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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kent State chapter.

As of the moment this article is published, I will be graduating…like right now. I’m wearing my cap and gown and horrific brown tassel that looks like a hair extension got lost in the wind as you read this. It seems cliché to say that I have learned a lot over these four years of college, but upon reflecting over my time at Kent State, it seems I have quite a bit to say. So whether you know me and want to hear my tell-all or you are looking for some words of wisdom (sort of), here are some of my thoughts as I walk to get the empty diploma folder (and hopefully an actual diploma in the mail soon).

Let’s start by going all the way back right before my freshman year. It was 2018 and if you were to ask me what I thought going into college, I would have said, “I’m excited!” In reality, I was thinking to myself I can’t wait to get these four years over with and move to Los Angeles to start my career. I did not relate to many of the people from my high school who were over the moon about joining a sorority or partying when they went to college. For some reason I was very pessimistic about what my college experience would be like, but, looking back, maybe that was for the best. This Lainey who picked Kent State because of the well-ranked Fashion Design program and the perfect distance from home would have never (ever) guessed where she ended up today.

In August, I moved into my dorm room. I was lucky to quickly hit it off with my roommate, Jordan, who I met via a desperate plea for someone to live with on the Schools app. By coincidence, Lucy, my good friend from high school, was also moving in right across the hall. Things were seemingly working out in my favor, but was I excited yet? No. It wasn’t until the three of us decided to check out a Blastoff event that my mind began to change. With few interesting-sounding events to check out, we decided to wait in the epically long line for bingo in the student center. We just managed to get in and Lucy led us to a table with three people already seated, followed by two others. It was truly a random mashup of individuals at our table, but we just clicked. After a fun, competitive night full of booing when people yelled, “bingo,” we did not want to stop hanging out. We found out that many of us lived in the same dorm and boom, just like that, I felt like I found my ragtag bunch of friends. So, if you take anything away from my story it should be to go to those seemingly pointless events, you never know who you might meet.

Things were starting to look up. My classes were challenging but going well and I found a creative outlet in Her Campus Kent State. It was when things started coming together that others started falling apart. Most notably, my mental health took quite a tumble. It was as if when my social life seemed steady, my mind opened me up to the concept of dealing with old (and I mean old) trauma that I had always pushed away. It seems trivial looking back but coming into college from an all-girls school I figured finding a relationship would be fairly simple. But my mental space essentially banned me from having feelings for anyone, despite my friend’s repeated efforts at setting me up with someone.

By the end of freshman year, I was fearful of leaving for the summer. I had my core group of friends (mostly from bingo night), and I was worried that our dynamic might change over the summer for when we return to campus in the fall. I was also going to be living with a new roommate as some of my friends were moving off-campus or to other buildings. It seems so silly now, but this was a big deal back then…when would I possibly see my friends?! A somewhat lonely summer came and went, and I was ready for my return to start my epic sophomore year (*record scratch* it was not that epic).

The fall semester was pretty fun in hindsight, but I was battling my most socially chaotic semester yet. Let’s just say that whole my friends trying to set me up with people thing ramped up, a lot. I strengthened my lasting friendships and felt proud of what I was creating in my classes. Ironically, I designed and created more in that semester than I have in my whole college career. The spring 2020 semester started and I began prepping for my impending fall semester in Italy…yeah, I think you know where this one is going. Things were truly falling into place, and I finally felt healed from my past that was bringing me down for the past two years. I was super optimistic and then all of sudden: March. We all know what happened, and I don’t care to revisit that time too much because nobody wants that.

Obviously, my Florence plans had to be canceled and I rushed to find campus housing for the fall. In that time I even changed my major from a Bachelor of Fine Arts to a Bachelor of Arts to fit my minor in Costume Design, which was becoming more and more important to me and my future career. That summer was truly horrible as I’m sure it was for many. I dealt with a loss of a loved one while dealing with the loss of the plans I was so excited for, met with so much uncertainty. I returned to campus my junior year determined to make something positive happen.

Luckily some of my friends also returned to campus and we were able to see each other in the midst of adjusting to remote classes. I lived in a triple room by myself with three beds, bringing my dining hall food in to-go boxes back to one of my three desks for each meal. It was mostly a boring blur, with my classes providing me little to no substance and an ongoing drought of inspiration. Joining a dating app for the first time gave me the opportunity to at least talk to some new people and refresh myself in how to, you know, socialize with another human being.

In January 2021 I moved into my first apartment with my old roommate, Jordan, and my new friend, Megan. Classes were once again remote, but this time somehow worse. It seemed that my professors were living in a mindset that the effects of the pandemic had run its course on our psyches and that we should be operating at our normal pace. There was an overall lack of empathy, even going as far as to question why I would be feeling isolated in the pandemic when I pitched that as the basis for a design project. Schoolwork was no longer as much of a priority for me out of sheer frustration and I focused my energy on editing for Her Campus, designing costumes for student films and keeping my social life somewhat intact.

Working on the student short films in 2021 reaffirmed how much I wanted that to be my career. Beyond that, I was able to meet so many people for the first time again and it was refreshing. I also went on a lot of first dates. I quickly went from the perpetually single friend to the friend with all the funny dating stories. I wanted to meet people and collect some good stories along the way. My original plan of going to Paris in the summer was canceled at the last minute and I quickly scrambled to get into the study away program for New York City in July. Time to have the most fun in New York City…wait, who are you?

A week before leaving for New York City, I met my now boyfriend. So, when everyone says that people walk into your life when you least expect it, I guess they are right. Leaving for New York I was so worried that I would lose this great connection, but I am happy to say our daily calls watching reality shows together worked out in our favor. I also had an amazing time in New York City, despite many things still being closed. It was the perfect amount of time away to get me recharged for my senior year.

Senior year has gone by in a flash (see what I did there). I had an internship working on wardrobe at a local theater which made me feel more at home in the theatre space. I am proud of what I accomplished this year, but that doesn’t go without saying I struggled with what freshman year me would think. She expected that I would have a full collection to present at the annual fashion show and be ready to zoom away to Los Angeles as I had always planned. Plans changed, though. I quickly realized fall of last year that I wasn’t ready for that big move to Los Angeles, with the impacts of the pandemic on the film industry and just a general realization that I wasn’t ready.

When I started college, graduation seemed so far away that I assumed I would be ready for it, but it turns out I’m not, and I had to remind myself that it was okay. So, in a shocking turn of events to little 2018 me, I will be moving to Cleveland with my boyfriend in two months, and I can’t wait. I may not have had a collection at the annual fashion show, but I feel happy with what I have accomplished, especially with all the hurdles the universe decided to throw my way. So, walking in commencement right now, I am a proud graduate, ready for what life has in store and wherever it brings me.

Lainey is a senior at Kent State University studying Fashion Design with a minor in Costume Design & Technology. She is so excited to be the Editor-in-Chief for Her Campus Kent State this year and to start her career in costume design for film and television. Read on for the latest on film, fashion, music and much more!