A Drastic Change of Plans

Graduation photo in front of Doe Library entrance

It’s jarring how quickly your life can change, especially when you think you have it all figured out. For better or for worse, change can leave you reeling, particularly when you hadn’t even started thinking about how to say goodbye to the stepping stones you oh-so-carefully laid for yourself. In the midst of complete fear, sadness, or internal panic, how do you find it in yourself to take a deep breath, give yourself a hug, and move on? In fact, one of the hardest things I learned this year was to do just that: to hoist myself up and recover, before I was even done mourning the carefully planned future I had lost.

In all honesty, it was one of the hardest lessons I ever had to learn. I had always been one to plan: I was the 4 year old that dreamt up blueprints for a flying car that would take me and my 6 year old brother to the candy store any time we wanted. I was the 7 year old that made scaled floor plans of my dream home, with an itemized list of every special feature I wanted to build for myself. I was the 10 year old that would write letters to my 25 year old self, outlining all of the things I wanted to have done at that age. I was the 12 year old girl that ran for school president and wrote out every single change I wanted to make in my term, the 17 year old student that went to Cal Day and vowed that one day, I would plan that event, and the 21 year old adult that made it a reality.

Four years later, as I sat at my studio desk and read the campus-wide announcement about online classes, my heart sank, for more reasons than one. My brain went numb, and as I walked out of what I would soon learn was my last in-person class, I looked forward and tried to prepare myself for the reality that I already knew was about to hit me.

As soon as I sat down in the meeting my boss had urgently called, she softly uttered the words, “Cal Day is cancelled.” In all honesty, my mind went blank. I wanted so badly to pay attention and hear everything that she had to say, every condolence she offered, but I didn’t know how. Naively, part of me wanted to ignore the truth, but most of my brain just flooded with memories: my coworkers and I working late nights in the office, with color coded instructional binders stacked on every surface, and overly excited department preparation emails already drafted with over-the-top blue and gold formatting (just because, Go Bears). I thought of the previous year’s 4am wakeup call, mistakenly driving the golf cart through Sproul Plaza during the noon rally and using “Go Bears” as my apology for honking at people, and our victory lap around Memorial Stadium to celebrate a job well done. As much as I hate to admit it, my mind was still flooded and my mouth on autopilot when I abruptly volunteered to create the department’s virtual program now that Cal Day was cancelled. I had no idea what I was doing, but then again, at that point, who did?

I left the meeting speechless, not even sure how to carry myself. The world felt wrong – It felt wrong to sit down, to stand up, to walk, to run, to scream, to whisper. I wanted to take my mind off of everything – to forget a pandemic that was only getting started. Even as I enjoyed my last group meal with coworkers, rock climbed for the last time, and hiked up the hill to my evening IM soccer game, my mind was still on autopilot. “At least I still have this” I thought, as I took the field for my soccer game, not knowing that in less than 5 minutes, I would be laying on the ground with a broken knee and torn LCL.

It felt almost comical, but I didn’t know how to laugh. Even as I tried to mobilize on the field and realized that I wouldn’t be able to give my last tour as a college ambassador the next morning, I didn’t know how to cry. I felt so many confusing emotions, but my body somehow didn’t know how to vocalize them. Truthfully, it wasn’t until I laid down in my bed that evening, with my knee elevated, wrapped up, and iced, that I remembered what I had volunteered for earlier that day: to create a virtual program for Visitor & Parent Services – to somehow recreate the magic I had gotten to be a part of as an ambassador for the past 3 years. Selfishly, I wasn’t finished feeling sorry for my plans that had vanished in an instant. I wasn’t ready to accept the leap of faith I was being forced to take, but in reality I also had no idea what an incredible, life-changing decision I had just made.

Four months later, as I begin my post-college life in an incredibly pivotal moment in history, riding on more uncertainty than I ever knew was possible, I can truthfully say that I am thankful: for my friends, my family, and my support systems, as always – but in particular, for the perseverance I found when I least expected it. In all honesty, getting to drive the creation of Berkeley’s Virtual Visits is what saved me from the shock of such sudden uncertainty. In the midst of feeling sorry for myself, something inside me knew that I needed to get involved – that I needed to make this uncertain world better in any way that I could, and that I needed to find something to plan for. Before I knew it, I found myself in charge of something much bigger than myself, and much bigger than any impact I ever imagined having. I found myself forgetting about my injury and the eerily empty food shelves in stores, happy to wake up and hop on a zoom call to figure out how to give thousands of visitors the best virtual Berkeley experience possible. Every enthusiastic “thank you” from a Zoom attendee, every slight smile from a fellow ambassador after a successful tour, and every giggly debrief-zoom-call with my coworkers made it all worth it. Even in the darkest of moments, something inside me knew that I had to move on, before I was ready to move on. I couldn’t see it at the time, but there was something bigger waiting. Even now, rapid uncertainty has made me appreciate the fact that within the future we can’t quite imagine, there’s something bigger waiting. So, to everyone lost in that same limbo: stay hopeful, stay healthy, and wear a mask – I promise we’ll make it to that future together.

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Author: Sarah Dey

Hey everyone! My name is Sarah Dey and I am currently a senior majoring in Architecture and minoring in Spanish Language and Literature! I am both a Campus Ambassador and a College of Environmental Design Ambassador, and I am the co-founder of a student-run design collective that aims to create community driven, innovative design projects that are geared towards social good and environmental responsibility. In my free time I love to ski, travel, and draw, and write about anything and everything. I was born and raised in the Bay Area, and I can tell you that there's no place I would rather be. GO BEARS <3