Learning To Live With Yourself: Mitch Stewart’s Senior Column
There’s some old, corny saying about how life experiences are more about the journey than the destination. As cliché as it sounds, it actually is a concept that I mostly agree with.
But what happens when the journey gets fast-forwarded to your destination? How do you respond when the finish line that you were looking forward to gets ripped away from you right at the buzzer, and you’re forced to move on without closure? How does someone like myself, who has always let things out of their control affect them way too much, deal with something as shitty as this situation?
This is a predicament that my fellow seniors and I have been forced to face in the last few weeks, as 55 Days of Café, Senior Week, and so many “lasts” were robbed from us. It’s something that has particularly affected me, seeing as the beginning of this spring semester was already as difficult for myself as any of the eight that I experienced in Happy Valley.
Compared to the first 18 or so years of my life, these past four have been extremely challenging to me on a personal level. As someone who was typically so self-confident and comfortable within his own skin, facing my developing depression that has ebbed and flowed in and out of my life without my permission has been brutal.
Fall semester of this year was so great for me, and I really thought I had grasped control over my life again. I called the White Out game and Cotton Bowl for CommRadio, I came incredibly close to making Dean’s List for the first and only time, I checked off a freshman year goal of mine when I anchored for Centre County Report, Penn State hoops was well on its way to what was surely shaping up to be a national championship run, and my social life was in a great place. Yet, for no rhyme or reason, I lost the first half of this spring semester in blowout fashion to my personal struggles, often staying in on the weekends and unable to leave my bed until the afternoon on many days.
I learned a lot about myself in these four years. By the end of my third semester on campus, two of my best early friends at school would transfer, including one who I’m not sure when or if I’ll ever see again, since he moved back to his home halfway across the world. One of my current roommates almost died this year. I’ve dealt with plenty of bullshit from entities in town that’ve showed me that life isn’t fair, and sometimes, the people who maintain control don’t care about what you have to say to that.
I learned that even though we all have to play the “politics game” in life, I absolutely despise it, and my commitment to only saying or doing what I actually felt like probably kept me out of a handful of circles in the long run. I was reminded time and again that I talk entirely too much, that I’m consistently inconsistent, and that my priorities were often out of line. At times, I simply lacked professionalism and maturity in many walks of life.
Remember when I brought up how much it sucks that we were robbed of the ends of our senior year? In many ways, this period of quarantine saved me. I don’t say that to mean my life or safety was in harm’s way, but I was in serious trouble of completely crumbling and, at best, crawling to the finish line in my final semester. My grades were horrible, I was in yet another period of poor production for both Onward State and CommRadio, and I couldn’t bring myself to care for the people and things that I am extremely passionate about when I’m healthy.
I’ve regained control recently, and I got back on track with plenty of time to spare before graduation. I’ve been reminded of the outgoing, authentic person that I’ve always been. And that feels so good.
In these past few weeks, I was able to reflect a lot on my college tenure, specifically my time with Onward State. I’ve been able to think about all of the good: having a tweet go viral and appearing on worldwide news networks within my first two weeks of being on staff; covering the basketball team for four years at venues such as Madison Square Garden, the Barclays Center, and of course THE Bryce Jordan Center; and of course the many hysterical memories that I’ve made along the way with some life-long friends. It reminded me of why I always wanted to be a member of this blog, and why I’m so happy that (to the surprise of some people), I’m still here at the end.
On that note, I’ve also relived some of the bad things recently: finding out I was demoted via a Trello notification, being exposed in front of an entire group for truly not being a good enough person for my amazing girlfriend, having to stand up for myself in front of the whole group at various other points in time.
I’ve grown up a lot since many of those moments, and I’ve realized that although sometimes things were addressed in the wrong way or at the wrong time, I absolutely deserved a lot of what I had coming to me. I was immature, unreliable, and selfish in my own personal life and with my participation with Onward State.
I’m convinced that I survived only because I understood the style, voice, and dynamic of the blog, not because I was working hard enough to help make it better. I wasn’t a hard worker like Mikey, who may have transformed as much as anyone I’ve known at Penn State since the time that I met him. I couldn’t maintain my composure like Anthony, who became one of the best leaders I’ve come to know. I couldn’t be the “funny guy” on staff like Ogden and Fiset, or Will and Paolizzi, while also managing my duties in a respectable manner. My shortcomings with the blog will always be among my biggest regrets about these four years.
