Op/Ed: Finding my ‘why’ and embracing change

(Photo/Cayenne Williams)

If someone told me five years ago that I would decide to go to a university halfway across the country, I don’t think I would have believed it.

It was in my sophomore year of high school that I decided I didn’t want to go straight to a university. I wanted to get my associate’s degree at my local community college in Santa Rosa, California. I was planning to major in music and become a piano teacher. Obviously, that is not what happened.

Five years later, I am writing an article about my college experience as I’m about to graduate with my bachelor’s degree in strategic communication at a university in West Texas, over 1,000 miles away from where I went to high school. Talk about a five-year plan.

I like plans, but plans change. Although my path to West Texas A&M University was unusual, I think I was meant to be here all along. I never talked about going to college out of state before applying to WT, but the newfound freedom I felt after high school made me realize I had options for the first time in my life. I didn’t have to stay in the same city I had been in for seven years or the state I’d been raised in – the world was full of possibility.

My time as a college student has not been all rainbows and butterflies. While I’ve enjoyed this experience immensely, it has been equally challenging. I struggled a lot with finding motivation during my first year of college. As a freshman, I felt like I had such a long way to go and I couldn’t see my end goal. I felt like a fraud because I didn’t know what I was doing.

Most of my friends were pretty confident about their choice of major, but I wasn’t. I thought I wanted to pursue music, but I felt incompetent in my classes. Right before midterms, I dropped almost all my music courses on the same day. That action was quite impulsive, but it felt like the only way I could pull myself together that semester. I changed my major to English for the rest of my first semester and then to nursing before my second semester.

The COVID-19 pandemic is when I was able to turn myself around. Being immersed in campus life helps some people focus, but I was able to find my focus in isolation. I always felt like I didn’t have enough time my freshman year, but the pandemic gave me an abundance of time. In addition, I felt like my problem of indecisiveness paled in comparison to the crisis our world was facing.

My time in quarantine gave me the opportunity to reflect on my life and my path in college, and I came to the conclusion that I needed to think less about the end goal and more about the process. I decided to switch my major to communication because communication courses were enjoyable to me. I didn’t know what the end goal was, but I was okay with that so long as I could study something that interested and challenged me in the right way. Not in an overwhelming way, but a way that encouraged me to push myself and learn.

I spent an entire year studying from home, and, when I finally returned to campus in spring of 2021, it was a lot different than when I had left. There were less people around, everyone wore masks, many people just stayed home or in their dorm rooms all day. Most of the people I knew my freshman year ended up leaving WT during the pandemic and didn’t come back. It was a reality check in terms of just how much the pandemic changed everything.

By the Fall 2021 semester, things were back to “more normal.” The majority of people didn’t wear masks anymore and we started having in-person events again. After all the online classes and isolation, it was so nice to be able to take classes in person and interact with people. I got involved with The Prairie News and 1910 PR this year, which have both taught me valuable skills and helped me to find a community of students and professors who have supported and motivated me in the final stretch of completing my degree.

The Department of Communication has felt like a family to me in terms of how everyone seems to know everyone, and it is the first place I was able to find a sense of community at WT. Both the professors and students have taught me so much and inspired me to push the boundaries of my learning. I’ve enjoyed my time with The Prairie News and the camaraderie within this organization. I will miss the laughs, the conversations and even the late nights writing articles and editing video. I’m thankful for the leadership of Dr. Garcia and how she encourages us to innovate, and, most importantly, speak truth.

As I reach the end of my journey here at WT, I reflect on how far I’ve come. I’ve learned to try new things and to persevere when things get tough, but I’ve also learned about the importance of changing course when you don’t have a “why.” I’ve learned that people come and go, that times change, so, in the end, what matters most is staying true to yourself. Above all, I’ve developed enough confidence in myself to embrace change. I don’t know what my next journey will bring, but I’m ready to embrace both the challenges and the successes that come with it.