The year was 2002. The song was Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas.
I was 9-years-old on a warm, breezy summer night in Lexington. My parents drove my sister and me around the streets of the University of Kentucky – Rose to Euclid to Limestone. It had become somewhat of a tradition for my dad to take us onto campus and show us his old classroom buildings, jamming out to Kansas, Journey, Boston and all the other bands that took the campus back to the times he and my mom were there.
We walked down the pathways, covered in blue paw prints. We would stop in Tolly Ho, back when it was next door to Pazzo’s, and have the best burger in town.
I remember in those moments, looking around at the buildings, the dorms and the monuments thinking, “Wow, these students are in their twenties, it’ll be forever until I’m here! I wonder how hard it’ll be!”
Today, I am in my twenties. Today, I followed those same pathways with the same paw prints as I left class for the last time.
A lot has happened in the five years I’ve spent at UK. They weren’t even consecutive years. After my freshman year, the realities of college and several personal tragedies hit me hard.
I knew I needed some time off and I hoped I would muster up the will power to come back and finish what I had started.
At the end of next week, on Friday, May 5, I will be walking across a stage in Rupp Arena, to receive a fake piece of paper that proves I can follow directions and improvise my way out of a situation.
The things I am most satisfied with aren’t the degree. I don’t really need some piece of paper to tell me that I followed a list of requirements and spent a lot of money. People who know me know I have some pretty harsh criticisms about the way colleges work today. For the most part, they are mega-machines for exploiting young students.
But the things I am satisfied with are the people I have met and the lessons I have learned.
It took me two years to figure out what I wanted to major in. I decided on journalism because I had been complimented on my writing in high school, and it sounded like something I could do. I sometimes think about if I had studied business, pre-law or engineering. After all, those are the jobs that pay.
But now that I’ve made it through the journalism program, I can say that I do not regret it a single bit, and if anything, I wish I’d declared sooner.
The entire faculty, in my experience, have been caring, hard-working individuals that want to see their students succeed. Most of them have taught me not only to be a better journalist, but to be a better person. I’ve learned about deadlines, interviewing and proofreading, but I’ve also learned about humility, straight-shooting and fairness.
Journalists are getting a bad rep these days, and some of it is completely fair. I criticize the news media frequently when I see something I don’t like.
But I can say the Journalists that work at the UK School of Journalism and Media are some of the most professional, steadfast Journalists (big J) around.
I don’t know what my next step in life will be, I’m still working that out. One thing I do know is, thanks to UK and all the wonderful teachers I’ve had, I’ll be able to lift my foot high enough to climb whatever step I take.
14 years ago, that 9-year-old boy had no idea what things would be like once I got to college. Now, this 23-year-old knows that things were pretty darn good.
To those of you graduating with me, even if it isn’t this year but in years past, we did it. We fulfilled the dream I had at 9.
To those who haven’t graduated yet, Carry On My Wayward Sons, and enjoy every moment while you have it.
All it is is Dust in the Wind.