Have you ever had that sensation when your foot falls asleep? You are sitting there (usually in some sort of crossed leg situation) and you realize that you have two options: you can put off the inevitable "pins and needles" by trying to stay completely still and just ruminating on the numbness slowly settling in, or you realize that all that thinking is only keeping you stuck, and you have to stop thinking and just do something. About six months ago, I felt like my life was one big sleeping foot. I had taken a few months off since graduating from Boston College to try and figure out what I was going to do with the next 40 years of my life. Should be an easy solution to come to in a few months off, right? Wrong. I was stuck in needing to know what the “right” next step in my life would be, and there wasn’t a book or a class or a magic formula at my disposal that could give me any direction.
In that time off, I met with a mentor, a Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston College, who had offered me wisdom and support throughout my college experience. I remember sitting in his office on a sticky summer day in Boston, feeling embarrassed when he asked me what I had been doing with my time since graduating because on paper, it would seem like I wasn't doing anything at all. It was then that I realized I had been spending more time thinking about what I should be doing and less time actually giving things a try. I asked him what he was doing when he was my age. His answer? He was studying at the University of California, Berkeley, and would later earn not only a Bachelor’s degree, but also his Masters and Ph.D. from UCB. He went on to explain to me how Berkeley supported him financially as a first generation American with parents who were incredibly hard working, but barely had a High School degree. Berkeley, as he described, allowed dreams to come true because it is a public institution that cares about intelligence and research, discovery and acceptance. It is a place where people are given a chance to succeed and reach their full potential. Our conversation ended with him advising me to just start somewhere. There isn’t a right or a wrong decision. Leaving the Dean’s office with a reignited sense of confidence and optimism, what did I do? I took the T home, logged onto my computer, and spent three hours on the Berkeley website reading about the university and looking at open job positions.
Fast forward two months...I am sitting in my South Boston apartment thinking to myself: “Holy crap- what on earth did I just commit to?” I had just hung up the phone with my soon to be supervisor and had accepted a job offer for what is now my current position at UC Berkeley.
Fast forward another month...I am sitting in Terminal C at Newark Airport with two suitcases of clothes, a backpack with some pictures and a few books, and not a clue what to expect. I had never been to California in my life, let alone moved anywhere outside of New England. I found myself couch surfing in the Bay Area as I embarked on this new adventure working as a UC Berkeley employee.
Fast forward two more months... and I find myself here, at my desk in University Hall, soaking all of this in. I am still adjusting to the West Coast, still figuring things out and finding my way. I am learning a lot. And I can’t help but think back to that moment back in the summer when I was meeting with my mentor. He said to me that there wasn’t a “right” or a “wrong” decision. Maybe he was right because at the time, those words got me going to take a risk. But I can say without a doubt that this was the right decision. I would have had regrets had I not given this opportunity a shot. I think that I am challenging myself and growing, both in my career and as a person. And what better place to do all of this learning than at the University of California, Berkeley!