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Opinions: From the desk: Arriving at my destination

March 29, 2017

If you would’ve asked me if I was ready for college six months ago, I would’ve answered, “No.” Not at all. Not in a long shot.

While looking for a home to spend the next four years of my life, my parents bombarded me with every option.

Did I want a big school or a small school? Did I want to stay nearby or go far away? What did I want to major in? Did I apply for every scholarship I could? Did I email my admissions counselor yet? Am I aware of every deadline at every school that I applied? Unfortunately for everyone in my family, the answers to those questions were painstakingly hard for me to answer.

My parents wanted answers, but all I could supply them with were more questions.

I worked myself up trying to micromanage factors far beyond my control. I spent at least four hours dozens of nights staying up until 1 a.m. scribbling on paper in the dark attempting to concoct a perfect scholarship essay that would win me a full-ride to Vanderbilt.

Somehow I assumed that the perfect arrangement of sensory details and nouns would come together and make me appealing to admissions counselors across the country. In those moments, I didn’t understand that whether or not a school accepts me or gives me financial aid is their decision. All I can control are my actions and my character.

I answered every step forward when I made a decision with two steps back in hesitation. I doubted myself, and I lost sight of who I was and what I wanted to do.

At EHS, I radiated confidence as I paraded around school blasting “Anchors aweigh” while running for class president and as I stood and spoke to a theater full of veterans surrounded by numerous iterations of the American flag.

This man would’ve been unrecognizable to the person I reduced myself to as I dragged my feet across the Miami of Ohio campus.

College made me anxious way more than AP testing, the ACT and finals combined. It was like a perpetual wave constantly pulling me under the water, forcing me to fight for every breath.

Every day at school I got notifications on my phone with emails from 15 different schools, and when I got home, mail from those same 15 plus 30 more waited for me on the kitchen counter.

I didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to major in. I never got the opportunity to learn how to swim because I was constantly fighting to stay afloat.

Fear of the future tore me apart.

As time went on, that fear turned into anticipation. I walked on campuses across the country hoping for a clear-cut choice, a moviesque moment. Before my first visit to Northwestern, I wanted my future to play out like a stereotypical romance film.

Just as a protagonist would look into his woman’s eyes and know she was the one, I wanted to feel the same way looking at a classroom. At night I prayed that I would stroll through a university and fall deeply and madly in love.

To my dismay, that never happened. Sorry, it just wasn’t for me.

Instead, I chose a college after a grueling two-year search. Three weeks of researching and googling would go by, and I would finally have a short list of schools I wanted to apply to… then the waves would pull me under again and I would decide to start from scratch.

It was excruciating on many levels.

For one, it meant I had to watch dozens of my good friends find their roommates and sign up for classes far before I had even applied for scholarships.

Saying goodbye to my closest peers was going to be hard enough without them constantly anticipating their future without me.

It was demoralizing. All I wanted to do was be as happy about my decision like all of them seemed to be.

Secondly, the indecision flavored every family interaction leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. Their sincere interest in me and my future–which they knew to be bright–felt more like an interrogation. Their probing of my every move made it even harder for me to make up my mind. Not only did I have to fret about my future, I had all of their expectations to consider, too.

My perception finally shifted on a Saturday at 9:15 a.m. I was sitting in baggy sweatpants on the living room couch watching “Last week Tonight with John Oliver” on my laptop.

The night before I had promised my parents that I wouldn’t leave the house until I finished writing my essay for the Trent Lott Leadership Institute at the University of Mississippi. The prompt: “Why do you want to major in Public Policy Leadership?

Before writing a hook, a conclusion or a concrete detail, I wrote down this sentence: I want to major in Public Policy Leadership because I want to change the world.

From that point on, I was inspired. I wrote two… three…. four full pages in an hour before I realized I had to cut the essay back to be less than 700 words. An entire narrative derived from a single sentence.

On that Saturday morning, I still had no idea where I wanted to go to college, but I finally understood what I wanted from college. I found that element that united all of my interests: service.

When I am watering plants for StuCo, planning events for Renaissance and making lunch for cafeteria workers with fellow members of FCA, I am pursuing my goal of creating positive change.

I’ve served others throughout the past four years. Now I look forward to serving others in the next chapter to come.

For the first time, I wasn’t anxious or nervous about the future. I was excited at the thought of all the possibilities of how I could help make a difference and give back to my community and my country.

I learned that a university was never going to feel like home in the brief period of a one or two-day visit. Walking around with a stranger while being overwhelmed with facts, stories, buildings and thoughts was no way to determine where I wanted to go to college.

If I needed an epiphany to help me commit, then I would’ve never been able to make a decision, and I probably would’ve ended up defaulting to a Missouri state school.

I didn’t fall in love with a school. I fell in love with an idea, a dream, a passion. Once I had a vision in my head of who I wanted to be and the impact I wanted to have, I found somewhere that offered an education to fill the gap.

Instead, I’m proud to say that I will be attending Ole Miss.

Oxford, MS is an enchanting city where towering trees of oak, elm and magnolia surround a campus full of red-brick buildings and columns of pearly white. Southern charm is embodied in all aspects of life from the way students welcome me to the hospitality of the faculty.

Most importantly, the academic programs challenge and inspire me to achieve aspirations I never would’ve dreamed possible.

I plan on double-majoring in Integrated Marketing Communications and Public Policy Leadership while being a part of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Through these classes, I can study the skills and the techniques that will prepare me for a career of serving others.

The waves that once pulled me under seem like a thing of the past. I’ve found a boat in my anticipation of all the possibilities Ole Miss has to offer.

It took a few years for me to find somewhere that I felt comfortable getting invested in, but the stress will be worth it if I find someplace that I love as much as I adore EHS. I still get anxious about the future quite often; however, at least now I am able to face that anxiety with a goal and a picture of who I am now and the person that I want to become.

If someone asks me, “Are you ready?” I can respond like any good rebel does on game day.

“Hell Yeah! Damn Right! Hotty Toddy! Gosh almighty! Who the hell are we? Hey! Flim Flam. Bim Bam. Ole Miss by damn!”

So where are you going? Let us know in the comments, so we can build an interactive map.

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  • D

    Drew GuiseMar 30, 2017 at 1:19 AM

    Congrats brother! Looking forward to watching you grow and pursue your dreams. Stay driven my friend, and who knows, maybe “Believe in the Weave for Ole Miss President” will be a school dividing trend someday!

  • B

    Brennon KaighinMar 29, 2017 at 11:02 PM

    Honestly, I’m not planning on going to college just yet. I plan on moving out and taking a year to fully decide what I want to do with my life.