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Maria Sestito

Maria Sestito

UC Berkeley’s campus is beautiful – and hilly.

When my family visited over the summer, we headed there so I could give them an informal tour of my future.

“You belong here,” my aunt told me.

Then my 13-year-old cousin pointed out something we were all thinking: “Every direction is uphill.”

We spent the whole day on campus, each of us needing to take rest breaks at benches that line the walkways.

We agreed that Berkeley is not only going to get my mind in tip-top-shape, but my body too.

Three weeks into classes, I have to say, I’m not feeling fitter. As I huff and puff my way from the parking lot to my building, I wonder how I got this way. By the time I get to class, I have to take a second to catch my breath.

I’ve never been much for exercising, but I always thought I had some level of natural fitness. And, for various reasons, have somewhat successfully played sports, did CrossFit and ballet. Surely, I haven’t been as active as I should be, but this is ridiculous. I’m out of breath a lot of the time.

Talking about it with a friend, we realized maybe this is from the air quality here in the Bay Area.

Maybe those three to five days without a mask while covering last October’s fires damaged me permanently. The more I think about it, the more this makes sense. To be fair, though, I haven’t asked my doctor.

Could smoke and poor air quality really affect me this much? I come from New Jersey, not some tropical rainforest. Maybe I’m just thinking this way to avoid the truth: that my age is catching up with me. My metabolism is slowing down.

Either way, I need to be more active, so some days I park across campus and force myself to take in the campus atmosphere. It takes about 20 minutes. As far as I can tell, I’m the only one on the path looking out of breath, a feverish pink color taking over my face and little dabs of sweat under my nose.

I may start carrying an inhaler.

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Maria Sestito is a former Register reporter and current student at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Jersey Girl runs every other Sunday. Follow Maria on Twitter @RiaSestito or email her at ria.sestito@gmail.com

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Maria Sestito is the former Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She now writes for the Register as a freelancer.