These past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for me. I didn’t think I could feel fear, stress, sadness, grief, excitement and relief in the span of a few weeks. That was until I was faced with “dead” week and finals, the horrific process of moving out of my apartment, bittersweet graduation ceremonies, temporary goodbyes to my friends, and the long drive home to the Bay Area. I don’t have any battle scars but I do have acne and eye bags to prove that I successfully escaped the inferno of spring quarter. I was liberated. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
Even though my sophomore year is over, I was feeling apprehensive about grades for the past few days. I finally had the courage to check, only to find myself falling back into the fiery pit of doom I had just escaped. It was a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from; a B- in Econ 10A. A 2.80 GPA instead of the 2.85 requirement; A 70 instead of the 72 percent I needed; A 38/50 instead of a 40/50 that could have changed my diploma to “Bachelor's of Arts in Economics and Environmental Studies.” I can go on and on about how one wrong multiple choice question had ruined the rest of my future. I had worked so hard to only get so close. Now, I feel so far from where I want to be.
I thought about it. Cried about it. Cried some more. If I can’t even accomplish something like this with the effort that I put throughout the year, how could I accomplish anything? I’m only convinced that hard work without luck won’t get you anywhere. So in an effort to make up for the devastating blow to my ego and undergraduate career, I painfully tried to devise a new plan for myself. I went on indeed and looked for jobs and research projects that needed assistants for the summer. I was splitting screens between my latest resume and quotes on failure and redemption on brainyquote.com.
For a moment I paused and realized I was only hurting myself more by trying to jump into my next best move. I closed my laptop and stared at the ceiling. I had reached the bargaining stage of grief that follows anger and denial.
What if I had studied a few more hours, even though I felt like I studied for eternity?
What if I talked to my professor to give me the points I deserved on the second midterm when I had done the math correctly but wrote down the wrong number?
What if I didn’t go to coachella after my first midterm so I wasn’t distracted while studying for the test?
What if I wore a watch during my Econ 2 final so I didn’t lose track of time?
What if I didn’t get strep throat during my Econ 2 midterm?
What if I was more careful with the homework assignments during Econ 1?
Half of me is accepting the fact that I must move on. The other half is still stuck in the past, trying to negotiate my way out of the hurt I feel by asking more “What Ifs.”
My summer plans to catch up in econ by taking courses back in Santa Barbara was now out of the question. I reached out to my friends, asking them what I should do with my time, only to get a message saying I should “Learn how to surf, drink with friends, listen to good music, eat semi-good food, go out and drive for a while with no destination, shop around.” Immediately, I was unimpressed with the response. None of those things are going to help me.
Plans sometimes fail. Before the year ended, I asked one of my close friends what his plans were for the summer. He was going to move to berkeley, work, maybe take some classes, be with his girlfriend, be with his friends, move into our new beach house, and finally be able to vote in the primary election. He was diagnosed with stage 4 Burkitt's Lymphoma a week before the start of summer vacation. Without any control or input or bargain, his plans failed. His new summer itinerary was nothing like his original. He won't be at Berkeley or Santa Barbara; He’ll be undergoing four sessions of chemotherapy over the next three months two hours away from his home in Bakersfield.
It’s an unfair and unjust situation like cancer that reminds me about how much control I have over my own situation. I can’t relate or even imagine the emotions he’s forced to face and in no way can I even compare the magnitude of his situation to my own. The disparity is indisputable. My life isn’t put on pause, it’s only getting an alternative scene. Considering the fact that I can learn how to surf, drink with friends, listen to good music, eat semi-good food, go out and drive for a while with no destination or shop around gives me every reason to seize of the opportunity to do so.
I’m still learning how to cope with everything that’s going on around me. I can’t say that I’m fine with not getting into the major. I also can’t say that I’m not thinking of my friend every day and how his plans were unrightfully put on hold. I can and will say that despite failed or paused plans, there’s always a plan B. And a plan C,D,E,F,G. And whether it involves me finding a new job, or studying to retake the exam, or using my econ courses to declare my environmental studies concentration in economics and policy, it isn’t the end for me or anyone else.
This past year has been both a blessing and a challenge. There are so many unforgettable memories, new and old friendships and character-building moments that were not planned but serendipitous, and I only have my life to thank. Bear with me in the next few months. I have no idea where I’m going or what I’ll be doing and I want to get better at being okay with that.
Please pray for my friend Eric and everyone else fighting a hard battle.