On Tailless Squirrels: Coincidence and Consequence
There is a particular squirrel who hangs about the foliage surrounding Kroeber and Wurster that I have run into about three times now.
The first encounter was cute and quirky. I gushed over it the same way Berkeley students seem to melt for a kiwi bot (something I have yet to make peace with). The second time, I told my mom about it on the phone between class I guess. The third time? Well it must be fate. And with that, I’ve dared claim the bastard bunny -- wallowing about the ground without its stream of fluff to stabilize it -- as my own.
My friend, he is humbling against the passing of time.
See here, I have not gone anywhere.
Ah yes, I see you haven’t either.
But what is also undeniably wild is my readiness to project fate onto this poor amputated soul.
It is a turbulent world out of which we ultimately are tasked to forge meaning. I search the stars for signs and count the charms in my cereal and qualify their luck. But in all this chance and coincidence, things are only notable if we deem it so--our omens are brutally self defined and self constructed in order to be recognized.
Do I find solace or empowerment in a rashly glorified squirrel? Do I dare make a grossly extended metaphor of a random encounter?
I think so. Probably. Yes.
I’m not sure if maybe in doing so I surrender the agency that has been made so high stakes in Berkeley. But perhaps all I’m looking for is to lighten that load.
Because it’s a lot easier to imagine a “right” or “wrong” course of action for ourselves; whether it be an internship, a relationship, or a vocational aspiration.
“It just wasn’t meant to be.”
“If you love something set it free.”
“If it was what you wanted, you’d know.”
We sift through the chance encounters and fleeting sentiments and end up with opinions and conclusions about our lives, trusting the weather and these pockets of chance to translate into an interpretation of reality.
Because it’s easier this way, no? This squirrel, my symbol of hope amidst loneliness or impending final grades -- has suddenly been bestowed more bearing than perhaps any actual endeavour to ask myself if I am content with myself or how I feel the testing went in the first place. Because surrendering myself to a predetermined fate is a fun idea to romanticize in a time where every decision made suddenly feels so weighty, and so utterly independent: your major, your friendships, your classes, your beliefs--to what and to whom do I place value and identify with.
In my first year at Cal, if nothing else, I have come to recognize that agency. It leaves me so utterly empowered and horribly demoralized.
But to you, another human with undeniable choice--infinite options for your person in this moment--allow me to join you in wielding that agency. Calling it for what it is and sliding it in your backpack, right next to your textbook and between the sticks of gum--the key to an individuality that is entirely yours to play with.
Because as overwhelming as the sheer vastness of it all is, a potential constrained by anything else, be it fate or squirrels or stars, does not hold even half of the same merit and meaning.
College year one, you’ve humbled me in showing me just this small fraction of possibilities that I am only now beginning to fathom for myself.
I can be a writer I can be a dancer I can be a chemist I can be a Catholic I can be alone I can be in love I can be anything and everything and all of the above, and I recognize and celebrate my potential to be absolutely none of it either.
All these things I can be -- even one who projects meaning onto tailless squirrels residing between Wurster and Kroeber.
Some loose photos and sentiments from Cal, year one: