I Didn’t Know What To Write: Janelle Rothacker’s Senior Column
As this post goes up, it is my 22nd birthday, meaning I am officially old and facing impending graduation. I truly didn’t want to write a senior column. Not because I am trying to deny the fact that I am graduating, although that is partially true. Not because as a senior who doesn’t actually have class, I have the worst case of senioritis, although that’s also true. Moreso because I had no idea what to say. I’m as clueless and inexperienced as the rest, so what wisdom do I have to pass on?
I thought about writing about how I’m a transfer student, and how it’s okay to follow your heart if it’s leading you somewhere else. I wanted to say how you’re not a failure if you decide to leave what you thought was your dream school in order to chase a different dream. It’s important to do what you know is best for yourself.
I thought maybe I could write about how I started college as a college athlete, and how I no longer am one. I thought maybe I could put into words that athletics or academics or whatever it is that you hold on to so tightly doesn’t define you. You are so much more than a time or a grade or a statistic.
I thought about writing about how I struggled to find friends and how it’s way more a common problem than most people think about entering college. The picture-perfect ideal of becoming best friends with your hallmates and spending the next four years with them by your side is often so far from reality it almost pains me that TV and movies still paint it that way. You can join clubs and go to hall dinners and do everything “right” and still struggle. You will eventually find your people, even if it takes a while.
I thought maybe I could write about how important it is to stretch your comfort zone. As a science major who spends her free time writing for Onward State, I know pushing personal boundaries is important. I am so thankful for the opportunities and people this organization has enriched my college experience with. I would not have this wonderful experience to look back on if I didn’t take a chance on myself and put myself out there, and I encourage everyone to do something that scares them.
And I thought maybe I wanted to write a sappy ode to Penn State, as it is truly one of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of. This school has shaped and changed me in more ways than I can explain, and in ways I’m not even sure I fully realize yet. I never thought I’d be one of those die-hard college girls who won’t shut up about how crazy fantastic her school is. Yet, here I am.
While I wanted to write about all of these things, nothing felt right. None of these things felt like they were more important than the rest, I didn’t have enough to say about any one thing, and didn’t think I could give sound enough advice on any topic.
I often wondered if my time at Penn State was remarkable enough to even warrant an entire column. And frankly, I don’t think it is. It is not one thing that has shaped my time here. It is the hundreds of small experiences I have accumulated that have amounted to something greater — something so worth writing about yet so impossible to put into words.
As I’ve rambled on long enough, I’ll end with a couple of thank you’s.
To the professors and faculty that have guided me through Penn State, thank you for encouraging me to pursue my goals and more importantly, my passions. Without you, I would not have accomplished a small fraction of what I have, and would not be pursuing my master’s degree. I was always warned away from going to a big school, as I was told I would be just a number. You’ve proven this is so far from the truth and I am so grateful for that.
To Rob and my friends, thank you for almost always agreeing to meet for ice cream and for constantly allowing me to vent about my silly frustrations. You are near and dear to my heart and what I will remember most. My senior year, in particular, has exceeded all possible expectations and has been full of some of the greatest moments of my life. I can’t wait to see you chase your dreams.
To Mom, Dad, and Kailey, thank you for everything. You have built me and guided me through every step of the way. I would not be the person I am without you, and no words can express my love. Mom and Dad: thank you for taking it all in stride when it takes Kailey and me five different colleges just to get our undergrads. Thank you for being beyond supportive when I decided to move halfway across the country in a couple of months. You have always been and continue to be my role models and my inspiration for everything I do in life. You have always believed in me and challenged me. No words can express my love.
And lastly, to Penn State, thank you for the most incredible three years. I am sorry you were not my original dream school, but you turned out to be more than I ever could have imagined. You will forever be my home.
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