By April Vega, Managing Editor
One day when I was little I came home sniffling, holding the latest of the scrapes I had collected from playing rough with the twins down the street. I was always a sensitive kid — even though I was being just so brave about it I couldn’t stop crying while my dad put a Band-Aid on my knee, and he told me, “Hey, you’re going to be okay. It’s only pain.”
It’s kind of a weird phrase, because on its surface it can sound reductive or dismissive, but he showed what he meant when he poked another old scab on my elbow from running around outside the week before.
When he asked if it still hurt I shook my head. When he asked if I had fun getting it I nodded, and as the disinfectant sting subsided, the bandage was finished, and he asked if I had fun today too, I nodded again. “Well there you go,” he said. It was fun, and it was unpleasant, but the unpleasantness had passed and at the end of the day I remembered a great afternoon, and I’d remember the good parts of this afternoon too. “It’s only pain.”
The next day I was back to crashing my bike in the creekbed with my friends.
College for me has been weird. I’m at a weirdly small campus with a weird course catalog, majoring in probably the weirdest, most captivating program at this school (starts with A, ends with BEC). I had a year and a half of pre-COVID-19 education, and two and a half after I started to be scared of the air.
In 2018 when I traded central Texas for western New York I had known it would be a big change, but nothing could have prepared me for the excitement and the fear of being thrown into the center of a blank canvas and a clean slate. It’s mind-boggling to think about how much has changed since then.
My freshman year I was confronted with challenges to define myself, to understand my values and goals, and to respect myself and those around me in ways that I had never had the room to in my teenage years. Since then — several times over, and in no particular order — I’ve fallen in love, felt complete, made new friends; I’ve fallen out of love, felt worthless, lost new friends; I’ve failed to leap hurdles and I’ve overcome obstacles through struggle and patience.
Through all of it I’ve been able to take so much with me. While my friend groups changed as I grew, I got to keep close to me the cream of the crop, people who I’m glad to know and grateful to be known by. Staring through my computer screen and drowning in the pandemic’s demand for virtualization taught me what kind of learner I am not, and getting to work with my hands to channel my knowledge of animal behavior and physiology into an expression of love and care taught me what kind of learner I always have been. Nights of looking into the mirror with dysphoric terror stripped from me the comfortable layer of delusion that had gotten me through my life up to last year, and the days upon days since of stepping out of my door with courage and intent showed me the woman I always have been too, and they’ve shown me that she’s cool as hell.
So yeah, college has been weird, and I’d wager it’s been weird for every person who reads this too! Complications from the pandemic notwithstanding, the years you’ll spend at college will contain a lot of change, a lot of new experiences, and hopefully a lot of success too. As I move out of a Hughes Ave apartment looking at the day I first moved into Frisch Hall, and try to write about what Canisius meant to me, I think I’d like to say this.
Everything that is scary is scary, and everything that is sad is sad. Of course the stressful nights cooped up in the library are anxious, the labors of writing papers are draining, the overcommitments or undercommitments you make may cause you to feel conflicted. As students we’re often focused on how hard academic pursuit is, and it’s true! It’s not easy. But as you depart from Canisius and dive into The Real World™ you’ll come away with wisdom to parse through the confusion, knowledge to guide you through the challenges and the friends and connections to help you forge your path. You’ll have memories of the adventures it took to get where you are. So take risks! Join the clubs you think you might be interested in, and maybe some that you don’t know about yet. Talk to people, sign up for those events and trips, make good decisions and make bad ones.
I’m finally on my way outta here, and things actually feel pretty good. I’m working at a wildlife rehab clinic this summer, moving in with a beautiful and kindhearted partner and checking out dogs to adopt. I feel calm and at peace where I am, but in the moment college was scary, it was secure, it was weird, it was normal, it was rough, it was easy, and as I graduate I can’t be happier with how it went. Don’t feel too afraid to bust your knees up, fall out of trees, crash your bike, because once the scrapes are bandaged and scabbed over you’ll remember the good times and all of the rewards you earned here.
I hope y’all have a fortunate finals week. However scary it is now, it’s only pain. You’re gonna be fine.
Thanks to my roommates for being the best of friends through everything, The Griffin and her staff for being a pillar of growth full of supportive and driven peers that never missed an edition even as our world shut down, Little Theatre for letting a closeted trans woman know she is safe being seen in the light, and to the faculty of Canisius College for an education that is compassionate and whole.