Berkeley wasn’t easy for 24-year-old English major Elizabeth Reali. She transferred in after two years at community college, and found the transition overwhelming. She had some incomplete grades and took a some time off to recenter herself. But she also learned to give herself a break.
Reali had pasted a copy of her favorite poem, “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant, to the top of her graduation cap. Bryant wrote the poem when he was 17, and for years Reali had pushed herself to be as remarkable by a young age. But now, moments before graduating with an English degree from UC Berkeley, she knew why she really had the poem with her.
“This is just a little reminder to me about what I used to think, which is this idea that I had to be a prodigy at a young age,” she said, gesturing toward the book glued to the top of her cap. “I had to get over that, and realize I can forgive myself.”
At Berkeley, Reali found professors eager to talk with her about anything: literature, life, good and evil.
“I think the best part was getting to take classes with professors who were interested in talking to me outside of class, just getting coffee with me,” she said. “I think I thought Cal would be a lot of closed doors, but instead I ended up grabbing sandwiches with my professors.”
After graduation Reali will continue to work in communications at the Center for Carbon Removal in Oakland.