I never knew that I could love a place the way that I have loved this strange, beautiful valley. For these past few weeks leading up to graduation, I have been more calm than ever, but also have been triggered a few times at the drop of a hat. For example, “Sweet Caroline” started playing in the HUB during a shift at my job and I just lost it. It was kind of pathetic. I started crying and then started simultaneously laughing because my coworkers were making fun of me, a customer came up to me and was quite confused.
A handful of weeks ago on State Patty’s Day, I ran into my friend Katie Marino. Katie is one of those people that you just love with your whole heart and soul, even though you don’t see her a ton. She is one of the most energetic people I’ve ever met, but I can just tell she’s been through a lot even though we’ve never talked about it. I asked her how she was doing, and she goes, “you know, I’m just so stimulated all the time! There’s so many stimuli here. There’s just so much to take in.” This was a classic Katie answer, but honestly, I knew the exact feeling she was talking about without ever being able to verbalize it, so it really stuck with me.
I have spent the past few weeks trying so hard to come up with a the perfect theme or topic for my senior article. I thought about everything I have done here, trying to find a common thread or major lesson I had learned from it all. I reminisced and tried to figure it out. First I was on the student government. I was heavily involved with THON. College stress got to me, so I took up running and ran a couple of half marathons. I fell in love with traveling. I got to go on a trip to Puerto Rico through the university with some of my best friends and didn’t have to pay a single penny. I spent last summer interning in Phoenix, Arizona because of Penn State. I got to go to Australia for a couple of weeks, for god sake. There were fake weddings and endless pizza with ranch. Papers that we stayed up until 4 a.m. to write, three exams in one day, then two meetings after that. Finding out that the guy you were convinced you were going to date was hooking up with about a million other girls. The frustration of applying for 30 internships and not even hearing back from half of them. Standing on the coffee table singing into the remote. Going to club meetings feeling so happy that you found people who you love to be around who also share a common goal. Trying to mentally sort your life out in class Friday morning after you stayed out a little too long on Thursday. Running into people you know in the most random places on campus. The Old Main Bell ringing in the background of everything you do.
This past weekend was Blue-White Weekend. As I went to tailgate, something was different. Even though I chugged a bunch of coffee amongst other things that morning, I slept through the game. I was at my old neighbor’s RV tailgate and at one point I said “enough!” Then crawled into one of the beds inside the RV. I was very angry when I was woken up. You know what happened? I had become overstimulated, not just that day, but in a very broad sense. I’ve taken advantage of as many opportunities that this incredible university has presented to me that I feel I could. I’ve made amazing connections. I’ve learned so very much; I’ve had hardships and I’ve had my fun. I have done what I needed to do. Even though it kind of sucks, we gotta go. It would be ludicrous if we did this forever. If we were overstimulated in this way for too much longer, the outcome wouldn’t be good.
I never knew that a place could make a person feel this much – the good, the bad and everything in between. No single person can teach you what you can learn here. No book or class could. Nothing could ever prepare you for a place like this. Because of what I have done and seen here, I have felt challenged. I have felt pride and loyalty. I have developed an ever-expanding curiosity that has both gotten me into trouble and led me to success. I have felt guilt, shame, betrayal and rage. I gained confidence that I never knew I could possess. Most importantly, I have felt joy and love that I never knew possible and I have learned how to reciprocate that joy and love.
Going into college, I had no idea what I was getting into. All I knew was that I’d be there for four years. Now it’s happening all over again – even if we have big plans, most of us have no idea what we’re getting into. It’s going to be hard restarting. But you know what? Every year, we feel more and more. Imagine the feelings that you’ll be feeling five years from now. You can’t. And that’s the beauty of it – being shapeless in the hands of fate, as our alma mater says. Thou didst mold us so very well.
I never knew the things I would feel in this strange, beautiful valley. I surely didn’t know it would set me up to experience feelings much greater and much deeper in the future. It is truly the greatest gift that anyone could ask for.