A Series Of Stepping Stones: Charles Reinert’s Senior Column
Well, here we are.
I know it’s a bit stereotypical, but this is a day I’ve been waiting for for a long time: The day I finally graduate from Penn State University. I am a born and raised Penn State guy, and this school and its identity have been a part of me ever since I can remember. My father is an alum, and so are a number of my family members. From the moment I was born, I was dressed in Penn State clothes and taught to love Dear Old State. From the moment I took my first trip to State College as a wide-eyed 5-year-old boy, I knew I wanted to come here.
It was not always an easy road for me. I struggled in school a lot growing up. Whether it was my grades or getting in trouble, it was always something (you can ask my mother). But I knew in my heart that graduating from here was my ultimate goal in life. I would listen to the Penn State alma mater on nights when it felt like the world was collapsing around me. I would watch video after video of people walking around campus. Each time I saw anything from campus, I just had my gut feeling that this is where I belong. When I graduated high school, I didn’t see it as the end of a chapter in my life. I saw it as a stepping stone to my ultimate goal.
My life has been full of these stepping stones. During high school, I had horrible days of depression and anxiety, and this light at the end of the tunnel that was coming to school here is what kept me going some days. It sounds, cheesy, but it’s true. After I graduated from high school, I went to a Penn State satellite campus for two years — yet another stepping stone. These two years were very strange, but I know they were necessary in order for me to fulfill my ultimate goal. But these were nothing compared to the biggest stepping stone that was yet to come.
The spring semester in 2020 is something even people around my age will never forget for the rest of their lives. I remember it vividly. I was sitting in my BISCI 3 class in the Rydal Building at Penn State Abington. I was a bit early to class that day with only a handful of other students there. A student walked in and just flat out said it: “There’s rumors that they’re going to close campus because of that disease in Asia.”
That entire summer, I prayed to God, Buddha, Morgan Freeman, and anything holy that I would have a normal experience in State College. That, obviously, did not happen, but that didn’t stop me from grabbing the bull by the horns. I knew, regardless of COVID-19, I only had two years to make the most of my time here, and I had to make the biggest fucking pint of lemonade I could and use what was given to me. So what did I do? I dove headfirst into the deep end. I joined numerous clubs here in Happy Valley, including Penn State Sports Night, PSN News, and this silly little blog called Onward State. These were some of the best decisions ever made.
The friends I have made here are some that will be at my wedding one day, and I have made memories that will last a lifetime with companions I will carry with me wherever I go. To all the people who helped shape me into the man I am today, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
As for Onward State, this blog has given me so much. Things I can’t even put into words. It helped me grow as a writer, as a student, and as a friend. Some of my best college memories stem from this blog. From walking to every building with my fellow staffer and friend Tobey Prime to covering THON over Zoom my junior year to eating those disgusting sandwiches from the Willard vending machine. To this blog and to all the smiling faces that greeted me every Sunday in Carnegie Cinema, I thank you.
So, you may be asking yourself, “If graduating from Penn State was your big goal in life, what’s next for you?”
Honestly, I have no idea, and I see that as a good thing.
If there’s anything these years taught me, it’s to embrace the unknown. Nothing in life has ever come from something easy or something certain. It is the struggle to overcome our obstacles that makes us who we are. Each day is a new opportunity to do things differently from yesterday. Embrace it! You’ll often find yourself in a better place when you make it to the other side.
On To Tomorrow!
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