I was walking through the Oval last week when it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Nearly four years ago, I trudged through the snow and slush, wandering with no final destination in mind.
I was a freshman at Michigan State with no semblance of a blueprint for how to make the most of the four years that make up the prime of a young adult’s life.
A career in sports journalism was the light at the end of my tunnel. But navigating that dark, vast passageway seemed too difficult.
Once I learned I had to pay my dues before becoming involved with the journalism program, I lost all motivation. Class became an afterthought. Exercise became a foreign practice. Panda Express became a twice-a-day staple. My nocturnal schedule made owls jealous.
Sometimes the voices inside your head aren’t enough. When the opinions of the little angel and devil cancel out, you need an arbitrator. But when you’re 18, you don’t want to listen to anyone else.
About three months into my Spartan career, I opted to transfer to Ohio State, a place I was familiar and comfortable with (not to mention, a place half as pricey, thanks to in-state tuition).
This was despite the efforts of plenty of people trying to plant that decisive voice in my head pleading for me to stay in East Lansing.
But that gave me that push I needed, that chip on my shoulder.
I never looked back.
Within a month at OSU, I landed a sports reporting job. Before the end of my first quarter in Columbus, I had secured the football beat for the upcoming season for The Lantern.
Nothing had changed – I still lacked much collegiate experience. But attitude alters everything. No longer was I the kid using high school clips to win people over; instead, I was demonstrating my drive and passion as tools at my disposal.
The worst thing a college student can do is put things off. Now editor-in-chief of The Lantern, it pains me to meet talented writers looking for their first clips as graduating seniors.
I’m not big on quotes or virtues, but my stepfather instilled one concept that stuck with me since my struggle with Sparty. He taught me that nothing will fall into your lap, that you must take initiative to get what you want.
I knew I had writing talent. Every time I sit at my computer to start an economics paper, I thank God for giving me the ability to BS my way through 10 pages of supply and demand analysis.
What I lacked – what anyone entering college lacks – was experience.
There’s no better place than OSU to gain experience in sports journalism.
In three years, I’ve covered No. 1 teams in football and basketball, the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the NCAA Tournament, a No. 2 overall NBA draft pick and, of course, the most significant off-the-field scandal in Buckeye football history.
How could an aspiring sports journalist wait until his or her final quarter to take a whack at that? Why not squeeze the most out of what OSU has to offer? There’s tons of juice to go around.
On the day in which I was to cover my first football game, I strongly considered not going. I was so nervous, I put my press pass out of sight, turned off my phone and planned to avoid contact with the outside world for three hours. I remember my girlfriend, shocked that someone who claimed to be so driven and motivated, would flake out on his first major opportunity.
Then I thought, if I bailed, would I ever be given a second chance? Even if I was, how do I know I’d go through with it then?
I mustered up the courage necessary to talk myself out of failing my first true test, and I didn’t look back. I covered every football game but two for the next three years.
As I leave The Lantern and head toward a future with more uncertainty than the stock market, I almost feel unsatisfied. I could have accomplished more. I could have knocked more stories off my to-do list.
But I can’t imagine the regret felt by those who missed out on these chances, those who sat back and waited for opportunity to fall into their lap.
As I put the finishing touches on my final paper at The Lantern, I think about how much I’ve learned.
Dan Caterinicchia, The Lantern‘s adviser since last fall, has pushed me so much, it’s incredible I haven’t pressed charges. He’ll compliment you for reaching new heights, but seconds later challenge you to make that achievement the new standard and to strive for more. That’s the kind of person you want as the decisive voice in your head.
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind: finishing the Ray Small story, devoting days and nights to Jim Tressel coverage, satisfying the requests of countless media outlets that have taken my hate mail far more seriously than I have.
But all of that has given me a taste of what the real world can be like. And that this all happened as my collegiate clock ticks toward zero gave me a wake-up call.
The time is now. It’s time to go out and achieve what I’ve been working for.
Thing is, that’s the concept I’ve been working under this whole time.
When I left Michigan State, I never looked back. When I leave OSU, I’ll reminisce a little, but I’ll focus on the future.
There’s no time for looking back — except for the next time I’m walking through the Oval and pass a group of girls basking in the sun.
Then, after I walk past, I might have to take a look back.