Nowak: Good or bad, just be yourself

Erica Nowak

Being the last issue of The Villanovan, and having my last opportunity to burn the few bridges that I have left, I have decided to save some face and talk about the next milestone in my life, graduation. This is something I have a differing opinion on than most of my fellow seniors.

Most people, from what I gather, are sad to be leaving. I, on the other hand, am glad to be going. Kick me out the door, say goodbye and shuffle me off to Buffalo, because I am ready to move on.

I don’t look at graduation as a sad time, but a time to celebrate: kick back, relax, pop a bottle of Asti Spumante and look at the opportunities I’ve had over the past few years and realize how much I’ve changed.

I’ve learned the term “The Courts” does not refer to a tennis club down the street and I’ve learned that the chirp at the corner of Lancaster and Ithan is not a real bird. But more importantly, I’ve learned what it means to be me.

Over the past four years, I have had the opportunity to grow in an atmosphere unlike any other. I have been praised, rejected, congratulated and criticized. But most of all, I have been challenged.

I sat in a Bartley classroom at the start of the school year in a class I had no interest in whatsoever. The class was Black Politics and the professor was Frank Pryor. But from the first moment of the class until the final day of lecture, Pryor held my interest like a deer in headlights. He has impacted my life by expanding my mind and my critical thinking abilities beyond all limits.

But the classroom is not where I attribute all of my growth. In fact, most of it has been beyond the classroom. The challenges we face each day are not only what help us grow into the people we are, but they are what lead us to be the people we are meant to be-ourselves.

I swear that the people I work with think I am a nut. I run around the office cracking jokes and making people laugh as if I am a clown on Balloon Day. My co-workers look at me in disbelief, while my boss just smiles and shakes her head. She knows this is the person I am and the person I am meant to be. (Although sometimes I think she gets a bit weary since I am her daughter’s roommate.)

This is what I have gained from Villanova: the ability to grow as a person and be respected for my decisions, whether right or wrong. It’s tripping and having to get up by yourself without any help.

But it goes beyond this. It’s your interaction with others. It’s your ability to give back. It’s making everyday random acts of kindness days. It’s the power of two magical words, “thank you.” These words may sound so little, but they mean so much. I learned that lesson this year and hope I am never caught short of those special words. They are the ultimate, yet simplest compliment. They form the expression that can make people smile.

I can’t thank this community enough for turning me into the person I am today. Whether I have bloomed into a new flower or turned into a sour apple, it is how I was meant to be. I thank everyone for what they have done for me throughout my four years. I thank my advisor for being there for me since the day I declared my major. I thank him for his advice, his ability to listen and the direction he has given me.

I even thank the professor who, freshman year, called me a liar. I recognize him because he set the flame inside of me and taught me never to let anyone compromise my values or fall into another’s trap. He taught me to stand my ground and be firm in the face of someone obnoxious and rude.

So as I leave, I do so with one thought: Don’t be afraid to do anything, stand up for what you believe in, and accept the greatest challenge any one person can take on, the challenge to be yourself.