You probably have heard the story of Prince Siddhartha who grew up to become the Buddha. He was raised in a royal mansion in India. But I was wondering what his life would have been like if he grew up here in Berkeley. What would his life have been like if he was just “Michael Johnson” or maybe “He” was a “She” named “Mika Suzuki” in my 8th grade class. (Get ready… I have a vivid imagination).

I can see the young future-Buddha riding her bike while chewing on the last bite of the breakfast granola bar she grabbed as she was going out the door and listening to Miley Cyrus with earbuds plugged into her Samsung Galaxy. She gets to an intersection and is almost run over by a person speeding to work in their Tesla which she couldn’t hear because it is electric and very quiet and her headset was turned way up. “Wow,” she says to herself. “People are so busy… they should pay more attention to what they are doing… or maybe I should pay more attention to what they are doing… or maybe I should pay more attention to what I am doing. Yeah….Wow.”

She gets to school and starts walking to class when the campus security person stops her. “Sorry,” he says. “But, you need to go home and change your clothes. Those distressed jeans are not approved by the dress code. They have torn places above your knees.”

So now Mika Suzuki, future Buddha, rides home alone and starts to think.

Berkeley is a dangerous place. There are so many people doing so many bad things and so many rules telling me how I should look, and talk, and behave all the time. I’m not sure I fit in this world… or at least Berkeley. I was just trying to “be myself.” “I was eating what I wanted to eat. I was going to school to see my friends and my teachers. I was dressed the way I feel comfortable. But everybody I encounter has different ideas. What’s up with that?”

So… What do you think the young Buddha would have learned from her experiences on this day in Berkeley? Would she decide that Berkeley is a terrible place filled with awful people? Would she become depressed because she seemed to do everything wrong and not fit in with the crowd at school? Would she put on a nice pair of flannel slacks and a long sleeve shirt and walk back to school carefully crossing with the lights? Would she e-mail her teacher and ask to have her assignments sent to her by e-mail from now on so she could just stay home alone? Would she become a hermit or would she choose to dress according to the school code but express herself in some other way like wearing a baseball cap on backwards? How would she decide who the real “Mika Suzuki” really is?

I imagine this young future Buddha would have to think a long time. What do you imagine she would think about?

Stay tuned for more “Adventures of a Teenage Buddha in Berkeley.”