Trusting Your Gut: Katie Moats’ Senior Column
A question I’ve gotten a lot these past four years has been why I chose to go to Penn State. This question typically comes right after I explain that I’m from Chicago (don’t tell anyone, but I’m from Chicago in the same way that some of you are from “just outside of Philly”), and people want to know why I would choose Penn State over a closer Big Ten school like Illinois or Northwestern.
I like to make a joke that I couldn’t have gotten into Northwestern — which is probably true — or that I needed to get the hell out of Illinois, which is very true. I also say that my mom went to Penn State – which is usually a sufficient answer — or that I wanted to be on the East Coast.
But in the past week or so that I’ve been trying to figure out what I wanted to say in this column, I’ve realized that while all of these answers hold a semblance of truth, I don’t think any of them are the real reason I chose to move 600 miles away from my small town to call State College home.
Funny enough, the first time I started to consider going to Penn State was right before the 2012 football season. I was 13 years old, and while I had never cared about football before, I was raised in a die-hard Big Ten football family — Nebraska for my dad and Penn State for my mom.
The summer before that season started, I remember sitting in our living room with my mom and listening as Michael Mauti and Michael Zordich looked into the cameras and told the world that they were staying committed to Penn State. Watching these players get so emotional about their program struck something in me. For them to care so much about their team when it would be easier and probably better for their careers to transfer to another school was something I hadn’t seen before in sports.
I watched every single game that season with my mom, and that Christmas, I got an autographed Michael Mauti T-shirt and jersey, which I still have hanging in my closet. I couldn’t explain why I wanted to join a fanbase for a school that was being rocked by scandal, but I had a feeling that it was where I was meant to be. So, I followed it.
The first time I visited Penn State was during the fall of my junior year of high school. I was looking at schools, so my mom and I decided to make a weekend girls trip to see Christian Hackenberg take on Michigan in the 2015 White Out. We were sitting up in the nosebleeds. It was freezing, and it was truly an abysmal game to watch, but it was one of the best weekends of my life.
I remember walking down College Avenue and just watching other students laugh with their friends, and I knew that I needed to be at Penn State. This was where I was meant to be.
I’ve made a lot of my biggest life decisions based on a gut feeling. I don’t like to base my choices on something reliable like statistics or logic, which I’m sure drives some people crazy, instead of how I feel in the moment. It hasn’t failed me so far, so I’m just going to stick with it until I crash and burn.
I feel like I’m probably crashing and burning a little right now, but it’s not because I followed my gut and did something I regretted. I’m struggling to come to terms with graduating because I don’t remember my last time in Beaver Stadium because, at the time, that was only the last game of my junior year.
I’m struggling with graduating because the last time I was physically in a classroom was February 2020, and I know only how to be a student. I’m struggling because I didn’t get to do those fun “last” things like 55 Days of Cafe, and there’s a lot of friends I won’t be able to say goodbye to and might not ever see again. I’m struggling because I don’t have a job yet, and once upon a time, I knew what I wanted to do in the ~real world~. But now, I just want to sort of fade off into Europe somewhere and be a barista or something.
The point to all of this complaining is not to gripe about how much COVID-19 took away from my senior year because I think everyone knows that already, and I don’t want to dedicate my senior column to this virus. My point is to say that even though there were so many shitty parts to this year, there were some really great parts too. A lot of it has to do with how much I tried to just do things that made me happy or that felt like it was something I was meant to do.
To everyone coming back to a somewhat normal Penn State in the fall, I hope you decide to just go for things. Don’t let fear or a lack of confidence keep you from trying or pursuing things that you’re interested in, because it might end up changing your life. Don’t let yourself get stuck in this rut where you focus on only your classes, assignments, securing an internship, or getting to the next phase of your life. The world is so big, and Penn State has so much to offer.
I’m going to miss the big things like football games and seeing my friends every day, but I’m going to miss the little things, too. The day the leaves start to change in the fall and the feeling in the air the Friday before the first football game. Grabbing a bagel from Irving’s. The days spent avoiding responsibilities and laying out on Old Main Lawn. Country Night at Pickle’s every Tuesday, making friends in classes that I’ll never see after the semester ends, the White Loop, and hitting my step goal every time I make the trek up Shortlidge. Going to the Corner Room with my family before the start of every fall semester and breathing in that fresh air at the Arboretum. There are a million other things I’m going to miss, but it all boils down to being able to call myself a Penn State student.
At the end of the day, I uprooted my life and came to Penn State because I decided to follow a series of gut feelings, and I’ve been following those feelings ever since. I’m not sure where my next feeling will lead me, but I’m excited to see how it all turns out and learn what it’ll take for me to get there.
Much love for the blog, the editorz, and the sour girls always,
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About the Author
The Nittany Lions participated in a max-out lifting session to mark the end of winter workouts.
Gaines was committed to the Nittany Lions for nearly a year.
Sophomore forward Tessa Janecke also earned CHA Player of the Year and Forward of the Year distinctions.