I’ve Found My Voice: Anna Foley’s Senior Column
During winter break, I got brunch with one of my oldest and dearest friends. I’ve known this girl since preschool, and we’ve suffered through nearly every big life stage with one another: the joys of kindergarten, the horrors of middle school, the insecurities of high school, and the anxieties of leaving home. Even though we chose different colleges and had vastly different experiences at those colleges, she’s the type of friend that persists as one of my truest. No matter where I call home or what I find myself doing, I always know that I can call her, and it will be like we’re in the back of the AP Government classroom all over again. She’s a keeper, this friend of mine.
Anyways, I showed up to this brunch in a pretty typical outfit for me: black shift dress, beat up Converse sneakers, winged tip eyeliner, and purple lipstick. I sat down at the table and ordered the most vegetarian thing on the menu: a tomato, cheddar, and avocado hash with whole wheat toast. I swore like a sailor, took an unnecessary amount of selfies, and at times, was the loudest voice in the restaurant.
Somewhere between my second and third cup of coffee, I looked across the table at this friend that had known me for so long. I came to a sudden realization, which I promptly blurted out to her: my high school self would hate me if she met me now.
We both laughed at this declaration of mine. Because let’s face it — it’s pretty absurd to think that a past version of yourself can be so different from the current version. But as our chuckles settled down and we both went back to nursing our coffees, I mulled over the truth of what I had just said. The truth is, the girl I was in high school probably wouldn’t have had the courage to wear purple lipstick in public. She definitely would have cared too much what people would have thought about her gratuitous use of the word “fuck” and her even more gratuitous use of the front-facing camera. She would have kept her voice down.
So yes, maybe it is true that if high school Anna met the Anna writing this column she would have hated her. But I think I’m okay with that. Because that girl didn’t have a voice; she let other people make her decisions and speak for her. Thank God that girl didn’t write this column, because it was be a bland and sappy mess. Nope, I’m writing this column in my own, independent, snarky voice. And I can only thank Penn State, the people I met here, and the experiences I had in this place for giving me that voice.
This voice of mine came from people like Kevin Horne, who took a chance on a writer who submitted a history essay for a writing sample. It came from organizations like the Penn State Thespians and No Refund Theatre, who gave me a supportive and loving community to call home. It came from tough experiences like my senior thesis, which taught humility and perseverance. It came from studying abroad, which showed me how much of the world I have yet to explore. My voice was given to me by each day of my four years at Penn State.
Those days are now numbered. That realization is hitting hard during this last week of classes. Even though I’m leaving Penn State behind, I’m taking the voice it has given me when I graduate. That voice and each of the memories that formed it is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I’ll bring it to Chicago, where I will begin my graduate career at Northwestern University. I’ll bring it to my first job as a writer. I will bring it everywhere I go.