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It’s Your Time: Michael Tauriello’s Senior Column

My oldest brother is a 2013 Penn State alum. He owned a mousepad for several years that he’d gotten from the university. On it was one of the most early-2010s-looking marketing campaigns I’ve ever seen, with a three-word headlining phrase: “It’s Your Time.”

It’s Your Time was a Penn State campaign used in the early 2010s to show students and prospective students that with your time at Penn State, the possibilities are endless. It might be cliché, it might be dated, and it might be is definitely cringy by today’s standards. Love it or hate it, I think it’s a good message.

At my high school in Maryland, I was a decent student and I was involved in a lot of different clubs. But the people I’d called my friends would get together without inviting me a lot. Hearing about it stung me every time. Colleges saw a fairly well-rounded student in the application I submitted, but I wasn’t happy with who or where I was. I came to Penn State looking to start fresh.

As soon as I set foot on campus, everything changed in just a couple of weeks.

Two days into college, I’d already gotten a group of friends that I keep in touch with to this day. I just heard noises out in the hall and investigated them. Finding them still may be one of the luckiest things that have ever happened to me. I felt like I was finally part of a group that cared.

On the other hand, engineering courses were a little bit of a shock. I had to study more, and I had to really focus on the details of the problems I was solving. It was difficult. Throw in the fact that many of my new friends were breezing through exams, and suddenly a feeling that I wasn’t in the right place had kicked in. My self-esteem was probably the lowest it had ever been at that point. My new friends still rooted for me, though, and that really kept me going.

When a pattern formed with these academic struggles, “It’s Your Time” first started to take a bit of a deeper meaning to me.

I wanted to spend my time in similar ways to my new friends so that I could stick around them as much as I could. That wasn’t working for me though, because trigonometric integrals took me a lot more time to understand than it did for the spring 2022 aerospace engineering student marshal. Go figure. Brian’s as smart as a whip, but I’m not Brian. I’m Michael. Once I finally got my head around that, things improved on the academic side of things for me. I’m not a perfect student by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve learned how to utilize my time in a way that works for me.

Now, let me tell you more about what happened to some kid that never got an A in elementary school art classes. Full disclosure, I was that kid.

I enrolled in a digital photography class in my freshman year of high school to fulfill the one art credit needed to graduate. Through the first two weeks, I hated it.

Within two years of starting, though, I was photographing for the school paper, talking to the county’s school superintendent about my work, being interviewed for the county’s TV channel (where I tried to intentionally lower my voice, thinking it’d make me sound older), and winning awards. Obviously, something changed along the way.

Everything after that digital photography class I took has been self-taught. Much of my personal art projects stem from the music I listen to and how different life events make me feel. Various industrial engineering processes are part of my everyday life these days, but in the off-hours, I frequently find myself working through a creative process of sorts.

Joining Onward State has allowed me to photograph sports I always enjoyed shooting like football and basketball, but it also expanded my horizons to sports I’d never thought about shooting. Softball, lacrosse, field hockey, any sport Onward State sends a writer to, I’ve shot them all at least once.

It didn’t stop at sports. 30-plus hours covering THON in 2020 and 2022, over two hundred graphics and edits in Photoshop, a handful of protests and marches around State College, and so much more. You name the type of event, I’ve tried it. The last thing that comes to mind that I’ve never photographed is the Mifflin Streak. I’ll cross that off on Sunday night. Some finale!

I knew that putting all this time into improving my work would eventually allow me to reach places that younger Michael couldn’t even fathom. The experiences that I had my sights on when I first joined Onward State were opportunities I knew I couldn’t pass up on the chance at.

The story about feeling the upper deck of Beaver Stadium shake seconds before I shot this White Out panorama shot and then running as fast as I could from the top to the bottom of the stadium is a story only a few people in the world can tell. I wanted to be one of those people. I’ve given photography and this blog a great deal of my time, and it’s given me stories and souvenirs that I’ll carry forever. It was worth it.

I’m happy with where I’m ending this leg of my photography journey, though. Let’s say I didn’t get any photo from KeAndre Lambert-Smith’s easy touchdown in the Outback Bowl – it’s safe to say I’d be kicking myself until my last breath.

As high of a height shooting that game was, I just can’t afford to live my life with the kind of stress where you, the beloved viewer at home, await quality photos within minutes of something happening. What if I don’t get the shot? Where does that leave you? I’ve realized that the higher the stakes in photojournalism, the louder those questions in my head grow. That said, I think now is the perfect time for me to call it a day.

Make no mistake: I’m not putting my camera down anytime soon. I’ve loved my time with the blog — whether I was a photographer, social media editor, or visual editor — but it’s just time for me to take that stress out of photography. There are better ways to spend your time than stressing so much over something that you call a hobby.

So, what’s my point? The goal of college, and arguably life itself, is to use your time efficiently in a way that makes you both successful and happy. How you spend it, though, is up to you. It’s your time.

