Learning to Enjoy a Bittersweet End

bittersweet, adjective: arousing pleasure tinged with sadness or pain.

It’s a cliche word and a damn cliche way to start a column, but the feeling is ruling over my life right now and probably will be for a while.

I just had my senior portrait taken — cap amd gown included. I don’t graduate until May, but I’ll come clean and say that I think about my impending graduation every day. I’m both terrified and ecstatic, and it’s bittersweet like I’ve never felt before.

It’ll be hard coming to terms with leaving a place that’s done so much for me, and that’s why I’m starting now.

College has changed me in some ways I can describe and other ways that I can’t. When I got here I was timid, teary-eyed and strikingly unconfident in myself. I was still overcoming heartbreak from the past summer, and I often felt really alone thinking that not one person understood what I was going through vis a vis my low self-esteem. I had yet to accept my introversion and anxiety, general and social. I had yet to realize that who I am is actually pretty amazing.

I think about the person I was back then and smile. Although she wasn’t too sure of herself, she still had the motivation to try. She went to that first Oracle story meeting freshman year, but simply attending was more than enough. The stories were far too intimidating to take on—how could I talk to all those people?

But man, did I try. I stressed over every assignment in every one of my journalism classes. I brooded over the times I was too anxious to interview a stranger in those early classes, so I interviewed a friend instead. I thought, “There’s no way I can go on with this.” My dream job felt so far away for someone “like me,” who often couldn’t fight past anxiety to make what should’ve been a simple phone call.

I started to re-think everything. I tried minoring in art, and my friends who knew me at the time know that this failed artistic endeavor made me angry-stress to no end. I took two three-hour art classes back-to-back during my second fall semester in hopes of coming away a master graphic designer and ergo having a back-up plan if I discovered I wasn’t cut out for journalism. Luckily, I didn’t learn any technical skills and didn’t get much out of the class. I ended up dropping the art minor the semester after because the art program here was not for me.

I never gave up on journalism, though. I’ve always had a passion for it, and that’s carried me along. I kept truckin’. I learned to fight through the anxiety. As time went on, I slowly got better at talking to people. Everyone always told me I would, but I thought I’d be the exception because I was just too shy.

That mindset I had about myself was severely lacking. It neglected that I am a person that cares a whole lot, and as the Motion City Soundtrack lyric goes, “If you truly do believe in something, somehow it all works out.”

I started going on Tinder dates, and after a few failed attempts, found a loving partner out in the real world. I started getting help for my anxiety. I joined this very paper, and after a year, ran for two page editor positions, ultimately getting the one that I really, really wanted. Being in this position continues to help me grow in big ways.

I’m proud of myself, but the point is not to brag. I still have plenty of improvements to make. These past three years have just proved to me that change doesn’t happen immediately, but it does happen if you’re steadfast, dig deep and remain honest with yourself.

So, this is why leaving New Paltz is going to be all sorts of bittersweet. I’ve seen myself grow in such a wonderful, welcoming environment. But I’m also nearing the time for bigger things (and freedom from campus food hopefully forever.)

I shouldn’t jump the gun, though; I’m looking forward to making the most of what’s left.