Noodle Connoisseur: Marie Moyer’s Senior Column

My past four years of college have been quite exciting to say the least. So, as I sit in the Willard fishbowl room, I am faced with the daunting task of condensing my formative young adult years into an Onward State article. If you ask any of my instructors or close friends, my column’s main idea has moved from a therapeutic venting session to a feel-good Penn State tell-all to a wisdom-filled novel for incoming first-years. By the end of this article, I hope to have written a little bit of everything.

To start, some background about me.

I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a jack of all trades and a master of none. Growing up, I tended to ping-pong around to different clubs. Ice skating, theatre, jazz band, anything. I packed my schedule with a wide array of activities just to end up dropping them months later out of fear of commitment.

It’s not that I wasn’t good or I disliked the activity (except track… I was horrible at track), I just didn’t want to limit my schedule from new experiences. I settled on being an “artsy kid,” flocking around art club, musical theatre, and choir. However, even within my niche, I never settled on one hobby. Don’t even get me started on my unfinished craft bin filled to the brim with beads, yarn, and scrap fabric.

It seems like starting from elementary school, students are encouraged not to float around. Free-ranged childhoods are being swapped for travel sports and intensive gifted programs with rigorous long-term schedules.

This “on-the-grind” mindset intimidated me and set a precedent that not being able to pick a passion is an act of laziness. While all my friends seemed to have a straightforward four-year plan leaving high school, I was entering Penn State undecided and ashamed.

While I was figuring out my high school senior quote, my mom put a word to my chronic try-everything mentality.

“You just gotta noodle around a little bit,” she said.

A new perspective on growing up, the idea of noodling helped ease my fears of having to find my purpose at the ripe old age of 18.

This brings me to the present as I look back at my collegiate career. Throughout every semester, I noodled frequently, and it’s safe to say I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without the courage to noodle around.

Academically, I didn’t settle on my major until the fall of my third year. I focused on collecting my gen eds first, with one or two “intro to” classes thrown in to get a taste of a certain major. I started in DUS, then English while dabbling in journalism classes, anthropology, communication arts and sciences, back to English with a stint as a graphic design minor, then finally returning to my true love: journalism. Unsurprisingly, it took me another year to choose broadcast, specifically.

It was commonplace in my second year for people to show some concern for my unclear goal as both my friends and even drunk strangers at parties said “you really need to figure that out.”

A specific memory I have regarding my classes was when I made the final decision to fully join the Bellisario College of Communications. I was in a meeting with Jamey Perry, the dean of advising for the college, recounting my academic exploits as a collegiate nomad when Jamey looked up from my LionPath account of his computer, stared me in the eyes, and teased, “Oh, Marie, you’re so silly,” with a soft smile on his face.

Despite this ultimate choice feeling extremely final (I could have been the next Jane Goodall for all you know), I’m so thankful I stayed. Without the college, I wouldn’t have been able to meet some of my closest friends and mentors.

Speaking of friends, I’m happy to report that the story of how I gained them is just as colorful and spontaneous as my academic history of noodling. Entering freshman year, I made the most of the COVID-19 years, meeting some life-long companions from the one and only Beaver fifth floor. But following a tumultuous second semester (big friend groups have their flaws), I was left feeling lonely and jaded. That summer I decided I had to make a change — no keeping all my eggs in a fragile basket.

Throughout the next three years, I took numerous leaps of faith in my social life in hopes of growing my circle. I started with rushing a sorority by myself in my second year and ended up joining Sigma Sigma Sigma. I roomed with a whole new floor of strangers and a brand new roommate (hi, Catey).

In my third year, I tried out a handful of student orgs, landing on Onward State and World in Conversation. In my final year here, I applied, interviewed, and got accepted into the Centre County Report.

Sometimes I always felt like the new kid, joining a fully formed group or class of strangers by myself with only my dry humor and habit of mentioning pop-culture facts as my crutch. Luckily, I think people saw something in me they liked (or at least found amusing), and my circle started to bloom. In the hope of noodling around to find a new group of people who would at least put up with me, I came out rich with so many kind, caring, and hilarious people I’m so lucky to call my friends. I recently had my 22nd birthday and was honestly in shock of how many people were happy to come and celebrate my special day.

While I’m in a sentimental mood, here are some people in my life I want to especially want to highlight as my support system. Without them, my life would be boring and humorless.

Maya, it’s truly fate for us to be put on the same floor our first year. I have never met someone so warm-hearted and genuine, and I strive to be even a fraction as kind and compassionate as you are. Every memory I have of us is truly the feeling of girlhood, and I know we have so many more adventures together in the future.

Alex, if anyone ever says the sororities don’t work, I’m pointing to you. I’m so thankful I met you. You’re the best best-friend and co-chair a girl could ever ask for. You taught me to be unapologetically me, and I honestly don’t think I’d stand up for myself as often if it wasn’t for you. From South Commons to the Waffle Shop to wherever life brings us next, I’ll always brunch with you.

John, can you believe we’ve known each other for 20 years? Even though we’re running on different schedules, I can count on you to be my voice of reason and musical duet partner. I don’t know anyone who gets me more than you and you’re always down for whatever scheme I’m brewing. Thank you for all the road trips and summer hangs. I can’t wait to graduate with you again.

Derek, thank you for being my rock and forever cheerleader. You have seen me at my worst and remained patient and understanding. I can’t imagine how I would be without knowing you and you truly changed my life. You are one of my best friends and teach me new things every day.

To Jamey Perry, Nikki DiOrio, Brian Shoenfelt, and Steve Kraycik, thank you all for helping me navigate my path to journalism. All of you are the gold standards of advisors and instructors. The passion you all have for your students to succeed is truly inspiring and rivals that of iconic movie teachers like John Keating (Dead Poet’s Society), Jaime Escalante (Stand and Deliver), and Dewey Finn (School of Rock). Penn State is lucky to have you on its team.

To my parents, thank you for giving me the opportunity to go to such an amazing university. You have supported my noodling and helped me trust the process of life. Thank you for being supportive of my dreams and aspirations and introducing me to Penn State in the first place.

To Onward State, thank you for giving me a place to hone my craft. Through it, I fell in love with print and learned the importance of journalism. A catalyst for finding my passion, Onward State was the first time where I paused and thought, “I really like doing this, and I want to do this for a living.” I can’t imagine a better organization, and I’m just lucky to be a part of Penn State history.

As I sign off my column, I want to push the importance of noodling around. It’s OK to not have a plan and to just try new things. Make the most of what you’re given and don’t be afraid to fail. In the best case, you gain a new passion, friend, or outlook on life. In the worst case, you learn something about yourself and what you don’t like. Stop comparing yourself to others and allow yourself to soak life in.

Just think of it this way, noodles come in all shapes, sauces, broths, cultures, and gluten levels. Just because you don’t like how one combination tastes, it doesn’t mean you have to get a whole bowl.

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About the Author

Marie Moyer

Marie is a fourth-year student majoring in journalism and minoring in sociology. She loves being fiscally irresponsible at local farmers markets, watching niche documentaries on HBO, and going to Penn State hockey games as "self-care." You can reach her on Instagram - @_mariemoyer_ or send her suggestions (and cat photos) via her email - [email protected].

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