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Taking a chance on change

Kelly Meehan | Saturday, August 19, 2006

I cried. Not only did I cry, I sobbed, heaved and wailed – any way you look at it I was a complete, total and utter mess.

From the Jamaica Shaka to Domer Fest and a Taste of Saint Mary’s, I had participated in every awkward mixer possible. I shook the hands of dozens of Katies, Megans and Katherines, perfected the set-up of my cozy McCandless Hall dorm room and even tested my seemingly shy social skills at the then off-campus drinking mecca Turtle Creek, but none of that seemed to ease the tensions brewing inside of me.

My volcano of emotions erupted just hours before my parents hopped back into their mini-van to travel over 300 miles back to my home in Poland, Ohio.

As I curled up crying on my futon at the conclusion of the College’s freshman orientation I was not upset because I was sad, homesick or lonely – I cried because I knew I would never be the same.

Until that exact moment I generally knew what to expect with each passing moment of life. All the basic elements that I had become overly familiarized with in the duration of my seemingly simple 18 year life – who my best friends were, where we hung out, what my teachers were like and when dinner would be ready – vanished during Frosh-O weekend.

Sitting in my 10×14 cinderblock dorm room on that steamy August afternoon in 2003, I had been given an opportunity that I could not yet comprehend. I barely knew what was in store for me in the next four years of my life, but I had an inkling it would be like nothing I had ever experienced before.

After being on campus for just a few days, I realized my time at Saint Mary’s would present me with a variety of challenges and heartbreaks, but it would also enrich my life with a sense of happiness and fulfillment that I had never known.

Although I doubted my rationale for opting to attend an academically rigorous single-sex college in the middle of Indiana for a few hours that day, I would not trade a single moment of my college experience for anything.

The distraught confusion that overwhelmed me at the conclusion of freshman orientation was the driving force that pushed me to take advantage of all Saint Mary’s had to offer.

I knew I could float through these next years, cutting corners and making a few friends here and there, or I could seize each opportunity that came my way.

Going away to college was the major leap in the series of risks I would force myself to take during my college experience. The true essence of collegiate life lies within these generally difficult decisions each of us must make – some we can foresee, looming in the distance, while others sneak up behind us, forcing us to make an immediate decision that may ultimately change the direction of our lives.

It is crucial to realize sometimes spontaneity spices up the monotonous schedule that is all too easy to embrace while in college. Avoiding collegiate doldrums calls us to become perhaps a little more daring than we had ever imagined. The inner superhero emerges as when you challenge yourself to do something you never thought you would do. So study abroad, participate in a service trip or play an intramural sport – even if you are lacking athletic ability.

Just three short years ago I was a naive 18-year-old girl wallowing in worry and self-pity as I anticipated my mysterious future. I only wish I could have peered into the future for just a moment to fully realize Saint Mary’s would not only develop my mind spiritually and academically, but would also serve as a platform that allowed me to travel the world, achieve my journalistic goals and make the best friends of my life.

Today I congratulate you for overcoming (or at least beginning to adapt to) the initial challenge of your fantastic four-year journey. You will truly enjoy the ride. Embrace the unique opportunities that lie in front of you today, for most of them remain dormant until you discover them, breathe life into them and make them your own.

Kelly Meehan is the Saint Mary’s Editor at The Observer. She is a senior communication studies major at Saint Mary’s. Kelly can be contacted at kmeeha01@saintmarys.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.