I’M SAM: Sam Fremin’s Senior Column

The last time I cried over sports was in high school. Playing as a freshman goalkeeper for my school’s soccer team, I allowed four goals in the first half. I felt the weight of our deficit on my shoulders and just wanted it to end.

Eight years later, I cried over sports because I didn’t want it to end.

After I wrote my final sidebar from the Beaver Stadium press box, I took our secret exit into the stands and — for the first time all year — sat in the student section, though it was empty. I sat, partially illuminated by the enormous video boards, and reflected on such a unique college football season.

I came home and sobbed. My poor girlfriend tried comforting me with reminders of the upcoming bowl game (an unknown destination at the time), jokes about my newly open schedule, and suggestions to change out of my dress clothes and into pajamas.

In my head, I had a counter for everything. Although fun, the bowl game would not be the same as my Beaver Stadium stomping grounds. More time in my schedule was good, but I enjoyed my work covering football. And swapping outfits felt too final, even though I logically knew I had to change at some point.

As I wallowed against my bedroom wall, I ruminated on the fact I may never have an experience as incredible as being on Onward State’s football beat.

Of course, that was demonstrably false. Just a few short months later, I had covered both the 2023 Rose Bowl and Super Bowl LVII with different groups.

This emotional pattern has struck me countless times before. I felt this way leaving elementary school, knowing our community’s zoning split my friends and I at two different middle schools. I felt this way leaving seventh grade, switching middle schools away from the most impactful mentor I’ve ever had. I felt this way entering 10th grade, seeing my transfer request rejected. I felt this way graduating high school, moving to a university where I had no built-in social options or academic plan.

In all of those scenarios, I stepped out of a comfortable situation, entered an uncomfortable one, and came out better than I originally was. Despite that, I have refused to learn my lesson.

I’m not here to give you advice. I have none to offer. I’m also not here to regurgitate cliches about comfort zones.

This is about my unhealthy relationship with time.

Over the last couple of days — weeks perhaps — I have been ardently pretending that graduation is not rapidly approaching to the best of my ability. I’ve shortchanged goodbyes and avoided creating a college bucket list, strictly to ignore the massive change looming over me.

It’s not working.

In less than four days, I will no longer be a student at Penn State. Ninety-six hours is not a lot of time, and I am fully cognizant of that fact, believe me. This realization poses a question: how can we reconcile with the passage of time?

You’re not going to find the answer from me. Remember, this is not an advice column. In fact, I’m not really sure what this is. A cathartic reflection on four of my most impactful years? An artificial milestone? A way to organize all my collegiate experiences in one place? An exercise of indulgence and vanity?

Maybe it’s all of those things. Maybe it’s none of them. I told you, I have no idea.

But, I can also tell you this:

I have lived in the same on-campus residence through my sophomore, junior, and senior years: 1104 Nittany Apartments.

One of the aspects of our apartment that makes it unique is its location — right on the intersection of Pollock and Bigler. With my bedroom window facing the street, our apartment’s location offers a world of comedic potential. Upon moving in, that opportunity was not lost on me, and after weighing a number of options, I decided what to do.

The sentence “I’M SAM” spoke to me. The idea of an unprompted and contextless introduction coming from my window made makes me laugh. It still amuses me to hear people walk by my window and wonder out loud who “SAM” is.

“I’M SAM” has been emblazoned on my window for three years now. The words have remained the same, but the message has not — nor even has the joke.

When I put those sticky notes on my window, “SAM” was an international politics major. Since then, I have shifted from international politics to political science and added journalism as a second major. “SAM” gained and lost friends. “SAM” gained and lost interests. “SAM” gained and lost skills.

I’ve been “SAM” this whole time, but what that’s meant has changed. I’m both an entirely different person and the same one I have always been.

Now, I laugh at my sticky notes because they’ve been a minor landmark for passersby. My commitment to this C-tier joke has forced three different sets of downstairs neighbors to have strangers squinting at the windows. They’ve been one of the few constants during such a rollercoaster period of my life.

They’re the last things I’ll take down when I pack up my room. That’s when I know it’ll be over.

