Growing up, I could not wait to go to college, find my independence and be an adult. I’ve always been an assertive presence, so I thought I was ready to take on the world. Moving to college sounded like paradise, and I couldn’t wait to thrive. When move-in day came, however, my confidence shattered. I sobbed into my dad’s chest before my family pulled away, leaving me alone in a new state, four hours away from my best friends and everything I’d ever known.
You all know me as someone with a DAZZLING (read: obnoxious) personality, so it may seem hard to believe that I struggled to make friends at first. Split between two majors, and placed in a learning community full of News & Info students, I just never fully connected to the people with whom I spent my days. Luckily, I had been encouraged to join PRSSA by my tour guide, and before long I met people that I now can’t fathom living without. Monday meetings became the highlight of my week. I met my fellow Strat Com freshmen, and the upperclassmen welcomed me into the group warmly. Socials and networking trips introduced me to even more friends, and before I knew it, being a dedicated member of Scripps PRSSA was one of my top priorities.
Without the mentors who became friends, and the friends who became mentors, I would not be the (semi) accomplished person I am today. This organization has taught me how to succeed in a challenging industry, how to present myself as a professional, how to work on a team, how to lead and ultimately, how to be the adult I so badly wanted to be. As grateful as I am for the educational and maturational benefits of this organization, what stands out most to me are the moments we spent savoring our last years of NOT being real adults.
The friends I’ve made in this organization have been there for every single one of my favorite college memories, and often, these memories are failures, struggles or not at all “professionally responsible.” Those of you lucky enough to have more time in this magical little town are all extremely intelligent and hardworking, and I know that you’ll do what you need to do to succeed. The work will get done, and you will find your place in the world. In the meantime, however, I cannot urge you enough to live your lives outside of the classroom. College is one of the last times in your life that you have the freedom to be totally young and free of certain responsibilities, so PLEASE take advantage of that.
Looking back, I cherish moments like padding around Schoonover with socked feet at 3 a.m. because Jacob, Rachel and I waited to study for an exam until the night before, or standing on a chair in the middle of a National Conference to be the most ridiculous Chapter in the country. I look back fondly on the day Brigitte and I blew off class on a freakishly sunny February day, only to run into our professor two hours later, sunburnt and giggling. When my grandkids ask me about my college days, I’ll tell them about singing louder than I ever have in my crumbling college living room, surrounded by members of this pre-professional organization.
I’ll recall the times I laughed as Emily and Natalie Brown got searched by TSA on the way to conferences, or of course, when our fearless leader Gentry Bennett nursed me after a waiter dropped a table on my head at a Chapter dinner. I’ll remember sprinting through the London airport with Sara, watching the sunrise on a Barcelona beach with Natalie Butko, and getting hopelessly lost on a country road in Hong Kong with Margaret Mary, Rachel and Schuyler. I’ll think of the socials when my role models became my dance partners, and the Monday meetings when I tried to make you all laugh. I’ll never forget editing the final Bateman report in the car on the way to a wedding, or getting scolded for rambling so off-topic in E-board meetings that we ran over. All of these memories have one thing in common—they’re all messy moments spent with the best friends I met in this org.
Hold these people close. The friends you make now are beyond special. These people will celebrate your highest highs, and pull you from your lowest lows. You’ll wallow in your failures together, and whip each other into shape when it’s time to move on. Brutal honesty will become a valued marker of your friendship, and you’ll teach each other to laugh it off. You will likely do the most embarrassing things of your life in these four years, and a true friend will be right there, making a fool of themselves with you (or at least recording to immortalize the moment).
I know my brand is a bit of “hot mess success,” so I feel well-equipped to offer you this advice. Ditch your five-year plan. Four years ago, if you’d asked any of us seniors who’d have what position, where we’d be living or with whom we’d be spending our time, we’d be totally wrong. Things will go wrong, your priorities will change and new opportunities will arise. Be flexible, work hard, have fun, and most importantly, mess up every once in a while. It builds character, and my God is it fun.
To Scripps PRSSA, thank you for being my rock all these years. I love you all, and I can’t wait to watch as we all continue to rule the world, and screw up doing it.
Maura Anderson is a graduating journalism strategic communication major and 2018-2019 VP of Member Relations. You can follow her post-grad adventures on Twitter @agentmanderson