By WESLEY ROBINSON
A bachelor’s degree is supposed to take four years, sometimes five to complete. My college career has been like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book spanning 11 years of real time.
You could read it once through and get the highlights pretty quickly if you pick the right path, or you can choose a more drawn out path, take a few risks, experience a few setbacks and have to start the story all over again. I chose the longer, more expansive adventure.
When I started college at the University of Kentucky in 2003, I didn’t really want to go to school, but I didn’t have any other options. The military seemed like a bad idea for a free thinker who didn’t like to listen, mom’s house wasn’t simply a viable option and the idea of more school seemed like a chore—especially considering I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I thought I wanted to be something like a David E. Kelley character on The Practice. That idea was short-lived after my writing skills were atomic bombed in English classes. I couldn’t quit.
I was told I had to major in something, so I chose Spanish because I had been studying the language and culture in some fashion since the summer between fifth and sixth grade after taking an extracurricular course taught by a Panamanian neighbor in my hometown of Tacoma, Wash.
That academic plan didn’t work out too well either because the commitment to learning another language becomes extremely difficult after taking 300-level courses dedicated to reading and writing and not having an opportunity to be immersed in the language through studies abroad, but I pressed on mostly in vain.
At the same time I was digging a dubious academic hole with a foreign language and a wayward adventure, I discovered journalism. I’ve always been interested in the newspapers, mostly the sports section, but I had developed a love for learning and sharing stories.
Perhaps it runs in the family. My uncle, a longtime editor within the Gannett network has always been someone I admired and his sister, my mom, was a bit of a journalist in her past, according to her transcripts buried amongst other keepsakes in her Louisville basement.
I found myself at one of my major crossroads after the fourth time I took time off school to figure out what I was doing. I had figured out school. I learned how to network, volunteer, learn outside of the classroom and how to gain real meaningful experience through the university structure. I had racked up quite a bit of student debt and essentially proven I wasn’t a good scholar. I had crapped out on the college gamble, at least at UK.
Just before I was laid off at my last full-time job, my boss told me that I had the potential to do her job and higher if I applied myself and if that was what I wanted to do. She echoed the same words as she explained the company’s layoff policy and whether or not I wanted to stay on in a menial role until more prospects opened up, or if I wanted to pursue other opportunities including finishing a degree. I choose school and I decided to transfer to Eastern.
It’s cliché to say it was the best decision of my life, but to this point, I can’t think of anything more impactful. To me Eastern has been finishing school… obviously not in the traditional sense of the term, but in the sense that it helped me complete my collegiate experience.
Literally, I will finish here. Figuratively, this university has been the culmination point of my learning experiences to this point in life.
I came here looking to get a degree and get out.
Show up. Go to class. Get good grades. Earn a degree and move on.
I’m writing this farewell as the editor of the newspaper, so it’s safe to say I got involved a little bit.
When I transferred to Eastern I had a simple goal. I wanted to graduate before my little sister. That may not seem like a big task, but when I started college, she was in elementary school. When I walk across the stage May 10, I’ll have beat her by just one year, but I achieved my goal, because I didn’t quit and it is thanks to people pushing me in ways I cannot begin to repay.
Getting through college has been a collective experience that so many people have impacted.
So many people have left an important mark on my story I can’t begin to name them all. I don’t have the economy of words to describe just how much of a journey this has been, but to put it into perspective, the guy who couldn’t cut it at the Interior Journal in Stanford is headed off to try his hand at the Washington Post. Doesn’t make sense, does it?
At times I’ve wanted to quit, I was in complete despair, but people have given me a hand up and sometimes had more confidence in me that I’ve had in myself.
This adventure has been worth choosing because of kindness, compassion and understanding from family, friends and mentors. Whether it’s the loving text I get every Sunday morning when I’m dreading the fact that I’m again working with no days off or the warm embraces I receive when I run into someone who has seen my transformation from graphic T-shirts and fitted caps to now, I value it all more than words can describe.
When I didn’t have the strength to turn the page, you helped and that means everything.
Wesley Robinson is a journalism senior. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.