One thing I’ve learned at UC Santa Cruz is how to be comfortable feeling lost. There are no maps or trailheads guiding a college student on the perfect path. It is something we find through a series of right and wrong turns — the passions we choose to pursue, the people we choose to spend our time with. 

Every decision I’ve stumbled upon has been a crossroad so broad, it’s impossible to look at without feeling uneasy.  But it is this discomfort that paves my path in becoming an adult. This poem is a collection of notes I’ve gathered along the way.

When saplings first enter the Forest

Uprooted and replanted far from home

They’re entranced by the expanse of the canopy

They are delighted to watch 

From the shimmering understory

And dream of the day they’ll be giants

They reach out their anxious hands

For opportunities that sit like restless leaves 

Aching to be brewed in a boiling kettle of youth

To show every sapling a different way to grow

These opportunities may come in new faces and endless nights

Maybe even liquor bottles and strange pipes.

When saplings first enter the Forest 

Their meager roots sit disoriented on the ground

Unsure of where to bury themselves

When each evening is a question of what to reap and sow

The unsettling fluidity of sitting in open air

When “free” and “vulnerable” start humming the same tune

They reach out their unsure hands

And hang from limbs they know could snap

They may fall and wake up on trails they don’t recognize

In a Forest that has lost its glittering sense of whimsy

They become wary of what growth has shown

When the sitting in the understory feels starkly alone

But after saplings first enter the trees

Between the growing pains of being on their own

Their roots quietly find places to intertwine

In soil that holds them and makes them feel at home

They stretch their limbs into the sky and flourish

Smile and see, they are now giants of the Forest.

College is a whirlwind of change. The number of choices placed in front of students every day is overwhelming, to say the least. Here are some resources I’ve found distinctly helpful in planting my roots:

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Student Health Outreach and Promotion (SHOP) 

Responsible Action Plan (RAP)