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  • Colton Pankiewicz, Sports Editor

Mission 100 Days: Finding myself and my purpose through prayer and failure

By Colton Pankiewicz, Sports Editor

College was never my life plan. 

As an only child from a family who didn’t find their successes by attending college, the idea of getting a degree always seemed imaginary. In my final six months of high school, I put forth almost zero effort to go the college route. If it weren’t for a college fair in December of 2019, I wouldn’t be here. That college fair led me to apply for one school and one school only: Canisius.

As someone who was immature at that point of my life, a pandemic cutting short what would’ve served as a hallway for manhood didn’t help. Like many, I didn’t walk across a stage to close out my high school career. Instead, I stepped out of a car, grabbed my diploma on the front steps of the school and walked off.

My first time stepping foot inside of Canisius was also my first day of classes. It didn’t feel real. In high school I may have broken the record for words spoken in a four-year span, but in my early time at college I was speechless.

As someone who commuted every day, it was all a blur; a dark cloud floated with me for much of my freshman and a portion of my sophomore year. At the end of the fall semester during my sophomore year, I had hit rock bottom. I remember feeling so alone that I drove all the way home from Sanborn back to campus, three hours before my night class, just for the chance to be around people. I sat down in the library and felt like I didn’t know the person I had become. I left my bag in the library and walked to the chapel. It was Nov. 17, 2021, and I know that because I posted a picture of the chapel on Facebook with a long caption that essentially summed up that this had to be my turning point. I stood alone in the chapel, prayed for the first time in years and wept. I begged God to help me find my path.

I didn’t realize it until I started writing this, but that moment was life changing. The next semester I started with the first portion of the school’s sports broadcasting class — it was the first time that I had felt a purpose in college. David Dee, who served as the director and professor for the program, became a mentor that provided me with a purpose. 

In that same semester, I had an investigative reporting night class alongside Julia Barth, editor-in-chief emerita. We rarely talked, but for some reason she approached me and encouraged me to become a contributor for The Griffin. I remember not knowing where to even start with my writing. My first beat was covering golf, and despite it being one of the smallest beats at Canisius, I was proud of it. 

Towards the end of that same semester, I was working out at the same gym I had for the past four years when then–Buffalo Bills running back Zack Moss walked into the gym. I, a huge Bills fan, couldn’t believe it. I turned to a girl next to me and asked, “Do you know who that is?!” That girl ended up being my first girlfriend, I just didn’t know it yet. So after taking the ESPN class, contributing to The Griffin and finding my first girlfriend, my life was at an all-time high. 

The high continued until this, my final semester of college. Things of course weren’t perfect up until that point, but in a span of four days I felt my world turn upside down. The relationship that I had put so much time into came to an end after two years, and two days later, I finally learned what my mom always meant when she said, “You are free to do what you want, but you aren’t free from the consequences.” 

A couple more mistakes cost me dearly, and suddenly, I was living in a world of consequences. I pitied myself at first: sometimes you have to, just to survive. Once I took a breath and looked at the big picture, nothing was life-ending. The pain subsides at some point, and — thanks to my mom, a lot of good friends and Dan Higgins who all kept my head screwed on more times than I could count — I’m alive and (mostly) well. 

The one constant on campus since the spring of my sophomore year? This paper. In December of 2022, I accepted the position of assistant sports editor, working alongside my buddy Connor Pohlman before taking over as the sports editor in fall 2023. As a kid who would cry over the thought of being stuck to a schedule, The Griffin has been the only schedule that I’ve enjoyed following. The people, whether it was Julia and Pat, Jon and Ava, C-Corner or anyone else in that room, changed my world. The walk into the office every Thursday has been the most purposeful I’ve felt in this life. 

To the athletes and coaches who I’ve been able to build relationships with: thank you, you’re some of the best people I’ve met, and without you there is no me. To Trevor and Sahar, thank you for always making me feel important during our conversations.

My biggest takeaways from college are the importance of mistakes, surrounding yourself with people who show you your purpose and never, ever forgetting to appreciate every moment, because life hasn’t stopped for anyone, and one day those moments will be your memories. I pray that some day, when you reflect on college, I’m somewhere in your mind, because at some points in my time so far on Earth, I’ve felt like this paper was all I had. 

In just about a month, I’ll walk across the stage for the first time. I have no idea what’s in store for the future, but I know none of it could’ve come without the success and mistakes I’ve had at Canisius.

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