Do It Your Way: Katie Klodowski’s Senior Column
I started keeping a journal this year. I’ve never been one to keep a journal — after all, what’s so special about my life that makes my experiences worth documenting? But the summer before I started my senior year, I found myself at a crossroads. My first three years of college had flown by and I was filled with so much confusion and anxiety. It seemed that the year before me would determine everything: how I remembered Penn State, what I would take with me from this university, and what my future would be like. As I flip through this journal mere days before my graduation, I realize that it’s because of this journal that I finally feel ready to graduate from Penn State (and write this senior column).
Like many senior columnists before me, I was one of those students who didn’t particularly want to come to Penn State — to be honest, I cried after new student orientation. I wanted to go far away and be unique, but Penn State came with the promise of in-state tuition and a scholarship. Of course, I was immediately swept up by life at Penn State and at this point I cannot possibly imagine going anywhere else.
My first three years of college were great, and full of those classic college stories that you later realize were essential to your development. Some of these stories are so overdone they’re barely worth mentioning: bad freshman year roommate stories, heartbreak, and switching to a major completely different than what I started out in.
With each year comes distinct memories and themes. Freshman year was when I came to Penn State and realized that this place was absolutely for me. Sophomore year was when I realized I was in the wrong major and it was the amazing year that I joined Onward State. Junior year was when I realized I wanted to go to law school (although I didn’t tell anyone) and I began working my tail off to make my grades better, work as an editor at Onward State, and succeed in my internship at Penn State OPP. Senior year, I can now say, is the year where everything came together.
I realize now, as I flip through those opening pages of my journal that are filled with stress and anxiety, that I came to so many important realizations so late in my college career. It wasn’t until a month or two into senior year that I finally learned this important lesson: do what you want, and do it your way. I’ll admit that it seems like such a silly lesson to take so long to learn; of course you should spend your life doing what you want because it’s too short not to, right? But it’s way easier said than done.
I spent three years living with fear — fear that others would judge me, fear that I would disappoint people, fear that people wouldn’t like me. I think that a lot of us live with this fear. I was scared to switch to an English major because I feared people would judge me for having a “soft” major. But in retrospect, this was such a stupid fear. I went from thinking of class as a chore to thinking about class as an opportunity to become a smarter person, and that difference is all that should have mattered to me.
The fear of judgement wasn’t just there in my academic life. I also spent way too much time fearing that people wouldn’t like me. I was scared of what people would think if I went out too much and I was scared of what people would think if I stayed in too much. The truth, of course, is that nobody really cares or pays that much attention because they’re out there dealing with their own lives. But I had spent my whole life building myself a perfect reputation, and the thought of it being tarnished and that a few people might not like me tormented me to a ridiculous degree.
As it turns out, joining Onward State was the thing that shook from that mindset. I still remember the first time I wrote a post that people hated. I remember reading the comments and feeling awful about myself, until I realized that the good comments come with the bad, because that’s what happens when you sign up to write for a website that “works to generate honest conversation in hopes of enriching the Penn State community.” I remember that amid my despair, Kevin Horne posted a clip from a Katt Williams comedy routine in the Onward State GroupMe. With the profanity edited out, these were Katt Williams’ words of advice:
“Live your life. Get your hustle on. Understand that people are going to hate you regardless. Get that out of your head, that fantasy world where people aren’t hating on you. You need to be grateful — you need haters. What do you think a hater’s job is? Ladies, if you have 14 women hating on you, you need to figure out how to get to 16 before the summer starts.”
It still makes me laugh thinking about how that incredibly dumb comedy routine changed my entire outlook on the situation. Onward State taught me a lot of things: to have a thicker skin, to think more deeply about what goes on at this university, and to think for myself. But most importantly, Onward State taught me that the things in life that are most worth doing are those that require you do to things your way. Because of that, I’ll always be a proud alumna of Onward State.
Although I’ve paid Penn State handsomely in tuition dollars, I still feel as though I owe so much to this university. Penn State gives you the opportunity to do whatever you want, if you’re willing to work hard and step out of your comfort zone. My hope for all future graduates of Penn State is that they can look back on their time spent here and definitively say, “I did it my way.”
The Ladies of 709 Calder Commons: I can’t imagine spending my final two years at Penn State living with anyone else. I have you all to thank for always giving me a home in State College, through good times and bad. Thank you for being the most understanding roommates out there and for putting up with all my quirks. I can already picture us coming to football games and tailgating together in our retirement.
Lexi: To my before day one — no words can describe how grateful I am to have met you at NSO, then in our microbiology class, and then in that frat kitchen. You’re absolutely my soul sister, and I look forward to being sarcastic with you for a long time.
Onward State: I love you people. Your hard work and talent continually amaze me. And to those of you who have made my senior year insanely fun, keep being you (hi Steve). Continue to find humor in the comments section, because besides death and taxes, its horribleness is one of the few constants in life.
Mom, Dad, and David: I’ll finish with the most important acknowledgement of them all. Growing up you used to sing to us these wise words: “Mamas’ don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys…Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such.” David and I will be forever grateful for your planning and your selflessness; although we complained about it growing up, we owe everything to the fact that you two never accepted anything less than our best. The education you’ve given me is be the best gift I’ll ever receive. From your future doctor and future lawyer: thank you, and we love you.
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About the Author
We dance in 275, Penn State!
We dance in 275, Penn State!
Underwood is bringing her “The Denim & Rhinestones” tour to Happy Valley next spring.
“Jana Marie Foundation harnesses the power of creative expression and dialogue to spark conversations, build connections, and promote mental well-being among young people and their communities.”