Still, I’m not stupid. I know I will continue to be “SAM” when these sticky notes come down. I just don’t know when I’ll put them back up again — and what the message will be when I do.

Maybe if I could just peak, my life would be easier. I’m thankful for all the wonderful humans I continue to meet that ensure I never do, but you sure do make it hard.

You have my word that I will try my hardest to keep these thoughts in mind, but please don’t make me put on my pajamas yet. That time is coming. I just want to sleep in my dress clothes for a few more days, if that’s OK.

As much as it sucks, it’ll be worth it. Just wait for the message I put on my window when I wake up.

To Matt DiSanto, Will Pegler, and Ryen Gailey: Thank you for your guidance, as I slowly became accustomed to Onward State. Earning your praise always gave me a boost and made me want to contribute even more to the team. I’m shy and probably did not project this while you were here, but I felt very at home working for the blog.

To Gabe Angieri, Ryan Parsons, Frankie Marzano, and Mikey DeAngelis: We’re the dream team, man. I know covering football would’ve been memorable regardless of who I was with, but doing it with you four made it an adventure. In different ways, you have all pushed me to be a better (funnier) writer and ultimately a better friend. It’s truly a shame we can’t do this forever.

To my high school classmate, who warned me double majoring and double minoring would be hard: I added a certificate on top of it, motherfucker. Thanks for the advice.

To H: I will never not regret how our story ended. I think about you every day. My involvement in theatre all through college has been dedicated to you, even before you left. I’m proud of each and every one of my performances and productions. Hopefully you are too. I like to imagine you smiling at some of the very obvious tributes that go over the heads of people who never knew you. My keys have never been heavier, and I will only keep adding on.

To Jason: You are the best mentor and friend I have ever had. I would certainly not be the person I am today without your influence. No number of birthday or Christmas gifts will ever equal the contributions you’ve made to me. You showed me how much fun work can be. But you have also been an absurdly consistent presence in my life, even when I’m too distracted to hold up my end of the bargain. In case there was still any confusion, you’re part of the family.

To Daniel, Zach, Hunter, and Texas Sam: Life in 1104 has been amazing. I never really bought the talk about college becoming a second home, but it’s gonna be hard to move out. I’ll miss wasting fall Sundays watching football we don’t care about. I’ll miss aimlessly watching “Family Guy” on weeknights, dreading the homework we’re avoiding. I’ll miss the Pollock lunch dates where we ate mugs full of sprinkles and marshmallows for some reason, even though we hated every bite.

To Sam and Kathleen: Thank you for being the best girlfriend and girl-friend a guy could ever ask for (I’m already giggling, imagining your annoyed reactions to that phrasing). Wednesday movie nights are sacred to me, and I can’t believe we’ve managed to keep this up for three years. How you’ve been so tirelessly welcoming is baffling to me. Thanks for taking me in. I may be inconsolable as we watch “Boyhood” tomorrow, but it’s all been worth it.

To Ben: You are easily the cooler sibling. I am so proud of you and brag about you all the time. Selfishly, I am disappointed you leave for college early. You’re on to bigger and better things, but I hope that you’ll always value playing Madden and Clones, seeing your room completely destroyed, and getting beat up in the passenger seat (with no recourse, as it’s dangerous to distract a driver). Home won’t be the same without you.

To my parents: Thank you for endlessly supporting me. I don’t mean that in a throwaway sense. You both have encouraged me to pursue anything that interests me. Many kids aren’t that lucky. You spoiled me, but somehow did it without letting me become spoiled. I cannot accurately express how much I love you and wish there was a way I could ever repay you. Truly the perfect parents.

I’ve always been proud to be a member of Onward State’s staff. It’s crazy that will no longer be the case by the time this is posted.

In less than two years, I’ve penned 370 stories about all kinds of things. And scrolling through my author page, I could tell you where I was when I wrote every single one of them. I loved refreshing our site and seeing my new stories populate the home page. The novelty never wore off.

It still hasn’t hit that I will never do that again.

Hopefully I’ve been a kingfisher among crows. I tried my hardest to leave my mark.

— “SAM”

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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