I don’t quite know who I’m writing this to. Maybe it’s for me. I’m not sure. I’ve been thinking, as I’ve concluded my thesis work in my childhood home, about how badly I wanted to go to college. It seemed like I was watching the world around me move into these respected fields of math and science as I graduated high school. My friends were off to chase the dreams they’d had since childhood – to become teachers or athletes in the Ivy League, to study film in other countries. I just wanted to go some place and learn. Members of my family have said things to me like “god, you’re going to be a student forever.” The truth is that if I could do that, I would. Knowing things and understanding the way I see the world have been two of my favorite things about going through life. College was going to emphasize that for me.
I had a few friends who rolled their eyes at me a lot because I could never settle on who I wanted to be when I grew up, or whatever. One friend even joked with me over text once that I hadn’t changed my prospective career in an entire year and that that was something to celebrate. I was, like, 17 years old. I came to college looking to get a degree in English Literature. I fell in love with creative writing in high school because I had a great teacher who made sure I did the work for what I wanted. I had a passion for debate. It seemed like I could go to college, get an English degree, and go to law school or maybe teach if that wasn’t what I wanted. As it turned out, I didn’t want either of those things. In a panic, on my summer orientation day, rather than sign up for a slate of English classes for the fall, I switched into the Department of Media and Communications. I have never regretted that for a moment.
I went to London in the spring of my freshman year, and I had the time of my life. Everything changed. I’d write more about that, but I’ve surely done it to death in all of my other writing. I came back, and I was ready to get to work. For a year and a half, I worked on a campus I lived in a town pretty near my family and where I was born, and I had friends who wanted me to be the very best version of myself I could be, to borrow from my favorite film. I’ve had my doubts in myself. I often get down on my own work, and I’ve tried hard not to be that person. I get frustrated with my process as if I haven’t worked the same way my entire life. I fall into comfortable traps and sometimes have a hard time finding a way to jump out of my comfort zone. This department has made me do that.
In the spring of 2019, in the middle of a lot of personal uncertainty, I studied abroad again. I interned and had the most wonderful work experience of my life. I felt like I was helping people while becoming a better writer. The selfish parts of me loved knowing that people were reading my work, but it was more than that. I thought I’d be able to ride those feelings into thesis, but then all of this happened. The work became harder, but I have refused, and will continue to refuse, to decide that there is no longer a point. There’s always going to be a point. Doing the work (thanks, Michael,) is always going to be the point.
To have a department full of faculty who advocate for their students every day has been the biggest privilege.
Dr. Dwyer – have I literally ever once called you that? ew. – the first time I walked into your office, I was, for some reason or another, freaking out. I don’t think that ever really changed in four years. I would apologize for that, but I don’t know how that would go over. You’ve been a great advisor who has taught me time and again that there is no talent but rather hard work. You’ve reminded me over and over that one must imagine Sisyphus happy, and I really try to do that. I’ll probably read that again tonight as I finish this. Feels right.
Dr. Holderman, you chair a wonderful department. Truly, other departments on our campus are great, sure, but this one really takes the cake. The work you do to make sure that we all get to do the work we want to do does not go unnoticed.
Dr. Mullin, you taught the very first class I took in this department, and it made me want to know more. Getting a great start is important in everything, and I have known it to be especially important in all of this.
Dr. Deshpande makes sure that the way you see the world when you walk into this department is not the same way they see it when they leave.
Dr. Powell, I’ve learned pretty quickly the process is, in fact, the product. That’s changed the way I’ve looked at all of this capstone work, and it has really helped me see it to the end.
My friends in this department: you have been the most wonderful collaborators of my life. From every group project I didn’t want to do to supporting each other’s new projects and opportunities and making sure that I did not sink taking charge at Loco Mag this year, I’ll never be able to give all of that back to you. The work I’ve watched you all do is some of the most thoughtful work I’ve ever consumed. You’re all going to do the most incredible things moving forward. This class of seniors is crazy promising. You’re all super cool.
I don’t know what happens after this. Not only is this particular time rather uncertain, but everything that happens moving forward is up in the air right now. What I do know is that I am proud of the work that I have done. I don’t always feel that way, but today, I have decided that that’s who I’m going to be. The process has always been the product. The point has always been the work. I don’t know what I need to do after this, but I know that what I have done is good. At least, that is what I’m choosing to believe today.
That’s a wrap, kids. Thanks for all of it. I’ll miss whipping into the Murphy Hall parking lot without my parking pass two minutes before the beginning of class, hoping I don’t spill my coffee. My tires probably won’t miss that, and I’m sure none of you will miss it either, but I will.