Post No. 45: You know what that means.
Today I had my graduation ceremony, bringing an official end to my life as a college student. And, believe it or not, it actually started to hit me. The concept of no longer being a college student. The idea that, from here on out, my mark will be made through my career rather than in a classroom.
It’s still a bit absurd. And to be completely honest, if I really want to put into words what May 24th was like, I might have to wait until May 25th to do the writing. It has been a long last few weeks. And appropriately enough, today has been a long day. Maybe one of the best and most memorable of my life. But long, nonetheless.
I’m afraid I will have to ask for your grace just this once to allow me to rest my head, gather my thoughts, and get back to you tomorrow. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And if I am going to do justice to what Day 45 meant to me, it will have to be written a day late.
Hey, at the very least it will give me something to do in my first day as a college graduate.
The tiny clock in the corner of my cell phone screamed.
The Towson Center was unusually busy. It seemed as though just minutes earlier I had gotten out of one of my final classes of the semester, in what may be the final semester of my life. Time was moving incomprehensibly fast.
Within the doors of the arena, and through the double-doors into the gymnasium, there was a hub of activity. But I had tunnel vision. Through my four years I have always kept a close watch on Towson’s Men’s Basketball team. Constantly looking for visiting players, badgering current team members about future teammates. I consider myself one of the few who discovered Gary Neal when he made his first home at Burdick long before he considered taking his expansive repertoire to the Towson Center. So when I saw head coach Pat Kennedy with assistants Eric Skeeters and Jay Eack working out a pair of guards and one big man, I had every intention of inquiring to the coach about the trio. But my original intent was to thank the coach for the three years I covered him and his team in some capacity. For always fielding questions, stopping to talk, and kindly scheduling time to meet with myself and other Towerlight writers. None of us really knew what to expect on a relational level from the first high-profile name to grace the program. He hasn’t disappointed.
Outside of the brown stone building there was action of a different variety. For a reason unbeknownst to me, a fight had broken out on the grass hill at the front of the arena between students from Towson and nearby Morgan State. I was puzzled. Encouraged to join. Reluctant to get involved. John Clayton would be of more use in a fist fight than I. Besides, there was no time to waste.
I left the scene on foot, with a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel sandwich in hand. I had class in 11 minutes.
I began to run. Through the black concrete path flanked on the left by Johnny Unitas Stadium, and on the right by an endless plot of trees, dirt, and dead leaves. Within seconds the scene changed drastically. I was a giant towering through enormous buildings in a town surrounded by green mountains. There was no cohesivity amongst the structures. Each was unique. But beyond the point of adding variety to the emerging skyline. It was utterly nonsensical. I was terribly confused.
I found myself atop the buildings, with no choice but to jump. I sprinted from the top of the round brown dome of one building, leaping five city blocks to the cylinder columns atop a stone high-rise. My feet landed well short of the building’s apex. Much to my surprise I landed unscathed at the foot of the tower.
With little warning I was sent to the final scene of this sequence.
Alone. Sun beaming through broad vertical shades in front of me and to the right. A dog laying anxiously at the foot of my bed.
I was awake.
That was my first dream as a Towson University alum. Or at least the first one that managed to be burnt into my memory. It was beyond bizarre. I woke up relieved. Not concerned about the unfamiliar town, or the 700-foot drop. Not worried about the fist fight between students of two area colleges. And certainly not thinking about the three Towson recruits (they all sucked in the dream, anyway). I was relieved because I didn’t have to rush back to my apartment, eat, shower, and get ready for afternoon classes. All in 11 minutes.
I wasn’t late, because as of May 24th, I was done.
It began to set in as I drove home from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. After the ceremony, I went with my family–father, Paul; mother, Luella; sister, Nicole; brothers, Ethan and Justin; Justin’s wife Amie; and Aunt Lois–to the Rusty Scupper for a celebratory dinner along the water of the Chesapeake Bay. Something about the city of Baltimore finally made me realize that I was leaving.
