Summer of 2015, I was waiting at the Walmart back at home in rural Illinois, getting my oil changed when my dad called me. He got the letter that I was kicked out of community college for failing grades.
I felt the bile in the back of my throat, like I could blow chunks all over the mechanic’s jumpsuit. I felt destined to work at my food service job with no way out, then the mechanic told me I needed a new tail light, too.
I only saw one option ahead of me: kicking myself in the ass and getting my life together. I appealed my suspension from college, and hunkered down with Alanis Morissette records and my best friend and math tutor, Shawn.
I chose to sacrifice the central IL nightlife of cheap beer and weak marijuana to study and work for a brighter future. It took another year of junior college to land here, at Elmhurst College, an unknown area with far less cornfields from home.
Finding friends as a transfer student was impossible. I spent most of my time alone in my apartment until a miracle happened in Daniels 308 (holla at my fellow english majors!).
One afternoon, Dr. Ron Wiginton asked me to stay after in his Writing Fiction class. I was scared shitless, how could I mess up with only being here two weeks?
Having a professor you barely know admire your work is shady. Having Dr. Ron ask me to audition for The Leader haunts me daily. I could have said no and left, but instead I ran home, my phone glued to my ear calling my family, teary-eyed.
This would be the first of many tears shed over my journalism career, and trust me, I am the queen of cleaning out Kleenex boxes.
I managed to jump from columnist to music reviewer to multimedia editor in one semester, throwing all my time and effort outside of class to a production I barely knew anything about.
When Kenneth asked me to be his managing editor for this year, I felt like I did in the Walmart garage years ago, but with pride and responsibility this time. Thank you for believing in me, Kung-Fu Kenny.
I don’t know how to explain my situation with The Leader besides pure luck, or voluntary torture. Basically the same thing. I thank my family at The Leader for helping each of us grow, whether it’s through tough love or half-awake cuddles on the office couch at 2 a.m.
Most importantly, I thank you, the reader, more than anything. You have given me the power to tell a story, and to a writer, that is the goal.
I may not be a straight-laced journalist, hell, I may not be straight at all, but I hope my stupid stories and observations have given you something to think about. I leave you with some of my favorite words I have read by artist Frida Kahlo, “Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you.”