The year was 2006. My iTunes contained a mix of emo/punk bands and hip-hop music. My pockets had a cheap flip phone and a bulging wallet that ironically never had any money in it. In my mind and my heart were feelings of excitement and anxiety due to the uncertainty of what was ahead. I was entering college. Not just any college, but Villanova University.
My freshman year was a blur of laughter, mistakes, do-overs, undo’s and foolishness. Father Peter had just become Villanova’s 32nd president. 50 Cent performed at Hoops Mania.Dante Cunningham dunked on Texas rookie phenom, Kevin Durant. The radio only played Akon and T-Pain.
I lived in Delurey Hall (aka D-Block) with two other gentlemen that would later become two of my best friends. I was an 18-year-old “blank canvas” who was on the academic path to becoming a physician.
There I was, balancing three hour labs, a full week of 8:30s and a tumultuous social life. To me, my life was a combination of a Jay-Z club song and an episode of House.
In reality my life was probably more like a sad Fall Out Boy song mixed with an unusual stew of student groups, late night studying and outrageous behavior that would make my parents ask for their money back.
Blink! It was four years later and I was taking senior portrait photos and getting sized for my cap and gown. The year was 2010 and my undergraduate experience was about to reach its finale.
I recall speaking about the changes the University and we all went through. In addition to the countless new buildings on campus, our football team won its first NCAA Division I National Championship and our men’s basketball team went to the Final Four, which resulted in students flooding Lancaster Avenue, stopping traffic for hours. As expected, Father Peter had become a campus-wide celebrity.
As for me, I was a new person. I had experienced success, failure, love and the loss of a best friend. I had a different major and more outrageous friends than anyone should ever have.
I fell hard for the tall blonde girl on the Dance Team and we were going on a two and a half year relationship. A couple of close friends and I produced a mixtape, and even performed a couple of times. Things in my life seemed fine for the present, but questionable for the future.
Shaking the hands of professors and friends whom I knew I would not be seeing until the next Homecoming or possibly ever again, I wished everyone the best of luck while I mentally prepared myself for Round Two of Villanova…Graduate School.
Blink again! Three years later, I am sitting at a desk in 108 Dougherty having déjà vu about emails concerning cap and gown pick up. The year is 2013 and my supervisor asks what I have learned these past three years. In all honesty, pursuing a graduate degree at the same institution that you received your undergraduate degree has its surreal moments. There are ways you feel connected and disconnected within the same moment.
At the end of my first year, I realized that I was Andy from “Toy Story 3”. *Spoiler Alert!* It was time for me to open the box and “let others play with my old toys.” Student organizations and hang outs belonged to a new regime. I had to accept and respect that. Although it felt dark at first, knowing that I was on a new path to improve my future placed light at the end of the tunnel.
On top of that, I was now able to see how Villanova functions administratively. I was part of the “other side” and found a home within Residence Life and Student Development. My superiors within both offices acted as my mentors and occasional therapists (don’t judge, free therapy is the best type of therapy!).
Quantifying my experiences, I was an Orientation Counselor to 44 new students and steering leader to six OCs. I embraced the Fourth Day with Search Group 39. I was handed a reality check during my Habitat for Humanity trip to Lexington, KY. I attended eight Candidate Days and gave a countless amount of Blue Key tours.
I was an RA to more than 200 students and was the Head RA for two RAs. I’ve rocked out at 11 CAT concerts and have been to every Hoops Mania since 2006. I was responsible for 12 CAT executive board members. I won my first intramural B-league basketball championship this year! And this is just the tip of the iceberg!
My organization theory professor, Father Jacobs, once spoke about self-actualization. Self-actualization occurs when an individual realizes his or her potential. He said, “No human besides Jesus has achieved self-actualization.” I didn’t fully understand that until now. After seven years at Villanova, what I’ve learned is that students are able to do the impossible. One’s potential keeps growing. Potential is supposed to act as a motivator, not a threshold. As college students, we are miracle workers. We are superheroes. We are infinite.
Not everything changes with time. Although the number of friends slightly dwindled, they are still outrageous. Jay Wright is still the best dressed coach in the NCAA, and that tall blonde girl from the Dance Team is still holding my hand.
I remember my senior year, chasing after a young freshman who was running out of Vasey Hall because he was offended during the Diversity Skit. I saw that same young man a lot that year and although we are different in many ways, he slightly reminded me of my 18 year old self. Now, that same freshman has grown into a young adult, and believe me, the entire ’Nova Nation knows his name. Someone should ask him how he feels in two years. His potential is limitless, as is mine, as is yours.