I first visited the area in the summer before my freshman year at Phil-Mont Christian Academy. My father was speaking to a group of teenagers at a Christian camp in the suburbs of Baltimore. We drove down Bel Air Road, a road I would become familiar with in college. We navigated the traffic of I-83 and 695, both of which I have driven with great regularity. We explored the Inner Harbor, a place I would go on dates or with my parents when they came to visit. I came along with my dad on these summer trips each of the following couple years. They became a staple of my summers.
My class trip sophomore year at Phil-Mont was to Baltimore. I knew my way around the Harbor at that point. My friends, many of which were from the suburbs of Philadelphia and had not yet explored downtown areas on their own, were fond of Baltimore. I was too.
“If I don’t live in Philadelphia when I’m older, I want to live in Baltimore,” I said.
It’s funny how that works out sometimes.
I began to think about the college environment. The amount of freedom that comes with the life of a student. A few hours of class each day, sometimes less. Weekends that often extend from Thursday night to Monday morning. No parents to guide and direct. No hall monitors to require you to be in class. No curfew. You truly make of it what you want. Don’t want to go to class? Don’t. However, we all learn at one point or another that the class you miss is almost always the class with the pop quiz. In fact, I’ve heard stories of students who rarely ever went to class. And when they did, they were presented with a test and a scantron sheet. I have a hard time figuring out if that’s good or bad timing.
We are conditioned to working eight hour days through elementary, middle, and high school. The workforce calls us back to that schedule. We get a break in between. Well, some people do at least. I stood in line in the basement of the Towson Center alongside Brian Stelter and Chris Taydus, waiting for the student processional at the opening of Thursday’s afternoon commencement. Two fellow graduates, who rarely got such a break.
Stelter and I have been with The Towerlight since we were freshmen. I was content to remain a Sports Assitant Editor through my years (although I made the jump to Associate Editor my final semester). His aspirations were not so easily satisfied. He climbed from proofreader to Assoc. News Editor, and from News Editor to Editor in Chief. Stelter spent two years as EIC, significantly altering the paper’s content and design. Developing it into one that consistently increased its number of Society of Professional Journalists awards each year, found its way into College Publisher’s top-100 student newspaper websites on a consistent basis, and continuously challenged the minds of students, faculty, staff, and administration.
Taydus and I worked with WMJF beginning in our freshmen year. I worked with Towson Sports Weekly, and he with 16News. Our paths never crossed as freshmen, but as we each expanded our horizons and either started or worked with new shows in the following years, we began seeing more of one another. This was especially the case the past two years, each of which Taydus has spent as station President. Part of his responsibility was to be available to the various shows for support, whether it be for technical issues or to simply provide an extra set of hands in the studio or out on shoots. During his time the station began putting a bulk of its programming online, possible due to the rise in prominence of Google Video and YouTube. The breadth and variety of programming also grew significantly during his tenure.
In many ways it was appropriate for me to stand alongside two fellow graduates who each spent significant time in the same office and studio space as I did through our years. Each of whom have had tireless nights in either the Media Center or Union room 313, far more so than I have. Who have exuded so much energy to ensure the benefit of the media they represented. In many ways I have felt like an intermediary between the newspaper and the television station, as the relationship between the two has been noticeably unsettled. But none of that mattered as we stood draped in our gowns just minutes away from being presented to the audience as accomplished Towson grads.
I began to think about classes. How, upon walking into Hawkins Hall room 012 on my first day as a college freshman, I wanted nothing more than to turn around and walk out, and not just because it was Precalculus. I was intimidated. Downright scared. It was more than the anxiety of being in a room with unfamiliar people. It was having to do it for the next four years of my life. Knowing that these weren’t just people I would have class with, they were individuals I would live with. High school brings with it a number of individual battles that can have a drastic impact on someone’s self-image. But when 2:45 rolls around, you can head on home. In college there is no getting away (except for on the weekends, which is all too common at Towson).
I thought about the curriculum. I have had some terrific classes, with some professors that will have a lasting impact on my outlook on life, work, and relationships. I have taken a Physics course titled ‘How Things Work’, an Honors Seminar in Latin American Literature, The World Since 1945, Elements and History of Rock Music, a Cultural Studies course on ‘African-American English’, Acting, Cultural Anthropology, Principles of Advertising, Philosophy of the Sport Experience, Individualized Fitness, and Principles of Coaching (which kept me from getting straight A’s in my last semester, but the quality of the course was such that I was happy to accept the grade).
