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Final remarks from a four-year columnist


May 6, 2015

The strange yet fascinating thing about life is that you can’t really plan it. It just, happens. And as I sit here writing to you one last time, one week away from graduation, I want you to know that that is a constant throughout our entire lives. You will always be one step behind from what life throws at you, and it may seem difficult to keep up. But the trick is to just go with it, to handle it gracefully and professionally, good or bad. Because one day, just when you thought you were getting the hang of it, everything will change.

A blue bicycle. Some steps. The combination could be deadly. Well not really, more like the combination could lead to stares and “obviously, she’s a freshman.” That is what I thought while sliding my way down the steps in front of Rodli Hall, during a crowded passing period, on my way to visit a friend from high school. While obviously I wish one of my first memories of college was not biking down some stairs, letting out an audible “wooooah!” as returning students enjoyed watching a freshman be a mess, I just remember that I had to learn somehow. Even in the least ideal situation possible, I learned my surroundings quickly, and realized that I am only human. Because, you know, most humans bike down stairs.

Now, you may be thinking: “So, what? You were a stupid freshman. At least I only wore my lanyard around my neck.” Well, when I look back on the immense embarrassment that I experienced, I realized that even though I didn’t plan it, the experience gave me a story to tell and a nice crash start to my college career. Of course, this is due in part that I largely avoided wearing my lanyard around my neck, so I only suffered minimal embarrassment.

Despite the embarrassing freshman moments, we all come into college having these huge expectations, even if they are unrealistic. We all want to get perfect grades, go on many dates, get a boyfriend or girlfriend, and at the end of it all, get our dream job. I am no exception to these wishes; and I can tell you, they did not all come true.

In fact, hardly any of them came true. Even though the last few years have proved well academically, it was not always like that. I struggled in general education courses, whether the subject was rough (math for example) or the professor was less-than-impressed with my writing style, even though I judged it as the greatest thing I had ever written. Unless, of course, I had the unfortunate experience of taking a math or science class and fully planned that B- or C, the same cannot be said for every class, even writing classes. Every average or terrible grade I received on a paper led me to believe that professional writing was the wrong major for me. On more than one occasion, the unexpected bad grade led me to thinking seriously about switching my major.

But so what? What other major would I excel at and still have a chance at getting a career in? Probably many, but I never seemed to think of anything better than professional writing. So, instead of taking the easy way out and switching to an easier, less writing intensive major, I tried my hand at keeping up with life and just kept writing.

I didn’t know what was ahead of me, but it got better and now I am graduating with honors…in professional writing. So, just because one grade has got you feeling discouraged, don’t give up what you know you were meant to do.

I feel like part of the reason why my academic life at least improved is because my maturity level went up pretty dramatically over the last four years. I suppose I did expect that; that is a huge part of college. But what I didn’t plan was how it would change my life, even in the course of four short years.

While I didn’t lose my first friends at college, gaining maturity allowed me to also branch out and not be afraid to meet new people. What used to seem like a large, unfamiliar campus is now quite small, as I am constantly waving to people I pass. People come and go, and not every friend I made is still or will remain in my life. But, I will remember everyone I met. We all went through the college experience and encountered life’s surprises, together.

Now that I am at the end of my college career, I realize that it is expected of me by some to have my life planned and figured out. I have friends with jobs lined up, a wedding planned, and an apartment to venture to when it all takes off. I don’t have any of that; while I have an idea of where I want to go, I still don’t know exactly where I belong.

I admittedly sometimes feel like a failure not having my post-college life set up and ready to go, but it’s important to slow down and realize that many other recent graduates don’t know what they are doing either, and that’s okay. At this point, I can’t plan my life, I just need to see where I can go and what I can get along the way.

On October 18, 2011, I wrote my first column. And on May 5, 2015, I wrote my last. Did I plan to stick with the same column all throughout college? Actually, no. Many weeks, I experienced writer’s block: a haphazardly thrown together jumble of words or a complete loss of ideas. I planned several times to take a break and gather my thoughts and focus solely on my schoolwork. But then I gave in and said, “well, I don’t know, I might miss it, I guess.”

And now that I cannot return, I will miss it. For four years, I walked the sidewalks of this campus, and each of those weeks, I wrote this column. It was just my life; I thought nothing of it. And now everything is about to change. But, I will still look back at it, years from now, no idea what I would have done without the opportunity to write to the students, faculty and community of River Falls.

Cristin Dempsey is an English major and music minor from Eagan, Minn. She enjoys writing, playing the flute and swimming. After college she would like to pursue a career as an editor.