Response to an Email

So I recently received an email from some CAL Berkeley faculty asking about my experience at CAL and what has happened since… to be honest, I had wanted to ignore the email. But I also wanted CAL to understand that not everyone had a “great” experience going to CAL. Below is what I initially wrote which I later cut down:

To be honest, I had a negative experience while as a student at CAL.

  • I admittedly wasn’t prepared to handle the cut throat competition and new academic material
  • I also wasn’t prepared for the suddenly new found freedoms gained living alone away from parents.  
  • I wasn’t able to navigate the bureaucratic nature of the school system.
  • I mistakenly thought I knew what I wanted to do and to major in but only came to realize that I knew nothing about myself.
  • I struggled through… somehow able to graduate and find a job but left full of anger and regret.

Looking back, I was lulled into this false sense of security during my freshman year when all the classes I took were topics that I had already covered in high school. AP Chemistry covered Chem 1A/1B. AP Calculus BC covered Math 1A/1B. AP Physics covered Physica 8A/8B. I would spend hours reading, reviewing, and understanding the material to gain the knowledge and mastery of the subjects. Starting my sophomore year, I honestly believed that it would be as easy as the freshman year. But immediately, I started struggling in courses such as organic chemistry and biochemistry. What I failed to recognize was that my traditional way of understanding and learning might not have been the most efficient or effective way to learn the new material. I stubbornly kept reading, reviewing but never quite understanding the basic concepts completely. I also refused to adapt to a different learning style i.e. rote memory since I hated this kind of forced memorization technique. Ultimately, the struggles compounded upon each other creating a vicious negative cycle of being demoralized, questioning my intelligence, failing to understand the new material, becoming even more demoralized, etc… This added to my anger and bitterness as I saw more successful people achieving much more than I did. This kind of cycle continued through most if not all my classes and I somehow was able to graduate and even find a job. I spent a good 9 years feeling bitter and angry as if the world was conspiring against me. 

During these 9 years though, I had three paradigm shifts in my thinking that resulted in the person I am now.  The first shift came after reading a christian/spiritual book called Living the Art of Christian Love by Morton Kelsey. I discovered this book before I graduated but it left a huge impression on me. This book helped to calm the bitterness and keep it from cycling out of control. The two biggest lessons from this book were “to quiet my heart” and “to listen without judgement.”   The second shift came from watching an anime called Aria.  I learned that I need to slow down and to start enjoying the simple things in life as well as to appreciate everything that I have.  Finally, the third shift came from after reading Shawn Achor’s Happiness Advantage. This book was a game changer for me. Everything I had done from the first two shifts came into alignment with the lessons from Achor. After finishing this book, I started to truly let go of my anger and my bitterness. I came to realize that the drivers of the anger and bitterness were outside my control. By that time, my heart had settled and began to listen to others. I saw the world completely differently and noticed the simple things in life. In many ways, I finally understood who I am.

Today… I am grounded in spirtuality. I am self aware. I am at peace with myself. I control my Circle of Zorro. I understand my happiness. From time to time, I’ll go back to read both books. The anime takes a bit of time to watch but there’s one song called Symphony that I associate with the anime that brings a sense of calmness.