With Zest: Colleen Nersten’s Senior Column

The best gift I ever received was a commercial-grade juicer.

On paper, I am from York, Pennsylvania, but my identity lies in the great state of Maryland. In other words, the citrus nectar of the gods pumps through my veins the first day the temperature reaches 60 degrees.

OK, that’s dramatic, but I just love an orange crush. It’s a wonderful beverage made of fresh orange juice, triple sec, vodka, and Sprite.

It reminds me of the little moments at home: summers spent at the Warfield’s Watering Hole with my best friends, Maddy and Brooke, or the time I tried my first crush at the Crabcake Factory with my mom and sister before it poured rain on our walk home.

On my 22nd birthday, I was gifted an unnaturally large and heavy box. We’re no strangers to pranking, so I fully thought it was filled with bricks. Instead, it was a vibrant, glossy, traffic cone-colored machine — my very own Orange Crush Machine.

This juicer will be a staple appliance in my kitchen throughout my life. During the fall semester, I debuted my special machine at an Onward State pregame, now dubbed Crush Night. I labored over the counter in my tiny kitchen, making crushes for all my friends who happen to be the most creative and passionate people I know.

Unless you’re me, life is never going to hand you oranges to make orange crushes, but there’s an even greater lesson to take away from that spherical little fruit: Approach life with zest.

Oranges, like all citrus, have an oily rind that can be shaved to increase flavor in cooking: the zest. These strands are tangy and sharp and unlock another dimension to your meal. If all it takes is a pinch of shaved orange peel to brighten up a dish, we might as well add zest to the very life that we live.

I have a tendency to take things too seriously, but those zestful individuals who crowded my kitchen during Orange Crush Night have rubbed off on me. That metaphorical orange rind now lathers my soul the same way I coat myself in CeraVe moisturizing lotion each morning.

With zest.

Onward State has defined my four years at Penn State, and my passion for it grew every month. Seriousness and zest can coexist. In fact, the combination of the two has made me energetic, inventive, and distinctly me.

Admittedly, I was borderline obsessed with this blog. I couldn’t turn my brain off for the past year. Is that a story? Do people still find us funny? Why are we doing this without being fairly compensated? Rinse. Repeat. 

I wish I was kidding, but any free minute I had was spent refreshing Twitter and trying to get a scoop. 

However, if you care so much about something, it’s never a job. As a biology major with no intention of pursuing “journalism,” I considered my time spent doing Onward State tasks a vacation from work. That’s not fair, though. It is work. Hard work. A full-time job for a select few. But day in and day out, we had so much damn fun.

As I wrote posts, edited recaps, and hijacked the media library, I learned to do it with gusto. As I enter the next chapter of my life, I will do that with zest, too. Will you?

Heed this warning.

The anatomy of an orange is surprisingly complex. If you push too hard and overdo the zest, you move from the flavedo to the white albedo, which will overwhelm your creation with bitterness.

From experience, there’s a thin line between being enthusiastic and being a bitter asshole. Do not push too hard and become a pedant. Instead, be fierce but playful, encouraging, and a leader.

Nobody actually wants advice from me, so I will leave you with the only correct orange crush recipe as my parting words with this blog.

  • One fresh-squeezed orange
  • One shot of Smirnoff orange vodka
  • One shot of triple sec
  • A splash of lemon-lime soda

You can make substitutions, but the orange must be fresh-squeezed. Garnish with zest.

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About the Author

Colleen Nersten

Colleen is a washed-up biology grad and former associate editor. Her legacy will live on through stories like “10 Questions With State College Sensation ‘Hot UPS Bae’”. If you’re a STEM girlie, this is your sign to take the leap of faith and learn to write. It’s pretty fun. Colleen misses the hate mail and can be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

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