I went on my first college visit before my first day of kindergarten.
My oldest sister enrolled at Ohio State when I was just five years old, and before I ever stepped foot in any form of school, I went to visit her in Columbus – and I was sold.
We walked around the Oval and I heard the Orton Tower chimes for the first time. We fed the ducks at Mirror Lake and I learned that you're supposed to jump into it in November. We threw the frisbee, ate pizza and played video games. Ohio State was great, and I was already pretty good at college.
I knew immediately this was the place I wanted to be. In fact, that when my mother went to enroll me in kindergarten shortly after my first visit to Ohio State, I confidently told her that I would not be going to Kindergarten, or any other grade for that matter. I would be going straight to Ohio State.
She didn't seem convinced, so I offered a quite simple, but near inarguable rationale:
"All you do is play frisbee, eat pizza and play video games. I already know how to do all of that."
My perspective on higher education changed over time – if only slightly – but my heart never did. I always dreamed of coming to Ohio State. I always dreamed of being a Buckeye.
The older I got, the more that dream seemed to mean to me. I wanted to come live in Morrill Tower and smell its distinct, somehow-pleasant muskiness. I wanted to jump in a frozen, filthy pond at the end of November in protest of a particular school to the north. I wanted to sit in the Block "O" student section and never miss a football game.
Most of all, I wanted to attend, and graduate from one of the finest academic institutions in the world. And today, I am extremely proud to say that I am graduating from The Ohio State University with degrees in marketing and journalism – a lifelong dream fulfilled.
But here's the funny thing about dreams: once you accomplish one, you don't really have all that much time to dwell on it before it's time to chase new ones. And when you don't really know exactly what those new ones are, it can be a little unnerving.
I, like many graduates today, do not know what's next. I'm not going to hide from that. I feel like I should be prepared, I should have everything together and I should be walking seamlessly into the next stage of my life – but the reality is that I'm not.
That doesn't mean I'm not ready for whatever life throws at me.
I think my biggest misconception of college was that it was just going to tell me exactly what I was supposed to do next based on how I performed, but that was never the intent. It was supposed to equip me for whatever it is I want to do, wherever I want to do it.
Here's the funny thing about dreams: once you accomplish one, you don't really have all that much time to dwell on it before it's time to chase new ones.
And these past five years, that's exactly what's happened. I learned new skills, new things about myself, new passions, new struggles, new pains, new burdens, new joys and new people.
I learned I can write and that people will genuinely enjoy reading it. I learned that most competition can be won by simply outworking everyone else. I learned that creativity matters in everything you do. I learned that no matter what you do, relationships should be at the center.
And much of that came from my experience here with Eleven Warriors, which has now become synonymous with my experience at Ohio State – one doesn't really exist without the other in my mind. This, quite simply, was my dream job and it's still surreal to me that I've gotten to do it. I've never enjoyed doing anything more than what I've been paid to do these past three years.
I'll never forget the day Jeremy Birmingham, Ramzy Nasrallah and D.J. Byrnes followed me on Twitter after reading a bad blog I started from my dorm room, or when Jason Priestas offered me an internship to write a weekly piece about non-revenue sports here. And I'll always remember when Eric Seger edited my first-ever published piece and very politely asked if I'd ever done anything like this before.
The guys I now call some of my closest friends and mentors used to be
minor celebrities to me. I have all of them – and so many more – to thank for so much of my growth these past few years.
And you – the person reading this, whether you know me or not – thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. It's difficult to even explain what it means to be able to write articles, give analysis and tell stories, knowing that there's a strong community of people who will read them. I often struggle to believe that I even deserve that from you, but you do it anyway, and I couldn't be more grateful.
I'm graduating today. That's still a little surreal. But with confidence and some help from all of my family and friends who've helped get me this far, I'm ready for the next step.
Wherever it is.
Time and change will surely show...