If anything, I’d call my college career a spiral.
I started with the idealism of a first-generation college student ready for something new. It didn’t take long for my many interests to become commitments, which in turn became too much to handle. It didn’t take long for life’s challenges to catch up, often leaving me frustrated or anxious and, mostly, alone, grieving something I couldn’t quite name or understand.
The truth is, I spent too much of my time worried about “what’s next?” I ruminated over project ideas, jumped into internships and new teams and filled up my schedule until I had no freedom.
This has become my greatest regret.
Spending more time with friends and meeting the people around me should have also been a priority—not just for work, but because doing so is what makes the work worth it.
At the end of my four years, I’m left pondering the parts that I’ve missed. Not totally, thankfully, but the parts that took a pandemic at the very end of my time here to finally embrace.
I’ve made time in the last year for the things that really count. Running off to walk around Province Park to clear my head instead of studying for another hour. Dancing and singing, in my apartment and in my daily commutes to campus. Reconnecting with the people in my life who matter, even with hundreds of unanswered messages on my phone.
I’ve realized at the end of this strange journey I’m defined not by the accomplishments, but by the people who transformed me. The professors—John Krull, Ryan Gunterman, Joel Cramer, Ray Begovich, Hank Nuwer, Randall Smith, Alli Fetter-Harrott, George Phillips, Lourdes Hurtado and countless others—who guided me to become my best self. Incomparable women leaders, including editors Janet Williams and Colleen Steffen and chaplain Hannah Adams Ingram, who showed me how to embrace joy and recognize my worth in all contexts.
But most significant to my journey, I now realize, were my peers. It’s Ashley Shuler asking me about life and pushing my writing, even though she was a senior on her way out (and cooler than me by every measure). It’s Shelby Thomas encouraging me to take myself less seriously, to see the good in the world more than the bad and to appreciate others. It’s Emily Ketterer dreaming and joking with me long into the night in Shirk Hall, and editing each other in the Statehouse shack, and letting me cry, and being my rock when I was away in Japan during some of the biggest breaking news in FC history.
Everyone you meet in college touches you. And the more I’ve grown, the more enamored I’ve become with the sheer goodness of the people in my life, and how that goodness was shared with me when I often didn’t deserve it. I’ll remember for the rest of my days Carolina Puga Mendoza’s wit (and weird drawings); the quiet confidence of Hope Shrum; Taylor Wooten’s kind authenticity; Victoria Ratliff’s contagious boldness; Alexa Shrake’s resilience; Sydney Byerly’s measureless optimism; the creative vision of Emily Hales and Tabby Fitzgerald; Ariana Lovitt’s unending willingness to learn; and so many others.
It’s through companionship and smiles and often, grace, from people like this that I realize: Yes, life will be okay—and although living is hard, we’ll be better having experienced it. Together.
How else should we grow? It’s with boundless joy and gratitude and community that ensure we survive these four years.
And then, at the end, we come to a crossing. We see ourselves on the other side. A better, wiser, and happier version of who we want to be—and now, who we are.
I’m walking side by side with her now.