You will go nameless because while you are you, you are not alone.
Living in my college town, by myself in the summer, has been an experience. It was at times my own worst enemy, being shrouded by the ghosts of memories and at other times; some of the best experiences of my life. I had some really low points and some really high points. Just like any other summer, really.
But as I prepare to finally move out of Kutztown one last time (well, you never say never); I can’t help but look back at to what I’m figuratively leaving.
As the corn grows on the cross country course, I’m reminded of a time where I didn’t think I would say the words “goodbye” as I was refusing to say “hello”. I’m reminded of the first ever run I did as a Kutztown Golden Bear. It was during preseason camp and it was about 95 degrees outside at 3pm. Coach told us to get in an “easy” 30 minutes, to introduce the freshmen to the course, which to me was refreshing. It was short enough to hold on, long enough to impress people (in my head) if I were to keep up.
I, being a dumb freshman, stayed with Frank for about 20 minutes and Frank had a tendency to go a bit harder. I swear, once my watch said “20:01”; I immediately got dropped on that run. I realized that I had a long way to go.
I was at a low point since I just moved in to our on-campus housing for the week (with another move for the year coming shortly) and I remember wanting to call out my Mom for suggesting “Joey, you are literally about to make the best friends of your life and the best memories you could ever hope for”. I didn’t out of love, but inside I was like “what’s up with this shit?”.
Running got harder before it got better. I’m talking six months of adapting to a program. By that point, I started becoming aware of who I was starting to be. I became myself. I realized Kevin, Eli, Ryan, Nate, Steve and Frank were some of my best friends already. I realized Ben was someone to want to be. I realized Kori, Kendel and Max were going to be fun to watch as athletes and I realized (years later though) that I would miss Harry and Jon. I saw that Steph, Keri, Mo and Kristin had their shit together and the rest of the team was about to change.
It took a year before I realized how much I changed. I was looking forward to the weekends. I was looking forward to….well, looking forward. There were new memories to be made.
But then things changed. Courses got tougher, running had more expectations and guess what? There were new freshmen. As you become older, you have a responsibility. Not to babysit but to teach. To instill tradition, keep jokes going and making sure everyone is aware of everything. I’m big into the team being one huge family with ancestry. I made sure that freshman, almost seven years younger than them, knew who Kevin and Ben were. I made sure that most inside jokes became public knowledge because who doesn’t want to know what teams were like before them?
Sometimes it wasn’t successful but I realized what I became. That literally I bled maroon and gold and to think that there was a time that I didn’t even want to BE here was shocking.
We all live in BuzzFeed type world where the past is a lot more glorified than it truly was. There were the fights, the arguments, the repulsiveness, the lonely walk backs, the dorm life, the failure to communicate and the lousy races. That existed and always will. The low points should always be remembered.
It was a struggle for me to move on from being the “young” person because as I got older, I realized I was the last one left from a time beforehand. People joined my life like Jess, Jake, Jack, Jenn, Zach, Carolyn, Jayme, Lauren, Mike, Brad, Andrew, CJ, Liz, Corinne, the Sheriff, Molly, Megan, Emily, Francie and etc. that changed the way I saw everything. From love to friendship to forgotten nights to warmups and cool-downs; my life DID change. People walked in and out, sometimes on a more permanent basis, but guess what? I did too.
I embraced being the older person. I remember coming back from my internship all excited for practice to be “in charge”. Not to boss people around but to have people actually care what I had to say and value it. That shit was dope. I never say dope for the record.
Weekends were fun because it was almost like a full circle thing. We had a group that just hung together. It was like the “old days” without trying too hard. We had fun, but more importantly we made fun. That’s tough.
Of course, all things come to an end.
So to the freshman that is about to start their first preseason camp, you will hate parts of it. The memory of it will be a lot more fun than the actual experience. But what’s ahead of you is something ridiculously special. You are part of something that I got half of a decade in experiencing. Rod & Gun, Caves, Paul Short, Galen Piper, Paul Kaiser and PSACs mean nothing to you right now but soon it will dominate your thoughts and memories. Main Street, Noble Street, South Whiteoak will soon be your favorite destinations. Spuds, Mama’s, Uncle Joe’s and the Academic Forum will be your delicacies.
People will be in and out of your life too. You are the center of your social universe and guess what, your actions will revolve around you. But that new car smell turns into expectations soon enough and as you get older, there will be more stuff you have to go through. You’ll be OK if you give the effort though because trust me, I did HALF A DECADE of this. I know more than you.
To the senior, please remember everything. Whether that is on your Flotrack or your Facebook or anything; all of it will be real. You will graduate and it will be rad but you will remember what it was like running on that course with no real idea of what you got into. Then you will realize that the course became your home as horrifically lame as that sounds. People have run Rod and Gun for years without you and guess what? Years will go where you won’t be part of it. You get five years, tops, to embrace it; so make the most of it because soon you will be a ghost on those runs.
That’s not to say life sucks after graduating because, hey; didn’t part of you think that after high school? This time though you won’t be alone on the ride because we are all in this together.
Just remember though….that freshman is gone but will always be part of you.