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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Celebrating the gift of the present

On reconciling a time gone too fast and living by the words of a wise turtle




On my car rides home from high school, my dad often told me that time is valuable, to which I would respond with an indifferent “Okay,” thinking it was just another one of his urges to spontaneously provide me with his words of wisdom to fill the silence in traffic. 

I had an arbitrary sense of time, being flooded with the usual assignment deadlines, application due dates, daily alarm rings to wake me up for school. And the list goes on. Surges of anxiety would plague my mind thinking about the uncertain future as well as feelings of regret when thinking about atoning my past. Naturally, two questions often came to my mind, and they were always “What should I do?” or “What could I have done differently?” 

Now an undergraduate senior suddenly preparing to graduate in a few weeks, that question has surfaced yet again. Upon reflection, my time here at UC Davis has taught me more about time than I could have imagined. For one, the unforeseen pandemic abruptly ended my freshman year in the dorms, suddenly forcing me to pack up and socially detach from the new friends I had just made. Then, the world seemed like it had to race against the clock. Time, for me, felt like an uncertain state of stasis, stagnant yet unforgivably still moving. Classes quickly adapted to Zoom, and I, like billions of others, was stuck at home. 

It was at this time I started a scrappy online blog on my own website, documenting my days as they passed by. I didn’t think too much of my writing, imperfect at best and a means for my introverted self to decompress after my dense STEM classes each day. 

Then, in January during my sophomore year, I decided to apply for a volunteer position for the science and technology desk at The Aggie, hoping that my writing could be more impactful by having an audience of readers. I had no background experience in journalism, but little did I know that I would learn and grow alongside the best group of mentors, friends and fellow writers that I could ever ask for over the next two-and-a-half years. 

And I know that a pre-med biochemistry and molecular biology student working in journalism at a student-run newspaper may seem like an anomaly or unusual pairing (I know this because my friends have commented on how different journalism is from medicine), but trust me when I say that I would not have done it differently. 

I remember my initial experiences at The Aggie being virtual, seeing unfamiliar faces on Zoom and worrying that I would not be able to fit in. But shoutout to Maddie, the science and tech editor when I first joined the desk, for being so welcoming and responsive to all of us writers with any troubling questions we might have had. I remember having difficulty with setting up one of my interviews, and you walked me through my doubts and questions no matter how small or nonsensical I thought they were. You reassured me that things would turn out fine, and they did. But the confidence and encouragement that I received from you is something I could not thank you enough for.

From then, the skills I have honed as a journalist, networking with and interviewing researchers and healthcare workers, discussing difficult scientific topics, meeting weekly hard deadlines and condensing complex information into a comprehensible page-and-a-half article for readers, are irreplaceable. While I never thought I would step foot into journalism, the field has allowed me to still pursue my passions in science, responsibly reporting on new technology, new findings from research and clinical trials or new transformative stories of patients, all of which were entrusted to me in my writing. 

But aside from the cool skills I can now take with me for a lifetime, this school year has been especially special, being able to meet and be a part of the “Big Dawgs” of The Aggie. To my fellow Editorial Board members, Sophie, Katie, Sonora, Chris, Levi, Clara, Owen and Marlon, thank you for making Ed Board meetings something for me to always look forward to, a place for me to learn and laugh. While I may have been the quiet one, I really do appreciate all of you for helping me stay in the present and to step back for a little bit from whatever was going on in my life. 

Time spent in journalism with all of you taught me to keep up with the present and to live in the moment. While it has flown by fast, I’ve learned that the present is how we make memories of a past that will live on for eternity and is the base from which a future may unfold. Without it, there would be no past or future. That is why the present is a present, as a wise turtle once said, before disappearing behind a random peach blossom tree. So to celebrate the gift of the present, I say cheers to The Aggie — to all the wonderful people I have had the privilege to meet and to learn from. And of course, cheers to a time valuably spent. 


Written by: Brandon Nguyen 


Brandon Nguyen is The California Aggie’s current science and technology editor. He joined The Aggie in winter 2021 as a science and technology staff writer. In winter of 2022, he took on the role of assistant science and technology editor, serving in that role until becoming the science and technology editor in June 2022. He is graduating with highest honors with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology.