Making Up For Lost Time: Adam Babetski’s Senior Column
If the featured image didn’t already make it obvious, this will not be a tear-jerker.
I’m not going to try to make you cry. Life’s too short to bawl over a blog post from a college student you probably don’t know. That would be weird.
The working title for this column was “Onwards And Upwards.” Pretty fitting, I thought. Then, I took a look in our archives and discovered that several graduating seniors had used this phrase. I guess I’m not very original, but you’ve got my pinky-promise that I won’t trot out “when I was a wide-eyed freshman living in [insert dorm]” at any point in here.
I love to write, but I don’t love to write about myself. I’ve always found it hard for some reason. I can ramble at-length about pretty much anything you put in front of me, but there’s something uniquely daunting about opening up a blank Google Doc and typing about myself. I think it’s because I’m under some pressure to be honest with you.
I will tell you that a few things have always held me back. I overthink like crazy. I break down situations, no matter how meaningless they are, like some kind of Game of Thrones-style spider’s web. That’s fairly helpful for being a journalist, but it’s not great outside of that! I’ve had a massive, crushing amount of anxiety for the last several months for all sorts of reasons.
I’ve always had a persistent feeling that I’m not good enough. This was exacerbated at the end of my freshman year when everything shut down. It was just me and my thoughts at their absolute worst. I lived in a shoebox of a room in Eastview Terrace during my sophomore year with basically zero social interaction. I’m an extrovert. You could imagine how hard that was, or maybe you’re like me and don’t need to.
I didn’t want to mention that time in this article, but I said I would be honest and it has motivated everything I’ve done since then. I was upset, but I was also pissed. I told myself that, the second I got the chance, I would approach every day like I lost a year.
I applied to join Onward State at the start of my junior year, in the fall of 2021. True to my word, I had spent my “Sylly Week” that year covering the Little League World Series for the Associated Press. I had never even thought about applying to OS before because I had convinced myself that I simply couldn’t hang. When I sent my application in, I seriously thought I could successfully juggle four different clubs and an internship at the same time. In my mind, I would have failed if I didn’t.
The first post I ever wrote got sent back to me because it wasn’t even 100 words long. I was scared that I would screw up, so much so that it stopped me from doing the very thing I was on staff to do. I fixed it, added a few more sentences, and there it was, a post that thousands of people would read.
One hundred and fourteen articles later, here I am.
I put in some effort during my time here. I had a chat with a guy who casually told me about an exorcism he attended and how he saw blood coming out of the walls. I talked to a TikTok metal detectorist and sorority girls who love mullets, and I almost got crucified by a Facebook group.
I applied to be an editor before my senior year, and I was denied. I got feedback on how to improve. I worked harder than ever. I wrote about shrunken heads. I penned a letter to the Henderson Building’s front door. I covered concerts, dutifully noting every time the performers said the words “fuck” or “shit” because I only cover hard-hitting news, and because sometimes they made it almost too easy. Our managing editor, Gabe Angieri, gave me his generous permission to investigate some of Penn State’s resident “Scooby-Doo” villains, better known as secret society members.
I applied to be an editor a second time and got it. That’s progress.
During that time, I picked up three more internships. I worked 32 hours worth of THON shifts on a weekend because I wanted to do it For The Blog. My medieval history minor turned into a second major, and I’m graduating at the top of my class (wow!). I toured the highlands of Scotland and ate sheep guts last March. I interviewed the Estonian prime minister and ate bear guts this March. I laughed, I cried, and I barfed. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I haven’t gotten the chance to write about everything I wanted to write about while I was still on campus. There’s only so much sand in an hourglass, after all. This next section is a mix of story ideas and whatever “wisdom” a 21-year-old can offer.
- The person who said that “college is the best four years of your life” missed the entire point of going to college. I can’t tell you how often I hear people repeat that quote as if it’s worth admiring. I don’t want to be hard on them, though, because I get where they’re coming from. I just think it’s counterproductive since it’s something you’d expect to hear from a reminiscing retiree instead of a young person.
- College, in my eyes, is a launching pad. It sets you up to be great as long as you use your time here for the right things, but it’s not supposed to be the payoff. It’s true that I’ve had a blast here, learned a lot, and met my best friends, but I wouldn’t want to peak in State College and ride a steady downhill slope for the rest of my life.
- We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get everything right the first time. College is a place where people try new things. Most end up better for it, but make sure that you’re still authentically you. Do everything you can to get the most out of your experience here, but if you don’t, you can always turn it around. Your “best four years” might happen decades from now.
- Explore State College. You’re on a campus steeped in tradition that is over a century old, and you never know what you’ll come across. There’s a tree on the left side of Old Main that was planted in 1860 and survived when the original building burned down. What the hell?
- If you never take a look around, you’ll never notice gems like the “artificial insemination” sign outside of Borland, or the uncanny-valley taxidermied animals in the Forest Resources Building. Who knows, maybe one of you will discover where they’re hiding the JoePa statue and end Onward State’s longest-running April Fool’s joke.
- Take your head out of your phone! This goes hand-in-hand with the point above. Firstly, it’s a public nuisance. It’s sort of unsettling to see people roving around campus with no spatial awareness. Picture a spring day: the birds are chirping, the sun is shining (let’s be real, it probably isn’t), and there you are, scrolling through Snap stories as you cross Curtin and walk face-first into a stop sign. Take it as a stop sign from God.
- Secondly, and I’m going to try not to sound like a grumpy old man here: there are close to 50,000 real, live people your age on this campus that you can just walk up to and chat with. I promise you that Snapchat, Instagram, or whatever is popular in 20 years doesn’t fucking matter. You’ll probably only be this close to your friends once — don’t waste that!
- You’re not only going to college for the classes (if you’re a parent, look away!). Your friends and social life are just as important, if not more so. That’s where you’ll learn how to be a better person, and, eventually, act like an adult.
- Apply places. There’s some student org you’ve been putting off applying to? Take the shot. Apply to join Onward State the second you think you should. Don’t make the same mistake I did. The worst we can say is “no,” and you can take that. Rejection, crappy as it is, builds character.
- Don’t drink Crown Russe. No, I don’t care if you’re a freshman. And if you find yourself drinking Crown Russe for whatever reason, don’t mix it with a Four Loko. You know who you are.
Now, I want to talk about this site more broadly. OS is the largest student-run media outlet in the world. There are even stats to back that up. That would be incredible by itself, if not for the fact that The Blog isn’t even 15 years old at the time I’m writing this.
While I don’t find that surprising since Penn State has a huge alumni base, I can’t think of a better college experience for an upcoming journalist. People will read what you write, by the thousands. You will get shit for getting the facts wrong or just for hurting someone’s feelings. On the flip side, you’ll make someone’s day or inspire real change. There’s value in that, especially for someone just getting their feet wet.
Another thing that makes this blog special is that not everyone here wants to be a journalist. We’ve got STEM majors who do so much for us that it sort of mystifies me. I don’t think that this site would be able to operate the way it does without their selfless contributions. In short, this is a tremendously hard-working staff that justifies how we always want to capitalize “The Blog.” We may be snarky, that’s fair, but this blog has a soul. You can’t teach the level of dedication that this staff puts in week in and week out. Christ, I sound like a minor-league baseball coach.
Nearly all of my close friends work for Onward State in some capacity. We’ve got serious depth here. There’s no group of people I’d rather scarf down hot dogs with at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. There’s also no group of people better equipped to humble the Collegian at dodgeball. You were all on fire this year, just like a certain publication was on a sidewalk downtown that Friday night.
Here are some people I would like to thank:
- Gabe Angieri, for giving me a chance, and for writing the infamous “Cocktagon” article. You’ll get your roses for that Pulitzer candidate next week. #ThankYouGabe
- Frankie Marzano, Tobey Prime, and Devon Craley, for being some of my best friends.
- John Affleck, Benjamin Hudson, and Katie O’Toole, for being some of my favorite professors and making a difference for me.
- Colleen Nersten, for vouching for me and making me a better writer. I’ll miss our Slack discussions about the OS stylebook, and yes, I really do have a row of sticky notes on top of my desk with your pointers scribbled on them.
- Teagan Staudenmeier, for taking my grad pictures, one of which is gracing the top of this page! That’s one hell of a final photo credit.
- My parents and my sister Francesca, not only for being supportive but because if I didn’t include them I’d never hear the end of it. Hi, mom!
- Grilled Stickies, for being the best ice cream flavor at the Creamery by a wide margin. It’s criminal that Death By Chocolate keeps winning the “Flavor Madness” bracket, and I think you all are casuals. For the record: I don’t remember what I’m eating in my bio picture, but it’s not that.
And there you have it: over 2,000 words about a college blog.
So, did I make up for lost time, and am I satisfied with what I’ve done? The tense of the title of this article gives it away.
I’ll be going to Chicago in June, where I’ll be earning a master’s degree in investigative journalism from Northwestern. I’ll take what I learned here with me.
I totally won’t be scouting out the best deep-dish pizza places.
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