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Coming To Appreciate The End Of An Era: Emma Dieter’s Senior Column

Over the years, I’ve often asked my mom, “What was your favorite age?” Without fail, my mom’s response was always, “Well, I think the age I am right now. This is a pretty great one.”

As a young child, I always wanted the answer to be sometime in the future because I’m a “dweller.” By this, I mean I often find myself dwelling on the past or looking to the future for a sense of accomplishment, happiness, or gratification.

So, you can imagine, that as a young child, my mom’s response was frustrating. Why couldn’t she just pick an age? I mean, there had to have been better years and worse years.

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized she was teaching me an immensely important lesson, even if she didn’t realize it at the time. There’s something to be said for appreciating an era of your life and then coming to terms with letting it go.

These past four years at Penn State have been the most transformational years of my life. I know I’m only 22 years old, so I haven’t been around that long to begin with, but I’ve learned so much about relationships, professionalism, and dealing with uncertainty in ways I never could have imagined.

I think many of us like to think the best of ourselves — that we’ve been through rough times, gotten over humps, dealt with crappy friendships, and come out the other end as the best versions of ourselves. I know, I have and still do at least.

But one of the most freeing things that I’ve learned over the past few years, is that we don’t have to always be the best versions of ourselves. As people, we’re going to grow and develop so much throughout our lives. It’s okay to not be perfect all of the time. It’s okay to make mistakes and then still do bad things.

Personally, I’ve made plenty of mistakes throughout my time at Penn State. Sometimes I was a bad friend, sometimes I let friends treat me poorly, and sometimes, even still, I find myself falling back on bad habits even though I know better.

The important thing, however, is to remember that through it all you’re working on becoming a better person. We’re all bound to make mistakes, but at the end of every mistake is a lesson we can take with us and learn from moving forward. Mistakes are the building blocks of our life’s trajectory.

As silly as it might sound — or maybe it doesn’t even sound silly at all — I couldn’t have learned this lesson without Penn State. My college years were a defining part of my life and I am so thankful for that. From the frat parties, to the late nights in the library, to the clubs we joined, to the drama we all dealt with, Penn State has shaped us into the people we are today.

There’s no harm in being upset about the end of an era. In fact, from any college graduate that I’ve spoken with, the transition from college to “adult life” has been hard. It’s depressing, anxiety-inducing, and altogether overwhelming, especially now given the coronavirus pandemic, but everyone gets through it.

It’s always going to be okay.

Personally, I find solace in knowing how turbulent of a time these next few months (hell, maybe even years) will be for me, because they are for everyone. There’s power in understanding.

So, as I transition from one era of my life to another, I’m letting myself be sad. If I want to cry in the middle of making dinner because I’m scared about not having a job, I’m going to let myself cry. If I want to scream because I’m so frustrated with how the end of my senior year turned out, I’m going to let myself scream.

It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. We’re all just learning and trying our best.

I found myself explaining to my father recently that, while I’ll miss Penn State, I’m content with this era of my life coming to an end. For me, it’s comparable to how I dealt with the end of my time in high school.

Personally, I loved my four years of high school. I had great friends, a fun job, and some of the best times of my life. Although I’ll always look fondly on my time at Spring-Ford High School, I wouldn’t want to relive it again. I think similarly of Penn State.

Your undergraduate years comprise a short amount of time in your life. I’m grateful for them and will always remember them fondly, but I’m coming to terms with appreciating the end of this era.

Granted, losing a physical, in-person end to this semester has been hard on me. With no definitive finale to it all, I’ve found it difficult to accept the end of this era more than originally thought, but that’s okay.

As I said, there’s power in understanding, and every era of my life is bound to bring with it new challenges that will be out of my control. I’ve learned to accept and appreciate these eras for all of their bad and good, because even with whatever bad they bring, there’s bound to be a great deal of good mixed in there with them.

It’s kind of surreal looking back on my many years of education in self-reflection. Becoming a college graduate was always something I knew I wanted to do, but never thought I’d actually accomplish. It’s one of those things, like marriage, that you always anticipate happening, but can never actually picture occurring.

Not to get overly sappy, but without Onward State, I’m not sure I would have made it through. This blog, and the people on this blog, have done so much for me over the course of the past four years. I think more than anybody realizes.

No matter what was going on in my personal or academic life, good or bad, one thing was always consistent — Onward State. As everyone on staff knows, the news never stops. It’s a 24/7 job and having that sense of stability, day in and day out, knowing that there was always “news to be done,” helped me get through even the toughest of times.

To any young Penn Staters who may be reading this column, I just want to let you know that its okay to not enjoy college all of the time. I think there’s a societal pressure out there to absolutely, positively love every single part of your college journey, but that’s not realistic. You won’t love every part of your college journey.

It’s okay to have tough days, tough months, tough years even. It’s enough to get through it and take solace in the fact that this is simply one era of your life. As the saying goes, “This too shall pass.”

And as challenging as these past four years have been, I can’t deny that they’ve also been some of the best times of my life. So, I’m not even going to try and encapsulate how much I’ve loved my time here. Penn State has given me one of the greatest experiences of my life. It was my dream school and only ever exceeded my expectations.

I’m also not even going to try and thank every person who influenced me throughout my time at Onward State. Whether you know it or not, you absolutely had an impact on me in some way. I wouldn’t be the writer, and person, I am today without you all. However, I do want to give a special little shoutout to my cousin Caitlin Gailey, who introduced me to the blog and encouraged me to apply my freshman year. Without her support and guidance, I might not be writing for you all today.

I also want to express my gratitude to all former and current OS staffers. I learned so much from the generations before me and so much from the generations after me, as well. I look forward to watching you all, and Onward State, continue to grow and kill it out there.

And as I come to terms with the end of this era of my life at Penn State, I’m excited to journey into my next era and whatever it may bring with it. It might not be easy, but it will be another beautiful era in my life that I get to experience. I’m just going to try and enjoy it all.

This is my favorite age.

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About the Author

Emma Dieter

Emma is a senior from the ever-popular "right-outside" Philly area studying labor employment relations and PR. She's also the Student Life editor for Onward State. She has been a Penn Stater from cradle and will continue to bleed blue and white, 'til grave. She loves trashy romance novels, watching Netflix, and crying over cute videos of dogs. If you ever want to talk more with her about how great she is, or simply have other inquiries, feel free to email her at [email protected]

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