This blog is supposed to be one avenue for my children to communicate with me one day. Yet I haven’t put forth much effort, or any for that matter, in the past couple months. Now that I have graduated from college, it’s time to pay my dues.
I. Graduated. College.
On May 18th of 2013, I finished my undergraduate career from the University of California, Berkeley.
If it wasn’t obvious already, I try to reflect on my life as often as possible. And now that I have reached an important phase in my life, I’d like to take a moment to share my thoughts.
In high school, I never gave much thought on going to college. I spent more time caring about how tough I was than about career aspirations. I spent more time feeling insecure than being productive. I spent more time imagining who I would get into a fist fight next than picking up extracurricular activities.
My sophomore year, 2006.
Due to many life factors at the time, I made the decision to drop out of all my classes. I finished my junior year with some C, D, and even F grades. In my senior year of high school, my hardest class was 5th period AP Chinese 4. Not only was it a struggle to attend class due to being cool and drinking alcohol and loitering during lunch hours, it was hard to stay awake to help half the class cheat to improve their grades. (張老師，如果你有念這篇文章，我真抱歉.)
My senior year, 2008
I planned on attending a four-year university, but that bubble burst without ever manifesting itself. I didn’t care to set out guidelines to make it happen. With my horrible grades and no hope for university acceptance, I enrolled at the local community college.
Despite having good grades at Fullerton College, I lacked a trajectory. I finished my first year as an undeclared major after exploring many disappointing fields of study. In the meantime, I slowly tore my family dynamics apart with my erratic temper, insecurities, and poisonous and destructive social behaviors.
2009, first year in college.
I spent the fall semester in my second year exploring more courses, to no avail. Seeing how I was a fitness and nutrition enthusiast, I reluctantly chose a pre-physical therapy route and applied to Cal State Long Beach and San Diego State University. With a perfect GPA, there was no way I would get rejected. I continued to have my fun.
Except both schools rejected me. <You can read my immediate reaction at the time here>
After some reflection coupled with a sailing gig in Mexico, an adventure which changed my life (thanks Captain Graham, you’re the grandfather I never had), I redirected my efforts towards the field of international relations. I suffered through an unhappy third year at Fullerton College while applying to four schools.
Unlike the previous year’s failures, all four universities accepted me. <You could read my reaction to those acceptances here>. After quite a dilemma, I ultimately chose UC Berkeley. <You could read my decision-making process at the time here>
And comes the Berkeley years. Where I have challenged myself on some days and have been rather sedentary on other days. Where I have fought insecurities on some days, and triumphed with confidence on others. Where I have met both wonderful and horrible people.
Fall 2011, first year at Berkeley.
I’ve had experiences here with people, places, and things which cannot be substituted for anything else. Through the good and bad times (the former trumping the latter tenfold), I have now finished my undergraduate career at a wonderful, amazing place.
So I’ve now graduated. Rather than sitting through the general graduation ceremony, I celebrated by jumping out of a plane from 15,000 feet, falling at 120 miles per hour.
Don’t worry mom, your son is alive and well. Although he had a hangover while falling from the sky.
I fell with a ton of emotions and thoughts going through my head. Of what the future may hold. Of things I wanted to do. Of things I wanted to see.
And, I thought of things I want to share.
I am a firm believer in reciprocity, and I am confident that those who know me see me exercise that ideal on a daily basis. I believe that the world is a huge community, and that sharing is the just thing to do. Therefore, I want to give back to my communities – the endless amounts of people who have helped me become the person I am today.
Finally, there is one person especially whom I want to reciprocate.
Mom. You were the only person who never gave up on me. You sat through my destructive behavior. You forgave me for all the pain I brought to you and the family. You patiently watched your little “doh doh” become rebellious, gangster thug, substance abusing, fist fighting, temper surging kid to whatever it is you think of me now.
You showed me what it means to be empathetic. Of the importance of living frugally. Of being selfless. Of unconditional love. You were with me through my fears and insecurities. Through my unhappiness. Through my depression. And I’ll tell you something you and nobody else has ever known, til now of course. If it wasn’t for you, I think I would have committed suicide. 我愛你.
So I’m going to reciprocate. You let me study abroad in China, a place you have never even been to before. I’m going to take you there, as well as the rest of Asia. You let me visit the east coast, and I’m now moving there to begin my professional career; I’m going to show you the entire eastern seaboard. You let me skydive, ski off the side of mountains, fight for my life in Mexico, snorkel in shark infested waters, bungee jump in a foreign country, zip line in another state, and fire a broad range of handguns. I would like to share all those experiences with you, but you’ll probably be frightened of all of those – so you can choose when you want to go with me and it’s done. I’m also taking you to Nordic Europe, the Mediterranean European countries, Hawaii, the Caribbeans, Central America, and just about any place other than the US South whose stereotypes frighten me to be quite frank.
Thanks for everything mom.
I never thought I would graduate from UC Berkeley. I never thought I would ever attend any type of accredited institution. Yet, here I am, with bittersweet tears of nostalgia and happiness, reflecting the end of a chapter of my life that I only achieved through everyone who has supported me, invested in me, and tolerated me throughout the 22.75 years of my life (I’ve already displayed embarrassing photos that nobody has ever seen before so I don’t care to express some emotions).
This accomplishment wasn’t due to me. It was due to the endless support of family, friends, acquaintances, and other kind folks who have guided me along the path.