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Letting Go: Steve Connelly’s Senior Column

Do you ever just sit down and flip through your camera roll? Whether you’re looking for something or it’s just out of boredom, you end up transfixed in thousands of photos — all with some sort of memory tied to them.

To be honest, I end up wasting a lot of time this way, especially lately as it starts to sink in that this adventure is coming to an end. I’m not a person who lets go of things easily. Endings truly suck and part of me believes that I could be happy making the same memories that I’m scrolling through with the same people forever in this little Happy Valley bubble.

Coming across a photo of the day I moved into Penn State, it feels like a miracle it even happened at all.

Before I was fretting about leaving this place, I was dreading coming. I felt so secure in my life back home and packing up for a place where I knew nothing and no one had no appeal. My first visit came a couple of months earlier and I did everything in my power to hate it. It’s expensive, it’s huge, and three hours away from New Jersey may as well be across the country.

When we got back home after that visit, my dad saw through the pessimism toward Penn State. Essentially, he gave me this advice: Forget the logistics behind it for the moment and do what you want to make this your four years. There are opportunities at Penn State, and you’re not going to be happy here if you stay.

With that, I begrudgingly took that leap of faith to enroll. For all the skepticism and fear of change I had, I don’t think it even took me until the end of August of that first semester to realize I would love Penn State forever.

My family is what gave me the push to make this Penn State journey possible. It’s also what put me in a position to have it in the first place. When I look back at what got me here, it’s always my family.

My mom, dad, and Aunt Peggy gave me the tools to be successful and supported me through it all, but set the bar high because they knew their kids could do it. My sister Lauren is seven years older than me and essentially got to be the guinea pig for my mom and dad’s parenting style, but in it all, I can’t imagine someone who could’ve set a better example. She was my idol, always acting like a second mother, and was the reason that the bar was set so high and ended up being the lead I wanted to follow.

When I scroll through the photos from the day that I arrived on campus through this day, a handful of people have been there all the way. It took me all of a couple of days to shed that initial fear of change and love this place, and photos like these make it clear why.

In a four-year span, you’ll realize there a few people that you get to connect with for the entire time, but whether you lived on my freshman year Sproul floor, or we met at some Chainsmokers concert before they got famous, or you just are able to relive flashbacks of Skulls, you all made this place feel like home from the beginning.

You may have gotten stuck living with me for two years (thanks, Ryan and Brett) or you just had to deal with my dumb ass (hi, Hannah and Taylor). After it all, I hope it was well worth it for you folks. It’s what made my college experience incredible from the start and the reason I don’t want it to end.

It’s tough to tell a story about my Penn State experience without a good chunk of it being about Onward State. And whenever I think about Onward State, I can’t get past those beginnings and what it would go on to mean for my development as a person.

When you walk into a room of new people, it’ll always feel a bit intimidating. When you walk into a room of Onward Staters, who all seemingly have this Type A personality that just feels larger than life, it’s terrifying. Putting those initial impressions aside, the photos tell a different story. That had to be the most welcoming room I’ve ever walked into.

Thinking about those older folk who welcomed some random freshman into their family, there’s a piece of each of them that I aspired to be that made me the person I am today. For me, that’s what this blog is about.

The writing is why we’re here. I can’t think of better experiences than covering a Big Ten championship or national news story. But if you strip that all away, I owe so much to these people for what they meant to me during my time here.

Every college freshman deserves a David, ARob, Civ, Bauer, Pat, Dana, Mike, or Katie to bring them along through all the highs and lows that four years can deliver.

The number one thing that hits me checking out photos from that first semester and this last semester is just how much more confident in myself I remember feeling in those later memories. The fact of the matter is that it’s the people around me these past few years that have allowed me to be that.

Confidence isn’t just some buzzword. It’s a real thing, and I think I spent too much time ignoring that. If you’ve played a sport, you know how important it is. When things are going right, you feel like every shot you take goes in, every pass you knock is just a simple ball, and every serve you hit is perfect. When you don’t have that confidence, things aren’t so simple anymore.

In a much bigger picture, it applies to everyday life too. I just hadn’t been operating with that confidence day-to-day. I think in a way it’s hard to take credit for some of your successes. When you’re not confident in yourself, there’s always a disclaimer for some achievement you’ve had. But what Onward State and these special people have shown me is that you create your own success. When you’re confident in yourself, you get to run the world’s best student-run media organization with these special people.

Gabi, Elissa, Anthony, and Reams: You’re all incredibly spirited, driven human beings. These four years have meant the world to me and that’s because of you.

To Onward State and all those I met through the blog or because of the blog, you have my heart.

With that being said, I only got this experience because I was able to take a chance and move beyond my comfort zone. That’s part of life. It’s time to move on to the next step and put new memories in the camera roll.

Thanks for everything.

For the Blog,
Steve Connelly ’19

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About the Author

Steve Connelly

Unfortunately, former editor Steve Connelly has graduated. Where is he now? He might be doing something related to that PR degree he got in 2019. Maybe he finally opened that sports bar named after one of his photos, the Blurry Zamboni. Or he might just be eating chicken tenders and couch surfing. Anything’s possible. If you really want to know, follow him on Twitter @slc2o.

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