Through The Looking Glass: Sean Gregory’s Senior Column

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The last four years have been weird.

Admittedly, I didn’t want to come to Penn State. My parents poked and prodded me about applying here long enough that I finally sat down one afternoon and sent in the application, and when I received my acceptance letter I didn’t even tell anyone, choosing instead to wait until I heard back from my top choice schools.

If I could, I’d go back and slap high school Sean directly across the face. But at the same time, I’m jealous of his impending four years at the greatest university in the world, even if he doesn’t know it quite yet.

Attending Penn State has been like catching lightning bugs on summer nights as a kid. We get to cherish it while it’s in our hands, but there’s a part of us that knows that sooner or later, we’ll have to let it go. Such has been the case with my time in Happy Valley. Making friends, chasing dreams, learning more about myself with each passing day. And yet, as graduation draws near, I know that it’s just about time I let someone else start writing their own Penn State story.

A lot of my time at Onward has been spent behind a camera (I’ve only ever authored two stories, after all), and while I’m not too sure if being a soon-to-be graduate really qualifies me to give advice en masse when I don’t even know what I’m doing with my life starting next week, you’ve already made it this far into the column, so you might as well stick around. So, here are some corny photography-inspired observations:

  • Some of the best photos have the blurriest backgrounds — Sometimes it’s best to focus in on the here and now — what’s up front and present in the moment — and let the rest of the world fade for a while.
  • Weird is good — No one likes looking at a photo that looks the same as all the others. Embrace what makes you “you” and let it shine in everything you do.
  • Play around with your settings – College is a funny thing. You’ll be given the chance to learn, grow, and change just about every day. Don’t be afraid to let it happen, and see where the road takes you.
  • Don’t sweat photobombers and shaky images — You’re going to get bad grades, have disagreements, and get rejected every once in a while. So does everyone. It’s all just part of these crazy four years. You’ll be wiser from it every single time. I promise.
  • Look back — I love taking photos, but going back through them at the end of the day is even better. Take your memories out and look at them every now and then. Love them, learn from them, and get your camera ready for the next one.

And of course, what’s a good senior column without some sappy goodbyes?

To the THON community and my wonderful THON families, thank you for teaching me the value of uninhibited love and support. From being a chair for Thespians to a COMM Captain and finally receiving the honor to dance this year, it’s been an absolute blessing to see the work that a group of 20-something’s can do in the fight against such an awful disease. Never lose sight of why we do the work that we do: Always For The Kids.

To my squad at Onward State: My time with OS has been nothing that I expected it to be at the beginning, and I would never trade any of it away. You guys really are doing things that no other student outlet in the country is doing, and it’s all tied together by the simple love for telling the stories of Penn State. And it’s a love that gained new meaning for me when I had the pleasure of meeting the parents of Alex Federman, a light in many lives that we lost entirely too soon, and I will always be humbled for receiving a scholarship in his memory. The opportunities afforded to me by Onward State have really been extraordinary, and for that I have to thank all of you, especially Jack Lukow, Mitch Wilson, Tim Gilbert, Alex Robinson, Noel Purcell, Bill DiFilippo, and of course, Kevin Horne.

And finally, to my theatre family. I’ve honestly been sitting here for the past 10 minutes just staring at the screen because I can’t even begin to put into words what you all have done for me over the past four years. From being scared to audition for shows to now deciding to pursue theatre after graduation, it’s been the wildest ride I could have ever imagined. I’m not going to even begin to sort through the memories we all have together, since I’m sure I’ve drunkenly told you all at some point or another what you mean to me. I’ll always carry a piece of every one of you guys wherever I go. Am I going to miss you? Oh sure.
And never stop playing “Sugar We’re Going Down” at parties. Ever.

Penn State changes people. Its buildings and pathways are draped in hundreds of years of tradition and all of us are lucky enough to be woven into the tapestry of this place for the four short years we have here. From a freshman year hater to a broken up senior, my time at Penn State has been nothing short of incredible. I sincerely hope that at the end of your four years, you’ll feel the same way I do. Find the people who make Happy Valley just a little more extraordinary for you, and hang on tight. You’ll learn more than you ever thought possible.

In my final class at Penn State, the ever-influential Dr. Susan Russell posed a question to us, quoted from Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Truth be told, I don’t know the answer to that question just yet, but I’m certainly ready to find out.

So yes, the last four years have been weird. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

From the bottom of my heart: Thank you, Penn State.

Sean Gregory
Class of 2016

Photo By: Jamie Saslaw
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Sean Gregory

I take photos of things, and write the occasional article for the #folks.

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