To The People & The Place, I Love You, Goodbye: Jim Davidson’s Senior Column
Sitting in the darkness of Schwab Auditorium and listening to two older students play John Mayer’s “Stop this Train” during first-year orientation is one of my earliest Penn State memories.
I felt as if I was about to hop on a metaphorical train, like the one Mayer describes, of my own that week, one that would carry me from the tentative first weeks of classes to graduation. Over the course of that journey I expected to find a passion, a purpose, an almost instant group of lifelong friends, and success and fun in everything I was willing to work for. So as I listened to that soft but fitting performance, I was excited for what I knew I was about to discover and enjoy on a campus and town that was becoming more familiar and welcoming every day.
None of those things came to me, or at least not in the way that I’d expected them to. Looking back on my four years at Penn State, I realize that I spent large chunks of my college career in an anxious and lonely haze. I struggled, at first, to find a crew of friends to call my own and make the memories I expected to make. I still haven’t nailed down a “purpose.” And looking back on my time in Happy Valley, I see lots of regrets and paths I wish I would have taken.
But I also see the quiet and life-changing moments, relationships, and events that made what was often a difficult time incredibly valuable and memorable.
I see the relationships I built with my three older cousins, who are also Penn State alums. Daniel and I, who never got along when we were younger, became best friends over Waffle Shop breakfasts, runs, and discussions at the kitchen table. His older brother David helped me face my own anxiety with several long conversations during a trip to Barcelona last year. And during a summer internship and several visits, I got to know their sister Natalie better than I ever thought I would.
I see countless adventures, too. I’ve traveled with a group of some of my best Onward State friends to away games in Orlando an Michigan. During a two-year stint as a business developer for Reflexion, a startup company co-founded by a classmate and a good friend, I worked conferences in Las Vegas and New Orleans. And two camping trips to Colorado and Washington with a group of friends and Penn State classmates from my hometown formed some of the best stories I have to tell.
I see how much I actually enjoyed the classes I took, the professors I learned from, and the process of writing for and being a part of this blog. I see my parents, who supported me patiently on my most manic days.
And finally, I see the people I met who made Penn State what it was. I smile when I think of nights spent on the roofs of two very specific downtown houses, the perfect tint of the light in Doggie’s Pub, sunrise runs through the arboretum, holding a hand at Beaver Stadium, late-night walks home down familiar streets, dinners after Sunday Onward State meetings, Midland before football games, and Jarred Price locking me out of my room but leaving Ben and Jerry’s ice cream behind as an apology.
Each of these aspects of my time at Penn State stand out as bright spots of my life, not just my college experience. They’ve taught me that difficult times, in retrospect, are filled with memory, purpose, and value. Though I didn’t find the four years I expected, I found a four-year period of growth mixed with the passion, friendship, adventure, and joy that I needed.
Although it’s still unclear where my own path, where my own train, is headed, I know that if I could go back and begin the same journey again, I would slow down as I passed through Happy Valley.
But I can’t, so to Penn State, to all the moments and routines and adventures that made it special, and to all the people who made it what it was for me, I love you, goodbye.
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