In high school, I longed for the “freedom” that college would bring to my life. I wanted to finally have the liberty to stay up as late as I wanted, go to limitless parties, and become independent from the structured life my parents imposed on me. Once I moved into college, I had the chance to do all of these things. I went from participating in countless extracurriculars, taking extra different classes, and playing sports to taking fewer units and participating in no campus clubs. Despite my extra free time this lifestyle granted me, my body felt just as tired as before and my stress remained equal. I failed to understand why I felt this tired and why more rest failed to help. I quickly found myself questioning why my treasured freedom failed to live up to expectations and I started to long for my busy high school schedule once again.
Thankfully for my second semester in college, I made a concerted effort to do the opposite of what I did the first semester. I decided to involve myself on campus by joining a fraternity and becoming a campus ambassador. My days became packed with events, meetings, and more classes, resulting in less free time. However, instead of becoming more tired and depleted, I became more energized as I became more excited for my days than ever before. The freedom that I thought college would provide actually came from the happiness my new schedule brought me.
As I look back on my first two semesters of college, I realize that in my first semester I tried to liberate myself while in my second semester I tried to discipline myself. When I tried to liberate myself, I failed to hold myself accountable to my goals and I let distractions become what I lived for. On the other hand, when I tried to discipline myself, I embraced the genuine relationships and academic challenges that fulfilled me. True freedom came from within myself.
This principle proved itself once again when quarantine started. Unfortunately, all of the things that I used to discipline myself one-by-one started to become unavailable to me. I could no longer give in-person tours, all of my fraternity brothers went home, and I no longer could use campus libraries as a sacred study spot. Instead, I found myself with more free time than ever, my classes becoming asynchronous, and my study spaces filled with countless distractions like TV and social media. The world once again surrounded me with things that proved falsely liberating, making me tired and unmotivated.
Following my previous formula, I tried to look for something to discipline myself so that I could regain my lost energy. I decided the next step towards making myself a more healthy person required me to start a fitness routine. I dusted off the old weights in my garage, watched countless fitness youtube videos, and even used my hard-earned money from giving virtual tours to hire a monthly trainer. Every day I trained, working towards my goals one small step at a time. Five months later, my health has increased drastically and I’m more energized than ever before, all thanks to my magic formula.
So my advice to all the incoming freshmen is to carefully consider what will “liberate” you at college. I have yet to find a person who found true freedom from partying all weekend, trying to follow all of the latest cultural trends, and surrounding themselves with superficial people. But I have seen people find freedom from involving themselves on campus, taking care of their bodies, and finding fulfilling goals to pursue. Nobody can give you freedom but yourself and people who tell you otherwise have misled you. I hope this advice guides you all towards a more fulfilling time at Berkeley as it has single handedly made my college experience much more enjoyable.
As always, Fiat Lux and Go Bears!!!