Moving On From Regret: Richard Smeltzer’s Senior Column

“Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” — C.S. Lewis

If you would’ve told me four years ago that I would be writing articles for an audience of thousands of people in 2021, I absolutely would’ve laughed at you. In fairness, past me would have been right to laugh. You’d be saying this to a guy who almost failed high school senior English.

I was a different person back then. That was someone who tried to stay hidden. That was someone who was scared to try new things. That was someone who was struggling with a lack of executive function due to ADHD. I found it hard to get up and do pretty much anything, and when I say anything, I really mean anything. This included hanging out with friends, focusing enough to play video games, and, most notably, doing homework.

Naturally, skipping out on homework throughout my time in high school didn’t reflect well on my grades. Sporting a sub-3.0 GPA, my choices of colleges were fairly limited. Thankfully, I really only had one school on my mind: Penn State.

I grew up in a primarily Penn State family. My mother and both grandparents all are/were Penn State professors, most of my family are graduates of the university, and I spent my time rooting for the Nittany Lions growing up.

My grades would be a major obstacle in reaching Penn State, as I most certainly would not be accepted into the main campus. Fortunately for me, my hometown of York, Pennsylvania has a Penn State branch campus. This allowed me to enroll in the 2+2 program, so I would eventually end up at University Park. On top of this, it allowed me to stay home, away from distractions and really focus on improving myself academically.

I definitely enjoyed my time at Penn State York, as I met several professors and friends who helped me reach further into my life and career, and I was able to discover more of my interests. My biggest problem was the fact that I was still stuck at home instead of truly being able to branch out. To put it simply, it felt like I was still in high school, except those friends had all moved away to other schools. My junior year couldn’t have come soon enough.

In the fall of 2019, I was finally able to transfer to University Park and continue my college career. It was bittersweet moving away from my family and hometown, but I knew everyone else had already gone through that two years ahead of me. This semester was truly everything I needed and more. I learned how to live on my own, I met my girlfriend, and I enjoyed all of my classes.

All of this continued into the spring of 2020. I was beginning to become more comfortable with my life in college and started to branch out. This was when I decided to apply to Onward State. After discovering a newfound enjoyment from my writing courses at Penn State, I chose to pursue this passion. I was immediately greeted by a group of awesome supportive folks, and I knew I made the right decision.

Everything was going swimmingly, but we all know this came to a screeching halt in March 2020 when the university closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t want to dwell on this too long since I know it affected everyone, but it’s still worth noting in my story. The pandemic essentially robbed me of the rest of my college career, including today. Yes, I went back to University Park, but it has been far from normal.

I’ve taken plenty of time to reflect on my life, and I’ve gone back and forth on how I feel. In one sense, I could choose to blame myself for all of this. Maybe if I applied myself more in high school and figured out how to control my mental health, then I could’ve had more than one-and-a-half semesters at University Park. Maybe I could’ve gotten more involved sooner and gotten more experience to put on my resume. Maybe I wouldn’t be struggling to find a job today.

Instead of looking at it this way, I am choosing to look at it in terms of fate. Put simply, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. My entire life is ahead of me, and I’m eager to see how it turns out. I have loving family and friends who are always here for me. If I had done some things differently earlier in my life, it’s possible I would’ve never met some of these people.

This is the way my life has played out, and it’s my favorite possible outcome.

I’d like to close out with a couple of thank yous to some important people. First off, I have to thank my family. My parents have been my biggest supporters throughout my life, and it’s such a privilege to have them here. They’ve somehow put up with all of my bullshit and they still love me, so that’s pretty amazing. In addition, my mother has served as my makeshift “adviser” throughout my time at Penn State, which I want to thank her for because I sure as hell wouldn’t have made it through school without her.

I’ll also say thank you to my father. When I was at Penn State York and he was working from home, he was essentially my best friend. Thank you for taking me to all of those Orioles games. Even though they lose most of the time, it’s still fun getting to hang out with you. I should also throw in a shoutout to my two older sisters, Carrie and Katie, for also putting up with me as a child. Even though you guys liked to bully me, I still love you both.

I’d like to thank some of my friends from high school and college, specifically Sofia, Bella, David, and Kiera, just to name a few. As a guy who doesn’t really like to branch out socially, I typically need someone to make the first move for me. You guys were willing to take me in when nobody else would. I seriously cannot thank you guys enough. You might not believe it, but you guys honestly saved my life.

I’d like to thank Anthony Colucci for taking a chance and hiring me to Onward State. Since this was my very first venture into the world of writing and journalism, I didn’t exactly have much experience going into it. I want to thank Matt DiSanto for continuing to lead Onward State throughout one of the strangest times in Penn State’s history. I also want to thank everybody on staff at Onward State for accepting me as one of your own and encouraging my weird behavior on Twitter.

Last but certainly not least, I’d like to thank my girlfriend Molly. Thank you for swiping right on the weird kid wearing a Hawaiian shirt on Hinge. Thank you for being brave enough to let me walk you home after our first date. Thank you for continuing to put up with my odd antics. Thank you for being willing to drive eight hours all the way from Cincinnati just to see me for one weekend because of a global pandemic. Thank you for dealing with all my flaws and helping me improve as a man. Thank you for going above and beyond to help me try and find a job in the times we’re in. Truly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for every single thing you do. I love you to the freaking moon and back, and I’m so excited for us to start our lives and future together.

I love every single one of you guys, and I cannot thank you enough for helping me become the person I am today.

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About the Author

Richard Smeltzer

Richard is a Penn State alumnus who majored in applied statistics. He is originally from York, Pennsylvania, and spent his first two years of college at Penn State York. Being from a family filled with Penn State alumni, he has been deeply ingrained in the culture. Growing up a Baltimore Orioles and Miami Dolphins fan, he has experienced many hardships throughout his life. You can find him screaming into the void about these teams, and much more, on Twitter @SecretRichardS. He can also be reached at [email protected].

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