I have taken so many outstanding classes, and none of the aforementioned had the slightest to do with my concentration: Mass Communications- Journalism and New Media.
The people within the MCOM and Electronic Media and Film Department are superb. The quality of professors and resources at a school oft forgotten between the University of Maryland and the University of Delaware, provides students with more opportunities than they could imagine. There are plenty of ways to get involved on campus, but the fact is the professors make it such that a student could be just as successful without doing so.
Then I thought about how I went through my studies without a transcendent final series of studies. I feel as though we are given this idea going into college that our studies will gradually build up to a final crescendo where the arduous studies and arguments with professors all come together in a life-altering ‘Ah-Hah!’ moment. That’s how it may be for some, but by the final semester of most student’s lives, the focus seems to be on finishing rather than finding some higher purpose. Or maybe for me it came a bit early. Maybe it was last Spring when I took TV Studio Production, News Editing, Magazine Publishing, and News Reporting. Or in my Broadcast Journalism 2 Independent Study with Prof. Atwater. Quite possibly, it happened six hours away from the York Road campus when I spent last summer with ESPN, proving that my studies would pay dividends outside of Baltimore County. Lets hope that is in fact the case.
A number of feelings, thoughts, and memories flooded my mind as I drove. For whatever reason, it suddenly began to sink in as myself and my family went our separate ways; them to Manhattan and Philadelphia, and me back to Towson for a late nap before heading ‘uptown’ to the Towson bars, an extension of the previous two days’ graduation ceremonies.
Maybe the timing had something to do with me always having a difficult time seeing my parents leave. I always found great comfort in their visits, no matter how settled into life at Towson I was. I knew it would be months before I would see them again. I was back on my own. But for whatever reason, their departure seemed a bit more drastic this time. I wish I could explain why that was the case, but I really can’t. Maybe it was because this will likely be their last visit to Baltimore to see their son. Again, it’s hard to figure out.
The fact is, I could never ask for a more loving and supportive group of people. Since January they have each been asking about graduation, and forming their schedule around it. My parents, siblings, and in-laws are all extremely aware of what is going in my life and in the lives of each other, and are genuinely excited to be a part of each accomplishment, each raise, each promotion, each hiring, each marriage. And ultimately it’s a reflection of two parents who have a deep love for their four children, and every intricate detail of their lives. Parents who are always willing to sacrifice for the benefit of the family. When you grow up with five other people in the house at all times, and with such a solid, loving foundation, you can’t help but notice the significance of those characteristics.
And that’s what made the ceremony itself exciting. The fact is, in 20 years I won’t remember what any of the speakers had to say (even the theater major who mistook a commencement address for a monologue). But I will remember them all taking off from work to drive down to see me graduate.
These gatherings are generally reserved for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I always treasure those times, and dread seeing everyone leave in the days following each holiday. As a kid you tend to take for granted having siblings around at all times. As a teenager and young adult you really start to miss having that. So, the most memorable part of the ceremony was not necessarily walking across the stage. But rather knowing that there were seven people in the crowd who were genuinely thrilled to be a part of it (and do some yelling when my name was announced, to prove it). It’s a true blessing.
Sure enough, it finally hit me. The excitement of seeing some of my closest friends from college graduate. Being introduced as a graduate of Towson. And sharing it all with family.
It was ideal.
You just can’t dream that sort of thing up.
I cheated. There’s no way I was going to leave this picture off of today’s post. From left to right: Amie, Justin, Ethan, Dad (Paul), Mom (Luella), Me, Nicole, Aunt Lois.
As far as Forty5 Days goes, as of now I am finished. I will probably give some updates as career plans unfold (assuming they do). I’m still open to suggestions as for what I should do with the blog itself. It has really allowed me to soak up the last month and a half, and has certainly enhanced my appreciation of these final weeks. Where it goes from here is up in the air.
Thanks for being a part of it with me.