For two weeks, I have put off writing this column. Much like every undesirable other assignment I’ve been given throughout my four years at Penn State, I am writing my senior column at the last possible minute.
But really, is there any other way to do this without sounding more contrived than you already will?
Over the last year, the popular question from relatives, acquaintances, and coworkers (though never friends — you guys get it) has been five words I have come to dread: Are you ready to graduate?
What sane person would leave the veritable playground that is State College? Who would voluntarily trade a lifetime of this experience for responsibility and the “real world,” whatever that is?
No one in their right mind should, but there comes a time where we have to. And here I am, faced with my “have to.” My degree audits tell me that there is nothing left for me to take, so it is my time to go, whether I’m ready or not.
When I try to think of the last four years holistically, there are plenty of things I would change or reevaluate given my current perspective. Like anyone else, I have a laundry list of questionable decisions to my name, and whether they be going out instead of doing work due the next day or choosing to take a course I was warned against, they’ve shaped my time here.
I can’t bring myself to really regret anything. Despite the slew of bad and unwise decisions I collected throughout my time at Penn State, I would not trade any of them. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to look back on these last four years, as I am now, and think that if I could do it all again, there is nothing, or very little, that I would change.
Anyone who calls their college experience perfect is lying. It is through our failures, bad decisions, and mistakes that we come to find who we are and discover the people who will love and support you despite your flaws. So don’t be afraid to make short-sighted decisions. I’m not telling you to intentionally drink three too many trash cans at The Phyrst just to see which of your friends will take care of you without hesitation, but I am saying that if and when you do, be thankful that you have people like that in your life.
And if you ever feel lost in the crowd or that there isn’t a place for you here, you’re not alone. I hated Penn State for much of my freshman year, and as much as I wish I didn’t, I spent a lot time pitying myself instead of enjoying it. That changed for me, and I promise you, you will get through it, and you will fall in love with this place and the people around you like I have.
Every decision you make, no matter how miniscule, shapes the time you have here. How could I have known as I sat in 6 Sparks during FTCAP that scheduling COMM 110 at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays would prevent me from trying out for The Daily Collegian during my first semester as I had hoped but would eventually bring me to Onward State and the people that have become my family? Or that watching Pineapple Express instead of going out on the first night of LEAP would make me one of my best friends? Or that crashing a party last fall at the apartment of someone I met briefly over Arts Fest but hadn’t spoken with since would also give me another one of my best friends?
I didn’t know, and I’m glad I didn’t. There’s no way to plan what’s right or what’s best for you. You can come to college with this utopic vision of how you see the next four years of your life — I did, and I was wrong. But that’s OK, because I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t even trade the mornings I spent slicing bagel after bagel to cure others’ hangovers while still feeling the haze of my own decisions from previous nights because I was able to do so in the company of some awesome people.
Never forget that your time here is limited, so you can’t let it fall to waste. Don’t spend your Penn State experience idly watching. Live every moment to the best of your ability. Enjoy every night and every day, and surround yourself with people who give you nothing but joy. When something doesn’t work out how you planned or things become difficult, keep going. Don’t like your major? Change it. Feeling lonely? Get involved. College should be a time of trial and error. Not everything needs to work out, but you should never settle for disappointment. Keep challenging yourself, and you’ll end up where you need to be.
If you do this, I promise you that when you’re faced with that question — “Are you ready to graduate?” — you will be ready.
I know that I’m ready. I may not want to, but I’m ready to because I would not change a thing. These last four years, particularly the last two, have been more than I could have hoped they would be. I’m #blessed, if you will.
After I graduate and move away, Penn State will always be a part of me. Even when the dorms I lived in are renovated beyond recognition and the bars I inhabited are rebranded, a piece of my heart will always be in Centre County. I suppose Penn State is a bit like Hogwarts — it’ll always be there to welcome us home.
And to the people that have made these four years exceptionally special for me: You are all wonderful. I’m endlessly thankful for each and every one of you, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without you. This place wouldn’t be nearly as special if I didn’t share it with you. I can’t wait to embarrass the hell out of our future children at tailgates one day.
In short, I leave you all with this:
“Don’t be afraid it won’t be perfect, the only thing to be afraid of is that it won’t be.”