New school, new me.
I, like many others, wish to completely forget that high school ever happened – from the horrible hair choices to the experimentation with eyeliner, it wasn’t a good look. And it wasn’t a fun time either. High school was everything I didn’t want to repeat during my time in college.
In high school, I missed basically every school event you can think of. I decided against attending prom, grad night and any other social outing I could avoid. When I finally did make up my mind to attend something, it was the homecoming game, at which we all sat around on cold, uncomfortable bleachers. By then, all my friends had created memories and inside jokes that I never had the ability to laugh along to.
So I vowed that in college I would change. I was going to be outgoing and carefree. I would no longer find myself passing on opportunities and invitations. I especially wasn’t going to throw away years worth of loans down the drain, simply because I was too chicken to experience something new. I planned to get the most out of my undergraduate experience at UCLA.
And orientation weekend was the first step toward the new me. I stopped at every table at the activities fair. I signed up for every club, organization and mailing list imaginable – one of which was the Daily Bruin. I was on a roll, walking back to my weekend place with tons of fliers. During zero week, I went to Bruin Bash and met up with new friends. My path toward social enlightenment was within reach. But as zero week breezed by, so did my drive to construct a new version of myself.
The emails for all the clubs and organizations I had signed up for kept piling up. I resorted back to my high school self. Hell, I never showed up to a single Bruin Democrats meeting, but I still receive weekly update emails four years later.
Every time I declined an invitation to a social gathering – whether it was a party or a club event – I felt horrible. I stewed in regret knowing that the next time I’d see everyone they would have grown closer with shared memories.
I’d tell myself I was going to be a part of whatever it was anyone had planned the next time. But the next time came around, and I’d find yet another excuse. This continued throughout my time at UCLA. And yet, four years later, I think back and I don’t regret not being a part of those things. I was wrong to think I could change from one day to the next – or even from one year to the next.
This isn’t to say that you should decline everything that comes your way and stay stuck inside a box. In fact, setting goals and making choices that are outside your comfort zone is a great thing to do. If it weren’t for the initial surge of energy and confidence I had freshmen year, I wouldn’t have joined the Daily Bruin or met a lifelong friend, Kuhelika Ghosh, when we were easily frightened first-years in Opinion training during the fall quarter 2015.
As I’m reflecting on my years at UCLA, I’ve finally come to realize that staying the same isn’t the problem. The problem is holding yourself back when something’s unknown. It can be extremely difficult not to feel anxious, especially with all the pressures that come from a new environment – believe me, I know. It’s important to know your limits. It’s OK to take it one step and one social gathering at a time. You don’t necessarily have to say “yes” to every invitation thrown your way, especially with the quarter system throwing a continuous stream of assignments in the same direction.
On my way to my master’s program next year, I’m not looking to be a new and improved social butterfly. Yes, I want to create new friendships and memories, but I’m not going to make myself uncomfortable trying to do that. If UCLA has taught me anything it’s that, although there is so much happening on campus, it doesn’t mean you have to be a part of everything.
Be selective if you want to. There’s no need to rebel against everything you know. It’s enough to go against your parents’ wishes of being a doctor.
Wenceslao was an Opinion columnist 2015-2019.