At Cal, the desire to be the best you can be is simply part of the culture: to do more, to be more, to do everything, to be everything. It is part of what makes going here so incredible. Everyone around you is always up to big, amazing things, showing you the endless possibilities that Cal has to offer. We all want to do everything, but that can often lead to feeling like we must do it on our own: but nobody’s superman, and nobody gets to where they are without a helping hand.
I have always prided myself on my independence and strong work ethic. I take on challenge after challenge, pushing myself as hard as I can to get to the next rung on the ladder. I am not at all unique in this regard, but I have often found myself feeling isolated when I start to struggle. Many people will refer to the “sophomore slump” and while I do not personally believe that going into sophomore year inherently leads to disaster, I have noticed my own moral deteriorating and my workload increasing. Recent struggles in academics, personal life, and leadership roles have left me toeing the line between independence and self enforced isolation.
Recognizing that you are struggling is the first step to getting better, as cliche as that may sound. The idea that you need to take on challenges on your own or that your struggle is not large enough to get help simply is not true. Nobody successful ever gets there on their own, and I have certainly not gotten to where I have without help. But it is difficult to recognize at what point you need help, and I have found that I often ask for help too late, rather than too early. The feeling that I am being a burden by asking for help is absolutely ridiculous, but so many people I know have the same thoughts going through their heads.
For me the moment I realized I needed help was when I walked out of the third club meeting in a row feeling absolutely demoralized. Why was I even putting in the work I was doing if nobody seemed to appreciate it and I was getting nothing out of it? I had to do something: feeling this way constantly was not getting me anywhere. But who to ask for help? Help can come in the form of anyone you trust: a friend, a family member, a mentor. I reached out to the person who had inspired in me the passion to do the work I was doing in the first place. I was scared and unsure how much it would help, but the second I started talking, a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders: I was not alone. The work I was doing meant a lot to me as well as the community I was doing it for. To say the least, there was a very clear reason I was doing it once I looked beyond the immediate impact it had on me.
Being at Cal means realizing you are not alone even in the times where you feel the most alone, the most boggled down by stress. The people I have met have been just as passionate, just as caring as I am. We flock to each other, each striving to make the world a better place. When that “burden” feels like too much, we have to remember that we have each other to rely on. The world can be a scary place, but remembering who you have in your life to rely on is key. Nobody wants to be alone, and nobody wants someone they care about to feel alone. All you have to do is reach out and knowing when to take that step is the most powerful skill you can develop.