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Wandering The Valley: Alex Bauer’s Senior Column

“You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing on.” -Heraclitus

Like many of those who came before me, I have no idea where to begin.

Should I tell the inaugural story of my journey at Penn State? Do I begin with my first night here in the summer of 2014?

I was sitting alone on the bench beneath the Allen Street Gates, uneasily reading the text message my dad sent me over and over again; the one where my own father called State College my “new home.”

Should I start my senior column with the story of how I joined Onward State?

Should I talk about first meeting Davis at a tailgate when I was in middle school, at a time when I never could have imagined the extraordinary impact this idea him, Evan, and Eli had had would have on me years later?

Do I focus on beginnings? Or do I focus on the journeys that follow?

Or do I face the apprehensive truth about nostalgia: it’s simply a distraction from the end.

These past few weeks have been flooded with a tsunami of nostalgia. My friends and I, in an attempt to repress the actuality of graduation, have spat “remember when’s” and “throwbacks” back and forth nonstop.

But why? Why do we cling to the past?

Is it because the past is stable and certain? After all, you can’t change the past; it’s a story we already know the end to.

Is that why we willingly freeze ourselves in the past?

No matter how audacious and adventurous we claim to be, there will always be an evolutionary appeal to the apparent safety and certainty of the status-quo. We like to believe that there is order in this universe.

But there isn’t.

It feels like yesterday I was sitting on that bench and contemplating the uncertainty of what I will do next in my “new home.”

But it wasn’t yesterday. It was 4 years ago.

There was a boundless number of paths I could have taken after I got up from that bench, and every step I took on every path I have taken resulted in countless consequences; some big, some small. But none insignificant.

Every decision I have made, supplemented with the utter chaos of this universe, has cumulated in who I am today.

Were they the right decisions? Could things have turned out better? Is it my fault they didn’t? Was I just unlucky?

I could spend the rest of my future gluing myself to the past and wondering “what could have been.”

But that’s stupid.

Reveling in the glories that passed is as futile as grieving over those that never were. How often does anything go “according to plan” anyway?

Embrace the chaos.  

Do not flee in the face of change. Do not retreat to the ease of the past.

Do not revere what you know. Uncover what you don’t.

Onward into the future. Onward into the unknown.

Onward to new beginnings. Onward to new ends.

Onward, State. Forever.

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About the Author

Alex Bauer

Alex graduated in Spring 2018 with a degree in Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and minors in Finance and Psychology. He was a first generation Penn Stater from Cheshire, Connecticut along with his two sisters. His favorite things are dogs, coffee, and dogs that shoot hot jets of coffee out of their mouths.

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