When I was doing what I should and trying my best, it was an amazing experience. That goes beyond my participation with Onward State, too. All of these ups and downs were necessary for me to become the person that I’m still desperately trying to be on a persistent basis, not just often or sometimes. I believe that I will make it click one day, hopefully very soon.
When I look back at my time with Onward State, I won’t think about the time where I lost my cool at Snarkies, or when I was sitting next to a teary-eyed Shep Garner, talking about his legacy in his locker at MSG, or where my name was on the masthead. I’ll think about my old roommate telling me about Onward State because his brother, Noel, wrote for the blog. The times I spent at Bauer’s senior house on College Ave. will definitely come to mind, as well as trips to Gaff with some great people, and driving our staff members to Innovation Park where we launched OS’s very first podcast series. I’ll remember taking a liking to being described a “student outlet whore” because I was working with Onward State, CommRadio, and Centre County Report simultaneously.
I’m at the destination, and my journey got derailed by things out of my control. And for once, I’m understanding how to just accept how much of the journey I did love instead of focusing on how it may have been affected.
There are absolutely some thank you’s in order. First, to some staffers who have meant a lot to me. To Dave, whose vibrant personality and relentless smile make him the Sweetest Boy of All-Time. To Ethan, who always offered some new knowledge to me whenever he spoke up. To Bauer, whose blend of impeccable ability and infectious nature is something I’ve always admired, and thanks for probably protecting me from being fired (multiple times).
To Mikey, your passion and heart for what you do and who you care about is exceptionally motivating. To Anthony, you became an outstanding face of the blog, and your guidance is one of the main reasons why we will leave this blog in a much more secure state than when we joined it. To Reams, thank you for never kicking my ass when I kept getting sick at your apartment like clockwork. To Ogden, Fiset, Paolizzi, Pegler, and the rest of the Sweet Boys, thank you all so much for being exceptional friends, laughing at my memes, and for dealing with my weird infatuation with Penn State hOOPS.
To Emma and Anthony, congrats, fam — we are the only three remaining contribs out of the infamous Fall 2016 Class! LOLOL against all odds, we did it!
To my gal Cal, a former editor at this very website!!! Thank you for all that you’ve done and continue to do for me. You gave me the time to become a better person for you to spend life with, and I am eternally grateful for that. I can’t wait to come back and crash your senior year whenever I can make it up there next year, and I love you endlessly.
To my CommRadio family, namely Kap, Brian, TO, and Will, thank you for your patience, encouragement, and friendship. You all motivated me to be better, even when I wasn’t showing it. Some of the most talented people I know were part of this organization that I belonged to, and I’m extremely proud of that.
To my roommates and close friends, thank you for putting up with me and supporting me in all of the different ways that you have over the past few years (the real ones will know what this means). As someone who didn’t know anyone going to Penn State outside of a Class of 2020 GroupMe formed during my senior year of high school (hello, Sniegs and Amanda!), I left knowing that many people who I’ve crossed paths with will always have my back.
To my family, you’ve been by my side through the various triumphs and disappointments I’ve inflicted, and the fact that I know that you’ll always be there has made me a lot less afraid to fail.
To those of you who are still on staff or will follow, please refrain from making the mistakes I did. Cherish all of the amazing things that you can find because of the blog, whether it’s the people you meet, the events you can cover, the stories you’re able to write, or the fact that you’ll only have a very short time to do all of these things in this particular manner. I am, and always will be, For The Blog. Can’t wait to see you all frequently in main’s mentions.
I know there was a lot of apparent “self-loathing” throughout much of this column, but anyone that really knows me will understand that isn’t the case. I’m a realist, and I know that this is what truly shaped my college experience. Many of my struggles also double as my strengths, depending on the situation, and while I’ll always try my best to become a better person, people also know that I sort of am the way that I am, and to some extent I’ll always be that way.
And I’m not going to give a shit either way, whether you love that or hate it.
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