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Stop & Look Around: Matthew Ogden’s Senior Column

I almost didn’t go to Penn State because of a university representative who visited my high school. She made an awful joke about how people always incorrectly refer to University Park as “Penn State Main Campus.”

“We don’t have any campuses in Maine!” she said.

I’m kidding, of course. Penn State was my dream school. That lady could have told 1,000 bad jokes and it wouldn’t have swayed my interest. 

She could have told me that every dorm was haunted and that I would live in an eight-person room with no privacy freshman year, and I still would have happily attended (one of those things DID happen! Shoutout to Frank, Joe, Mike, Nick, AJ, Mikey, and Tin Man).

I was indoctrinated into the cult of Penn State football at a very young age, thanks to a family friend, Mr. Robert Luca. He brought my parents, two Rutgers graduates, to their first game in 2001 — the game where Penn State cornerback Adam Taliaferro led the team onto the field a year after a career-ending injury where he lost, and later regained, the ability to walk. Needless to say, from that game on, they were hooked. 

I made my Beaver Stadium debut the following year at just four years old when Penn State defeated the University of Central Florida 27-24. My first White Out was in 2007 against Notre Dame, with my dad and I having the highest seats in the building. Standing on my seat, I was able to touch the bottom of the north end zone scoreboard.

This telling of my Penn State origin story is simply to say that even someone like me, who decided to attend Penn State without even taking a tour first, can start taking all of this for granted. 

I realized this in March when it dawned on me that, due to the pandemic, I will most likely never be a student on campus in a regular capacity ever again. 

At the culmination of a monumental chapter of your life, it is common to look back and be filled with regrets and questions of “what ifs.” I will not be doing that — this would be a senior thesis instead of a column if I did — but I do wish I could have paused at certain points over the last four years and been grateful for where I was and for what I was doing.

That place I went for football games every few years or so growing up — I was living there. I was going to school there. I was witnessing better football than I honestly thought I was going to witness back in 2016.

I didn’t stop and look around enough. I didn’t deeply breathe in that central Pennsylvania mountain air enough. I spent a lot of time riddled with anxiety about whatever assignments were on my slate at the time.

Even in wonderful moments spent with dear friends, of which there were many, I was often taken out of the moment by worrying about the bogeyman of “What happens next?

I’m here to tell you that what happens next doesn’t matter at all if you aren’t fully focused on what’s happening right now. Once you physically put down your work for the day, put it down mentally as well. Your downtime with friends will be more enjoyable and better remembered once you have established this peace of mind.

In the meantime, make use of the hundreds of thousands of benches around campus or visit the Arboretum.

Have a picnic on Old Main Lawn. Or perhaps in the secret garden underneath the Millennium Science Complex. Heck, maybe even the secret mural underneath the Visual Arts Building. Appreciate the beauty of the sprawling oasis of a campus you step foot on every day. 

To the friends, roommates, brothers, and colleagues I’ve made over these last four-and-a-half years: Thank you for embarking on this journey with me.

To my Onward State family, it’s been an honor to be your writer, editor, hockey beat reporter, podcast host, and friend. I love y’all.

Until then, if this vaccine goes as planned, I’ll see y’all at the tailgate fields for Blue-White 2021.

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About the Author

Matthew Ogden

Matthew Ogden is a senior double majoring in Marketing and Journalism. He resides in South Jersey and is the cohost of Onward State's podcast, Podward State, and the blog's preeminent expert on Kanye West. Email him your favorite Spotify playlists to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MattOgden98.

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