When I graduated high school on a summery June afternoon, it was unseasonably warm for upstate New York. Sweating in my plasticky graduation gown, I was focused only on the music ensembles I was a part of that performed during the ceremony, hoping that I would win one of the many scholarships awarded. I did win one and the music groups performed well and then began a summer vacation that felt like any other in my 13 years of organized schooling that came before it.
I did not notice any change until I arrived on the SUNY Cortland campus in late August of the same year. Though I would ultimately only spend one semester at the school before transferring to Oswego State, the feeling of change finally sunk in. I moved into a dorm room I shared with a stranger and was, surrounded by those I knew even less. At least I knew my roommate’s name.
The classes were harder, my schedule was more demanding and the predictability of high school life that I had previously resented was a comfort I missed. Further compounding everything, I knew within the first month or so that I would leave. When I arrived, I was a sport management major (essentially a business degree thinly disguised under the lens of sports), with aspirations of being the next general manager for the New England Patriots, my favorite team. In my naiveté, I figured I would graduate college, immediately be employed by the Patriots or any other NFL team—I was a college graduate, I couldn’t be picky—and eventually be in charge of signing and drafting a team. Before I even stepped foot in a classroom, I was sizing my finger for the Super Bowl ring I was destined to win.
Sports business soon became sports writing and one school transfer later, became writing. My Super Bowl ring aspiration was long gone. When our class was asked what we wanted to do with our sport management degrees, many responded with mid-level jobs at Minor League Baseball or independent league teams. Some wanted to work ticket sales, others finance. A few shared the same enthusiasm as I once did, saying how they were going to become a high-ranking executive for the Yankees or Giants. When I responded that I wanted to be a sports writer, I only said sports because I felt like I would have betrayed the department if I didn’t at least mention sports. I wanted to fit in, at least for the remainder of the semester before I would leave. At Oswego State, I wouldn’t have to lie.
Upon arriving on campus, I knew I wanted to write for the newspaper. I come from a high school of only a few hundred and fewer than 80 students in my graduating class and there was no school newspaper I could have honed my craft at. Even if there was, I don’t know if I would have even joined. When I began high school, I wanted to be a chef. Then I wanted to be an NFL GM. No other options, including writing, even existed.
At first, I was nervous. As an impressionable 18-year-old freshman coming to a new campus, I could not conjure up the nerve to visit the newspaper. I was taking journalism classes, often with upperclassmen, and for the first time at college, felt like I entirely belonged.
I soon found that my new-found passion for writing and obsession over grammar could actually mean something. More importantly, it gave me the confidence I needed to write. I was good, so it was worthy of being published in the newspaper. I went to the meetings and took a liking for opinion, seeing it as an outlet to express the kind of informal, feature writing that I had so quickly grown fond of. For me, it was a blank slate and an opportunity. After my first article, I was hooked. For the second time in my college career, I felt like I belonged.
I liked it, and they liked me too. At least, I think they did. My contributions were weekly ramblings about whatever was going on, or anything I felt worthy of sharing with a large audience. Often, it was about food, hailing back to my first career goal, but other times it was about a cultural trend, a holiday or the weather. Sometimes I wrote about sports, just as I half-planned on doing just a few years ago.
At some point while writing this, I realized that this will likely be the final story I write for The Oswegonian. I’m not entirely sure, but I estimate I’ve written north of 50 articles over my years here. And for many of them, I was content to write them simply as a writer, nothing more. Submit an article, read it in the paper on Friday, and go about my day, only to repeat the process the following week.
This semester I changed that. Editing has not only allowed me to exercise my obsession of grammar, but has made me more connected to the newspaper and all the work that it takes to make it come out each week. It became my newspaper, not simply a newspaper that decided that I was worthy of some column space each week. If I could do it all again, I would have taken a lead role years ago.
For those freshmen just beginning their college careers, transfer students like myself or simply those looking to have a voice, take the initiative. I waited until my final semester in school to do that and for once, I would advocate not following my lead.
In less than a month, I will walk across that stage and accept my diploma. The end of yet another era. Tears will be shed and hugs given, knowing that for the first time since pre-school, I will not have to go to school come fall. When I cross that stage, I will not fully comprehend this, just as I didn’t think much of high school graduation. It will only be when I (hopefully) find a job and begin my life away from Oswego State, a life I have grown to appreciate far beyond I thought possible, that I will begin to realize it.
I’ll crave the past and the comforts of college, just as I did for the comforts of high school and home. At times, I’ll be glad to have graduated and be moving on to another chapter. But many other times, I’ll wish I had never left.
So for those who have read my writing over the past three years, thank you. The positive feedback made me feel better and the negative feedback made me a better writer. If only there were more weeks of The Oswegonian. I’ve never been good at goodbyes.
After I leave Oswego State, I’m not sure where I’ll go, but the world is my oyster and I’ve recently taken a liking to oysters, raw and on the half-shell, of course. Maybe I’ll move to a city where I can get a cheap dozen of oysters and a good pint. It’s those little things that are important. It may not be Oswego, but wherever I go, I’ll find comfort in something.