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To Be or Not To Be?

        It was dark, gloomy – the sun was nowhere in sight and the clouds had all but encompassed the sunny California landscape. It was quite similar to Berkeley’s typical Fall climate, but the sky was still brighter than Berkeley’s. There was a forecast of rain that day of junior year in high school, and I hoped it would prove true; unlike most people, I enjoy the rain and the somber grayness it brings. It reminds me of the transience of life, and how bad times will pass quicker than it seems (although, the converse is also true, but I dwell less on that reality than I care to admit). I was seated at the edge of the leather seat in my bus, waiting to depart home for another hectic weekend. My claustrophobic fears were depriving my hips of a full bus seat. Back in the background, I could hear Taylor Swift’s melodic voice from the 97.7 FM echo through the front rows of the bus. I recognized the song immediately – ‘Mine.’ Back then, her music was still country-style, innocent, and developing – her tones were still mellifluous and delicate as they are today, but she was still climbing up the ladder of topping the Billboard charts. Slideshows of that classic song’s music video flipped through my eyes instantly, like freshly minted holiday photo frames, blanketing any ideas that might cross my mind. I still value the old Taylor’s masterpieces more today than I do her Look What You Made Me Do scores; for me, Mine will always be “End Game.”

        I thought about the lyrics of the song and the manner in which Taylor conveyed a small sweet story about a young teenage daughter with a divorced ‘careless’ father who was only careful about preventing his daughter from finding true happiness. Taylor, playing the role of the daughter, visited a café and met a waiter – I liken him to a discount Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series – her supposed one true love. I wondered about the way their eyes twinkled and sparkled in the video – as though a real spark or ‘click’ had occurred. I listened to the song as it progressed, my ears having already memorized the rhythm: ‘I was a flight risk with a fear of fallin’. Wondering why we bother with love if it never lasts.’ My mind asked questions about whether Taylor’s negative view of love was influenced by her own parents’ marriage. It was unsuccessful, incomplete and had affected her whole human nature, personality and even upbringing – at least according to the song. Sociological research studies I had read in college have proven similar effects as well, including ongoing studies and surveys. It resulted in her disbelief in love. Did my situation result in mine? Did my parents’ marriage influence my disbelief in love? Can my careful decision of who to fall in love with become too ‘careful’? Most importantly, does love really and truly exist? These were all rhetorical questions I was determined to keep unanswered.  

        My parents’ divorced when I was four – I left the United States and turned to an entirely different part of the global hemisphere. As I adapted to the various environments from constant moving, my skin transformed like a chameleon – along with my heart. Whenever I saw a man scoop up his toddler daughter into his arms and plant a few pecks on either side of her cheek, my heart ached, groaned miserably and eventually became immune. It turned into a gray stone – it could no longer be implanted with an optimistic view about fathers, marriage or love. I worried helplessly about the truth Taylor spoke of, melancholia rushing through my blood and veins: “You learn my secrets and you figure out why I’m guarded, You say we’ll never make my parents’ mistakes.” Do all children with single parents feel this way? Do all teens have such perspective about love, even after a period of ten years? If not, do they ever change? Does love last?

         I loathe the phrase of ‘falling in love’ despite being in love with the idea of it; yes, it’s possible to have both of these emotions with the exact same concept, though I would not recommend this marriage to any mind. I loathe it because the term falling in love (read: in) inherently implies that it’s possible to fall out of love as well; indeed, this phenomenon truly happens. Singletons are growing in number each year, and that statistic frightens me to no end. Yet, a small part of me expects miracles to happen, including in my love life (read: it will resemble crickets until college graduation, and I plan to keep it in such a manner all the way until stable, professional employment has been secured).

            The contrast between temporary transience and permanent pleasure of life shielded my viewpoints like a cold thin sheet of white. I had seen love in many couples, now that I was back to the U.S after a decade, – all examples were close and easy to witness. My very own neighbors had a collection of glistening award-like statues, commemorating their anniversaries and proclaiming their love in lovely fonts of all types. Although they could not conceive, they possessed eternal love.  Every time they would visit, their bodies, although not too close, seemed to attract each other like inseparable magnets. Additionally, in my high school, there were quite a few examples of young love as well. One senior couple, which I had once eavesdropped on purposely (please don’t judge me; my curiosity only seldom comes out of its hiding spot), was in plain sight of the bus, romancing. Their arms were wrapped around each other like entangled vines, their hands entwined, and their eyes locked into each other’s with such depth and tenderness, that I almost doubted their age and mistook them as a jubilee marriage couple. Their lips touched like electric wires – ever so lightly that pin-drop silence would be the word to describe their motion. Thus, it was inevitable to stare at them rudely. Nonetheless, they did not pay any heed.

          Still, I doubted the existence of romantic love. I doubted the relationship between the two sexes. I doubted that Cupid ever really struck his scarlet and pink arrows with perfect aim at the desired target. I doubted the success of the bond of marriage. I mused on the question of whether to be or not to be a believer in love. However, what I was most anxious about was whether my doubts were valid. Perhaps the world was not so affected by the penumbra of loss. Perhaps people regarded their parents’ failed marriage as nothing more than a mere coincidence of bad luck. And maybe karma had taken its toll on my family. Perhaps thus my thoughts were mutual and nonchalant to the feelings of love.

        Nevertheless, I sometimes hoped – a wretched hope – that love would prove me wrong, that the bittersweet feelings I harbored might be washed away by the fallacy of love, that later on, I may forget the dreadful “Goodbye” I so feared would happen in life and that I embrace both love and marriage. Such divine faith was illustrated in Taylor’s lyrics: “‘And I remember that fight / Two-thirty AM / As everything was slipping right out of our hands / I ran out crying and you followed me out into the street / Braced myself for the “Goodbye” / ‘Cause that’s all I’ve ever known / Then you took me by surprise / You said, “I’ll never leave you alone.’”

        Hence, I gazed at the granite pavement in front of me, listened to the song’s climax and smiled as Swift said my favorite – and in my view – flawless line, “You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter. You are the best thing that’s ever been mine.”

Melody A. Chang

UC Berkeley '19

As a senior undergraduate, I seek out all opportunities that expand my horizons, with the aim of developing professionally and deepening my vision of how I can positively impact the world around me. While most of my career aims revolve around healthcare and medicine, I enjoy producing content that is informative, engaging, and motivating.  In the past few years, I have immersed myself in the health field through working at a private surgical clinic, refining my skills as a research assistant in both wet-lab and clinical settings, shadowing surgeons in a hospital abroad, serving different communities with health-oriented nonprofits, and currently, exploring the pharmaceutical industry through an internship in clinical operations.  Career goals aside, I place my whole mind and soul in everything that I pursue whether that be interacting with patients in hospice, consistently improving in fitness PR’s, tutoring children in piano, or engaging my creativity through the arts. Given all the individuals that I have yet to learn from and all the opportunities that I have yet to encounter in this journey, I recognize that I have much room and capacity for growth. Her Campus is a platform that challenges me to consistently engage with my community and to simultaneously cultivate self-expression. 
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