In the Spirit of Uncertainty

Summer is an important time for college students. Many of us work, seek out new experiences, take internships, travel or continue our studies. It’s a time to enjoy the limited responsibilities of University while escaping the academic pressure, and focus on things you care about. 

Prior to COVID-19 cancellations, my Plan A for Summer 2020 was to complete a research internship fully funded by the German Academic Exchange (DAAD) studying tropical corals in Germany (sounds cool, doesn’t it?). This, unfortunately, was the first of my plans to be cancelled. Thankfully, I anticipated this, and thought of Plan B: spending my Summer contemplating conifers at UC Berkeley Forestry Camp, a required program for Forestry majors at Cal which focuses on developing the practical skills for a career in forestry or natural resource management. When Forestry Camp applicants were notified that the program would likely not occur, I thought of Plan C: Take summer classes and work in my lab on campus. Yet, Summer classes are being held online, and as the days go by, it seems more and more plausible that there will be no open lab to return to. 

It is at this point in my planning in which we turn to Plan D. I as a responsible Berkeley student should of course have a Plan D! Plan D: Uh oh, there actually was no Plan D…

Plan D: Uh oh, there actually was no Plan D…

As someone who finds security in knowing more or less how I’ll be spending my immediate future, realizing I had no Plan D was frightening. Upon that realization, I first feared the lasting social and economic impacts of the pandemic on my community and broader world. However, soon after I worried missing out on summer research opportunities would affect my graduate school applications or hurt my academic record. And after that, I worried I would simply waste away all Summer scrolling through my favorite meme pages, making TikToks, and walking in circles around the block at my parent’s house from June through August. Finally, after weeks of wallowing in my distress, I developed Plan E. 

Plan E is still in formation, and I’m not sure exactly how I’ll go about implementing it, but I have high hopes for The Plan. Plan E: Try to get more comfortable with uncertainty. 

Plan E: Try to get more comfortable with uncertainty. 

I tentatively plan to stay involved with lab work over the summer via my laptop, and while I don’t know what this will look like or exactly what I’ll work on, I’m looking forward to. The details are uncertain, and the best thing I can do about that is accept it. For my daily does of certainty I plan to run to Sather Gate and back most mornings, like I’ve been doing, since it’s exactly a mile from my house. I plan to call my Grandma more often. Oh, and I plan to eat delicious stone fruit in that narrow window where the Berkeley Bowl sells its most perfect peaches. 

More generally, I plan to take things as they go, and do more things that scare me! Under Plan E I committed to studying abroad in the Fall (assuming the program isn’t cancelled, as that would require a Plan F). And because supporting your weight while being upside down feels pretty uncertain, I’ve started trying to learn how to do a handstand. I’ve also pushed myself to reach out and make friends with my housemates who I didn’t know well at all before Plans C through F.

All in all, Plan E is working out so far. It isn’t perfect, it isn’t certain, but it’s working– and that’s the best anyone can say right now.

Author: Violet

I'm a Physical Geography major, Cal Ballroom dancer, an undergraduate researcher in berkeley's Quaternary Paleoecology Lab, a Campus Ambassador, former co-oper, and a third year student. Born and bred in Berkeley I'm a local and a lover of backpacking, science, and nature.