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Berkeley: what else to say but thanks?

Long post, be warned.

Three months ago, I flew into Oakland International Airport and didn’t know what I was getting myself into. These months have flown by fast (pun intended).

There’s a lot on my mind, and what better way to communicate than through words? Let’s begin.

1. Living in Berkeley

First and foremost, I have to thank Crispin and Terisa, two of my closest friends, for providing me a place to stay the moment I received the job offer. Without them, the transition into working in San Francisco would have been twice as difficult. Their patience and support is unwavering. They opened their doors without hesitation. Three months, no complaints. Those are some great friends.

Surprise, surprise. I didn’t expect to be back in Berkeley, let alone the Bay Area. I didn’t think I would be very happy here and was thrilled that I would be on the road half the time. I thought, why would I want to be surrounded by college students as a young professional? I’m learning now that I oftentimes jump to premature conclusions, and that I was wrong (again).

I really thought I was done with the Bay Area. I really, really did. I thought I had exhausted everything that Berkeley had to offer, that I was through with the college experience, and that I was ready for new challenges. That I was done studying a field that I wasn’t passionate about compared with my classmates. That I had said my goodbyes upon graduation and was ready for a career in international relations in Washington D.C.

Yet, I found myself proudly looking at The Campanile at every BART stop, on the freeways, and in San Francisco. It’s truly a landmark structure that can be spotted anywhere in the bay. Even now, sitting in seat 7E and taking off the runway, I was able to spot it before the plane turned south.

Berkeley and the vibe it gives off is amazing, incomparable to the rest of the world.

2. Life in Berkeley

Second, I want to thank Mike and Jessica. I joined crew last year not knowing what I was getting myself into (thanks Crispin), and found myself in their presence by spring semester. Coach Mike had bumped me into the varsity squad, but I was stricken with injuries: a secondary IT band impingement and a hip flexor strain. Coach Mike introduced me to his then-girlfriend and now-fiancé, Doctor Jessica, who then provided me with ten weeks of physical therapy. My relationship with them turned from athlete-coach and patient-doctor to mutual friendship. Even now, I look up to them as folks who challenge me both physically and mentally.

Which brings me to crew. I didn’t even choose my seat on this plane, yet I was blessed with a final view of Coast Guard Island and the estuary. Rowing is the single defining, most impactful and influential part of my college career in Berkeley. Cal Lightweight Crew provided me with a community that I did not find elsewhere in Berkeley. We trained, ate, suffered, and grew together. No other group on campus came close to doing that for me.

Upon coming back from Washington D.C., I thought I was done with crew too. Perhaps I would say hi to Mike and Jessica and maybe come out to a Saturday practice to look at the team’s progress. No way could I justify waking up at 4:30am on workdays. Yet, I found myself waking up to attend practice 1-2 times a week. I found myself rowing in substitute of an injured or sick rower, or driving a launch to help coach the team, or to just immerse myself with talented, hard working athletes.

Seeing the status of the team this year makes me incredibly happy. I can see how passionate each athlete is, how willing they are to train and grow together, and how they truly love the sport of rowing. On top of a fantastic coaching staff, they’re also led by a fantastic president and role model, Jesse, who is helping to steer the club towards unprecedented, uncharted waters (pun intended).

Last night, I found myself dreaming of how wonderful it would be to stay in Berkeley. To have settled down and leased an apartment to continue working in the San Francisco office. To continue to be involved with Cal Lights, to continue to be impressed by the standards each rower holds him and herself to. To see how happy they were at the conclusion of their second event at the Head of the Lagoon. That alone makes up for the feeling of exhaustion from a 10-12 hour workday.

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Mike tells me that, past obvious financial security, he doesn’t care about money. What drives him to wake up every morning is to see everything that I had just described. That he truly enjoys helping people, being a positive influence, and being a part of a bigger scheme past the “self.” I’m beginning to see it now. I aim to model his values. I hope to be like him one day.

But alas, the timing is off. I’m off to Taiwan in under two weeks, where I’m looking to spend 1-3 years getting in touch with my Taiwanese culture and traveling all of Asia and the Pacific.

3. Lasting connections

Before the Netherlands trip, and with the exception of crew, I spent most my time induced in my own introverted bubble. I didn’t bother going to many social outings or put much effort into seeing old peers. Then, upon coming back from the Netherlands, I had decided that my last day in the Bay Area would be November 21, 2013. Upon landing in San Francisco on November 2, I have spent this month up and about, trying to see good people for the last time in, well, who knows?

Those who have reciprocated on such short notice to have a chat over lunch and dinner, thank you. Those who have found ways around my work schedule to see me, thank you.

I’m not worried about drifting apart. I’ve found that most of those I consider friends are those I rarely see. Strong friendships don’t fade over distance; both sides merely pick up on qualitative, ephemeral time rather than quantitative, substantial time. These are the lasting connections.

4. The itinerary

Here’s my timeline for the next few weeks.

Nov. 21-23: home in Fullerton, CA

Nov. 24-26: business trip in Macomb, Michigan

Nov. 27-Dec. 2: home for thanksgiving; work remotely from home

Dec. 3: fly to Taipei, Taiwan

Dec. 5-12: rented a temporary apartment I found 400 meters from the office; searching for and leasing a long term apartment

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Want to know the truth about how I feel about this relocation, which I had voluntarily requested?

Well, until the moment I personally booked my flight and hotel, I had been ecstatic and struggled to contain my excitement about the subject. After Taipei logistics had been cleared, I’ve become anxious, nervous, and scared. This won’t be the same as studying abroad in Beijing, where I was in the comfort of other college kids. This won’t be the same as working in D.C. with other college kids. This won’t be the same as spending 15 days in the Netherlands, where everybody speaks English. And of course, this won’t be the same as living in Berkeley.

On the contrary, I’ll be engulfed in a completely different culture with unfamiliar faces and names. Where I’ll stick out as a foreigner the second I speak. Where the language is familiar, yet I’ll be viewed as a non-native. And we haven’t even gotten to my planned trips of Indonesia, Singapore, India, Malaysia, and beyond.

Alas, this is a long term decision that I have made which will shape the end of my impressionable years. I’m scared shitless of the what-ifs and buts. But I’m pursuing my dream, one conjured many years ago and has actualized. I’m going to learn a lot from this chapter in my life.

Thanks for your support, Berkeley.

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