You can procrastinate on your homework, or you can finish it early and study up for that second midterm worth 25% of your grade. It’s your time.

You can spend time with people that value your presence, or you can put yourself around people who pretend you’re not even there. It’s your time.

You can take a ride on a Spin bike at 2 a.m. You can bother KJ Hamler and Sean Clifford with the vacation photos you made showcasing their bromance. You can spend ARTH 100 lectures playing the original Super Smash Bros. on your laptop. You can even party all the time. It’s all up to you. It’s your time.

But if there’s one thing in the day you shouldn’t skip out on, it’s making yourself smile. Always take the time to do something to make yourself happy every day. Even if it’s the worst day of your life, go buy yourself some Oreos. Two packs of six, if you can. Take a walk to a spot you enjoy. Call a friend. Spending the time to care for yourself is always time well spent.

Any time I was unhappy in college, it was often the result of poor time management. I would then just step back, evaluate, and change what I was putting my time toward.

There’s a lot to pay attention to at Penn State. This university is a beautiful mix of everything. But you need to try to put the right amount of time towards the right things at the right moments. Life is always changing, so it can be very difficult to hit the bullseye. When you do, though, it can be extremely rewarding.

Life is an optimization problem. Everyone wants to find the best use of their own time in order to maximize something. Maybe it’s happiness, maybe it’s wealth, maybe it’s even one’s lifespan. It’s the quintessential theme of industrial engineering and operations research: We’re only here for so long. Don’t waste time – optimize it.

And when you’re running low on time and you’re on your last days, hours, or minutes, you may find yourself looking back. Maybe you’re grateful, or maybe you’re regretful. But if you can say that you did your best with how you spent your time, you can’t ask for much more.

I’m thankful that I can say that I did my best with how I spent my time.


And now, a list of thank-yous…

Firstly, to the second floor of McKee Hall from my freshman year – especially Aidan, Andre, Brian, JON WARNER, Michael C, John, Amelia, Erin, Mariajose, Waldo, and Liam: Thank you for being the best day ones a guy could ask for.

Anthony, Elissa, Steve, and Sniegs all had a hand in unlocking my creative potential with photography and graphic design, even after some of them had to witness me awkwardly shuffle into the basement of Irving’s and poorly contain my nerves through the Onward State interview. Thank you all!

When I first met Matt DiSanto, I’d been contributing to Onward State for about two or three months. He’d thought I was a junior! Well, I’m certainly glad I was a freshman at the time because he was, too. For the better part of four years, Matt’s seen me at both my highest points and my lowest points in college, and he’s always been there for me at the drop of a hat without question. Matt’s level of constant support is something I’ll cherish for the rest of time. Thank you for everything, Matt!

Erin Sullivan deserves a thank you, too. I wouldn’t be doing Popeyes Timeout justice if I shouted only Matt out. Few people can make me smile at one point in every single conversation I have with them, and Erin is surely in that group. She’s also really smart – she developed the COVID-19 vaccine all by herself. Yes, that’s true. Don’t look it up. Also, we’ve agreed to share an Adobe photography plan after college. Thank you for being hilarious and helping me cut costs, Erin!

To Onward Staters, past and present, thank you all. It’s been an honor to work alongside each one of you. It’s not easy to ask a team of folks as talented as you all to pump out content with such a great deal of quality week in and week out, but you do it every day anyway without much hassle. I can’t wait to see how the blog evolves in the future – especially the visual team!

To my siblings – Dad told me a few weeks before I first left for college that I wouldn’t be able to hang out as much with you three when school ramped up. Well, he was kind of right. Oh well. I’m thankful that I was still able to pop into a Discord call with you every now and then and spend time with you, even if I couldn’t stay long. You were still, and always will be, good company I can always count on. Love you all!

Tauriello Wiffleball Batting Practice, June 2020

To my parents – thank you for fueling my ambitions from the start. Whether it was me wanting to become an architect at first just because I’d been playing Minecraft in 7th grade, or if it was me wanting to spend weekends photographing sports, you were there with your support. None of this would’ve been possible without your help. I love you, and I’ll see you in a week!

And to you! The beloved viewer at home! If you know me but you aren’t one of the folks listed above, thank you, too. I hope you know that you matter to me and that you also had an impact on my journey at some point in time.

And if you don’t know me, well, thanks for taking the time out of your day to read about this journey of mine. That’s time you’ll never get back, and I’m thankful you spent it on me!


I hope I’ve made you think today. Maybe I’ve made you smile, too. If I didn’t do either, well, here’s my go-to joke before I go:

What’s the difference between a well-dressed man on a bicycle and a poorly-dressed man on a tricycle?

Attire.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s my time!

🫂

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About the Author

Michael Tauriello

Michael graduated with a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering in May 2022. He served as a photographer, social media editor, and visual editor over the course of seven semesters. If you want to know what he's up to these days, shoot him an email at [email protected] or take a look at @michaelt._ on Instagram.

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