Photo Caption: Adam Flango
This year has been one last time after another. The last first day of school ever, the last final exam, the last football game covered as a student, the last night of 3 a.m. burritos and, hopefully, the last night of guzzling Natty Lights.
Well, you can add last column to the list.
I have written more than 100 stories and columns for The Athens NEWS over the last two and a half years. Many of those were about sports; some were about more than that. I have had the privilege to cover countless football and basketball games and work with an editor who trusted me enough to let me write what I thought needed to be said and who stood behind my opinions. For that, I am eternally grateful.
But for this last column, I am going to avoid cheesy sports analogies. I will restrain from talking about how lucky I was to cover sports at Ohio when I did.
Because come Saturday, I'm in the same boat as everyone else.
Like roughly 4,000 other seniors, I will receive my diploma from Ohio University. I will be inspired by the voice of Bart Simpson, walk across a stage at the Convocation Center with a black cap and gown complete with a crimson tassel, hug my parents and sisters, kiss my girlfriend and yuck it up with my buddies, much like I always have.
I will relive moments one last time and soak in the beauty of neatly arranged bricks, birch trees and blades of grass. There will be a rush of emotions, I'm sure. I will be sad to leave the happiest place on the earth. (No offense, Disney World.) I will be proud that I managed to get a college degree and build wonderful relationships with friends and professors. I will be excited about what the field of journalism has in store for me.
But the overwhelming feeling, the one thought that has slowly crept to the front of my mind with each passing day is this: I'm scared.
I'm not too scared of getting a job. Even though I have yet to secure a full-time position, I am lucky enough to have several excellent leads and opportunities.
I'm not particularly afraid of where I'm going to live. After spending a month in Zambia this past winter, I feel pretty confident that I can adapt to most environments.
I'm scared of losing touch with friends who have quickly become part of my family. I'm scared that I will never have as much fun as I have had these past four years. I'm scared that the real world is not all it's cracked up to be.
I'm scared I won't know how to adjust. Like most of my fellow Bobcats, my entire life has followed the same formula: school during the week, sports and friends on the weekends, and fun in the summer. Suddenly, that part of my life is done. And I can't help but think that this is just weird.
I don't know when this fear, this uneasiness, will subside. Maybe it will end when I get that first job offer. Maybe it will stop when I get my first real paycheck, buy my first home or have my first child. Maybe in the perpetually vacillating world of journalism, the feeling will transform from fear into excitement.
I know, on some level, that I am ready for whatever is going to happen next and I am confident that I will do it well. But that doesn't make leaving Athens, a place I have fallen in love with, any less scary.
So I guess all that's left to say is thank you. Thank you, dorm rooms, for hosting 4 a.m. heart to hearts between a bunch of starry-eyed freshmen and for introducing me to lifelong friends. Thank you, bars and house parties, for giving me the kinds of nights I thought only existed in movies.
Thank you, Court Street, for helping me ruin any semblance of a normal diet.
Thank you, professors, for making me question things and not minding when I keep you waiting a little bit. Thank you, athletes and coaches, for answering questions with candor.
Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read, comment on and recommend things that I wrote. Even smallest words mean more than you can imagine.
And thank you, Athens, for shaping a sports-crazy kid into a sports-crazy professional.
It's been a fun, crazy ride and I have loved every single moment.