After spending four years at Penn State, 160-some miles away from my family, I remember first telling my ten-year-old sister that I planned to move back to the Pittsburgh-area after graduating.
In the most true, endearing form, she barely spent 30 seconds on the conversation before booking off to play, and it dawned on me: she never considered any other option. Of course her big sister would move near home after college.
But until I shook David Shribman’s hand in January, I didn’t know where my journalism degree and four years of experience at The Daily Collegian would take me. I would have let it take me anywhere, and that’s what I thought I wanted, to be taken away, far, far away.
I’m realizing that every day can be as far away from the previous one as you want. Just because I’m heading home doesn’t mean I’m not starting over and creating a new life, the life I’ve always imagined — something like Carrie Bradshaw’s, only with a little more grace and sense about men. Hopefully.
One of the most exciting things about taking a job in Pittsburgh, though, means that I get to watch Chloe grow up. Who doesn’t remember their first kiss? First bad grade? First bad kiss? I want to be there for her through all of those things — and not just a phone call, but a quick drive away.
This lanky little girl with stringy brown hair, who is going to be taller than me any day now, is my world. With 11.5 years between us, we don’t have to be close sisters, but I would be devastated if we weren’t.
After spending 17 years in school, I don’t want her to make the same mistakes I did. I want her to be better than I was, happier. So Chloe Angelina, this is for you, sweetie.
The girls who are mean now won’t matter in five years. What will matter is that you handled yourself with the grace and kindness Mom and Dad taught you to.
Find people who can share in your weirdness. Befriend the other woman who showed up earliest to class, and find someone to have a mini-book club with over burgers and shakes at 3 a.m.
Ask for help. You will never know all of the answers, and no one expects them to. Surround yourself with people who can help you make decisions that don’t keep you up at night.
Listen, really listen to people. When someone is talking, don’t interrupt them. Apologize if you do.
Be present. Being in a roomful of 20-somethings with cell phones now is an incredibly lonely experience, I can’t imagine what a decade will do to that. Turn off the computer and go play in the rain.
Go on long drives. Roll the windows down; turn the radio up. Find comfort in your travel companion and open your heart to them.
Find what you love and pursue it fearlessly. Don’t ever apologize for whatever that is. Stand up for yourself, and know that I will always, unconditionally, stand up for you, too.
Don’t be afraid to beg for forgiveness. You’re going to make mistakes. I make at least five each day, and when you do, it’s so important to know how to apologize. When that doesn’t work: breathe, hold your head high and move toward better things.
Don’t play games with people. Remember that anything you release into the universe may never come back to you, much like a balloon when you let go of the strings.
Find room in your heart for the people who come back. It might feel impossible to do, but it’s harder and more damaging to harbor anger.
Enjoy the company of our family, because we really have a wonderful one.
When Aunt Sherry tells you that you can talk to her about anything, she means it.
Write Rah a letter. The hand-written letters we exchanged during the past few years mean so much to me. I’ve read each at least three times.
Spend as much time as you can at Nana and Pap Pap’s house. You’ll never get a better home-cooked meal anywhere.
Thank Dad everyday; he would do anything to see us smile and is the most selfless person you will ever meet.
Let Mom be your best friend. I couldn’t get through a single day without her strength and guidance. You won’t always like what she has to say, but she’s usually right.
And don’t be afraid of the end. This newspaper is the last Collegian I will help produce. This column is the last thing I will have published in the Collegian.
What do they say about one door closing and five more opening? Life is something like that. You are going to be successful, happy and more loved than you can ever imagine, because you already are.
In the next two weeks, I’ll pack my apartment and office and head back to Pittsburgh. But consider the life of a journalist unpredictable. No matter where this job takes me — because eventually it could take me somewhere far, far away — know that I love you and that I couldn’t be more proud of the young woman you are becoming.
I will always be your biggest fan.
Lexi Belculfine is a senior majoring in print journalism and was the editor in chief of The Daily Collegian until 6:15 a.m. today. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.