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Straw Into Gold

So, a brief lesson on how to turn an unpleasant experience into a wonderful one:

On occasion, my school hosts "Saturday Seminars", which are just what they sound like; for a few hours on Saturday, a guest lecturer speaks on a psychological topic to a group of students. The seminars are free and frequently concern things of interest to me, but I rarely attend them, due to a dislike of both getting up before 10 AM on a Saturday and of leaving my apartment. But I've been chiding myself lately for not getting out more, and especially for not taking advantage of the many opportunities for professional networking and development that this area offers someone in my field, so I decided to attend the next Saturday Seminar, which was to be on Control-Mastery Theory, something I'm interested in learning more about.

Knowing myself, I knew that I would not want to get up early enough to ride my bicycle to downtown Berkeley, so to ensure that I got enough sleep I went to bed at a reasonable hour and decided to take one of my sleeping pills to knock me out. The pills are low-dose Trazodone, an antidepressant which was discontinued due to its strong sedative effects. I'd been taking it to help with sleep for some time, but had discontinued using it lately due to improvement in my sleep habits. The last time I tried to use it, it ended up keeping me up all night instead of putting me down, which may be due to a need for the chemicals to build up in the bloodstream before they become effective. In any case, I decided to try again last night, to see if the sleepless night had been a fluke.

At about 2 AM, not having slept at all, I decided it hadn't been a fluke. By that point, there wasn't any way of getting the chemicals out of my blood, and I didn't want to attend a lecture after a night with no sleep, so I only saw one other option: taking another pill and hoping the effect would be strong enough to knock me out. This is the sort of plan that makes sense to a half-drugged person at 2 AM.

It worked, mostly; I did get some sleep, though of a rather disjointed and non-refreshing nature. But I was able to pull myself out of bed at the appointed hour in the morning, and I got ready to leave in plenty of time, though I noticed in the mirror that my eyes were sunken and puffy as if I'd gone without sleep entirely. No time to worry about that, though, I had to get to the school in time for the beginning of the lecture.

Once I got there, though, I was confused, since the room that usually hosts the seminars was being used for an entirely different class. Without anyone handy to ask, I went to the computer lab to check my e-mail, to see if I had gotten the room wrong. When I looked up the message announcing the seminar, I looked at the date--and realized it had been sent last week, which meant the Saturday in question had been a week before. I'd already missed the seminar entirely.

I couldn't help but laugh, even though the combination of pills and empty stomach was beginning to make me nauseous. Frustrated, disappointed and feeling sick, I left the school and considered going back home to get some more sleep. But the day was sunny and beginning to warm up, and it had been a while since I'd been on that side of town with nothing to do, and so I decided to take a walk to clear out the mingled fumes of Trazodone and frustration from my groggy brain. No destination in mind, just a walk through the upper part of the UC Berkeley campus, where it verges on the Berkeley hills.

I walked along the street where the law building, my old workplace, still stood, and by the yard where the tree-sitters had occupied the old oaks to protest the expansion of the sports stadium. Then I turned uphill, hiking up towards Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, which sits at the top of the hill overlooking the city. After a short walk up the winding road, I came to a bend edged by a crash barrier, and past the barrier the hill dropped sharply. Curious to see the view, I crossed the road and stepped over the barrier to look down the hill.

Ah, dear readers, if I'd had a camera, the view I could have shown you.

To my left, the Berkeley hills, with their proud coniferous forests, surrounding me with the sweet musk of pine. To my right, the sprawl of Berkeley, and beyond it Oakland, with its stubby towers of concrete and glass. The rising fog blanketed it all, and in the fog the two landscapes seemed to merge and bleed together, treetops becoming rooftops as if each had grown intertwined out of the earth. And far behind it all, capped by mist and reflected sunlight, the bay, with vibrant San Francisco invisible in the vapor beyond. It was breathtaking.

Looking down at it all, I was taken with the notion to call my sister, who I knew would appreciate such a scene. I did, and we talked at length as I hiked up the nearby ecology trail into the woods, finding an isolated balcony ledge from which one could look directly down into the stadium, where a team of lacrosse players were practicing. My sister and I traded stories of frustrations and enjoyed commiserating, and I slipped into "therapist mode" for a bit and offered my reframes and advice. She counseled me as well, until she had to leave to join the rest of my family to make candy. I couldn't decide whether I wished they were here with me, or I were there with them.

I walked back to my bicycle, the temperature ideal, the air clean and invigorating, and felt good about the entire affair. Perhaps it was some lingering antidepressant effect of the pills, but my mind felt clear and my outlook was bright. I headed back into Berkeley and decided to treat myself to continue the enjoyment, so I stopped and got a delicious burger at local eatery Au Coquelet, then dropped by my favorite Berkeley spot, Comic Relief, for a bit of basking in my favorite medium. When I tired of that I returned home and wrote this, wanting to share a little of my pleasure with my dear readers. I still missed the seminar, I'm still tired, and I spent money I didn't really have to spend on that burger, which is not the sort of food I should be eating anyway, but honestly, who cares. The sun is bright and warm, the hills are there, the trees are there, and there are people who love me in the world.

I'll give up a little sleep now and then to remind myself of these things.

Enjoy yourselves, dear readers.

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