers said “recruiting” it didn’t mean that they were eagerly interviewing for one job. Instead, they were choosing which cool new startup, huge tech firm or formidable finance center they wanted to join. Granted I knew this sentiment wasn’t shared amongst all students at Cal— but it was a common phenomenon within my circle of Asian Americans friends: strong willed engineers, ambitious business entrepreneurs and creative media studies dreamers. I never thought I would become that person who ogled at someone’s perfectly curated Facebook post saying that: they’re working at Google, moving into an all expense paid for apartment for Amazon, or strutting around campus in a Deloitte backpack. Of course, as an Asian American who lived the model minority life, this IS the dream, this IS the goal. It’s the accumulation of the labor and toil from childhood to now.
However, during college, I spent too much time LinkedIn, applied to one too many internships I couldn’t keep track of — just to learn I needed to quickly get comfortable with rejection. Unintentionally, my confidence as a person was built on the shaky sand of job titles and career security. On the outside, my peers labeled me as a confident overachiever — with my eventual 3 internships all glamoured up on my resume, along an endless lists of side jobs, club leadership and did I mention Lyft driving? I became that person I oogled at… however, on the inside I felt and still felt hollow and not good enough. At Berkeley, we are told it is a social norm to be cool and supportive of our peers succeeding, (get those “likes” on FB, you know?) but I always struggled to come to terms with my feelings of inadequacy and jealousy. Sometimes, you feel almost like you are a lower tiered human if you don’t achieve. The environment at Berkeley can be toxic sometimes and you can get tunneled vision from focusing too much on polishing your resume, innovating and mixing around words that all mean the same thing at the end of the day.
As I got caught up in these anxieties, I forgot to realize the immense privilege that I had, when I was ruthlessly berating myself for not working hard enough, or not making the right decisions when I first came into Cal to take the steps necessary to secure a job. The privilege as advertised of being a UC Berkeley student is that it’s a stepping stone to joining the tech force, to be at the forefront of innovation with job security at your choice of a Forbes 500. But if for a moment, I stopped focusing on myself and focused more on the world outside of myself, if I learned more to listen I would realize I was daily surrounded by people who were passionate for their cause, who weren’t afraid to challenge the status quo, and who defied societal expectations to forge new paths, not just for themselves — but also the underprivileged, the minority, the outsider and the ignored. The big realization perhaps came too late in my college career and that too many suffered from the same insecurities. I was privileged to be offered the opportunity to attend this university, to learn from the best and to be surrounded for the best. What I want to takeaway to my next stage of life isn’t the insurmountable insecurity and stress, but the empowering stories, intelligence, and hope of UC Berkeley.
Fin…. not really >.<
Now fast forward a few months after college graduation, with 2 solid brand name internships under my belt. Yet, I’m back at square one — applying, rejection, applying, rejection and the cycle repeats again. As interviews rolled in at first, I felt immediate joy, but a wave of uncertainty came over again — how do I negotiate salary? where do I live? can I possibly move back to my small suburb in SoCal? am I really passionate about this industry? Without realizing, the insecurity that made a home in my mind — began building walls and rooms.
The cost of chasing wealth, prestige and titles will be too costly if that is all one’s life amounts to. I have many regrets on how I chose to spend my time at school — not going on adventures with my friends, talking to that really cool professor, taking my faith seriously at times or even trying something new — like learning a new language. Now what will be in front of me is a work.work.work. I want to cling onto the empowering hope I gained from my lessons learned from my experience at UC Berkeley to spur myself on. One lesson I’ve taken away from my Disney internship experience is, “don’t place arbitrary timelines on yourself.” The reality is — getting rejected from my dream job at my dream company doesn’t negate my ambitions, my worth or even my identity as a person. But I need to look at the insecurity in my mind, destroy the walls and build instead a foundation of hope and patience to create my own timelines, to understand my own passions and to find my right fit.
I guess all to say is to that the uncertainty about the future, the never ending comparison to my peers will be toxic if I don’t place my hope is something greater, something eternal which is in Jesus Christ. Everything always has a weird way of working out itself, and I’m learning to come to terms and be okay that I don’t have to be in absolute control of my own life. God provides — not what I perceive to be the best, but rather in the best interest of using me as His vessel for His glory. Now isn’t that the greatest and most undeserved privilege of all?
To those at Cal reading this, I hope you learn to cherish the time you have left. Go nap on Memorial Glade, ride the elevator up to Campanile, meet someone new in class — take charge and ownership of the privilege to be there, and don’t let the stress of the future dictate the present.