Unintentionally finding my way

By Ian Hagerty

Ian Hagerty
(Ian Hagerty/Assistant Opinion and Editorial Editor)

When I first came to the University of Massachusetts in the fall of 2009, I never thought it would take me this long to graduate. I always imagined the college experience to be one that would last all of four years, at least for my Bachelor’s degree. It’s not always that simple. It’s usually not. After being a drop-out for all intents and purposes for three years because I couldn’t afford to pay for school, I have an all new appreciation for what an accomplishment graduating college really is.

I’ve had semesters working 45 hours a week on top of a 21-credit class load, while also writing and editing for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. All of that, plus a few trips to the hospital. I’ve had weeks where the thought of even six hours of sleep in a night seemed like the absolute peak of luxury. I wanted sleep more than food. Delivery became a necessity rather than a treat. I’ve had days with 10 coffees and uncontrollable twitching, sitting in the library, typing away without any real idea about what I was writing or why. There are probably papers I have no recollection of.

This is what I will remember most about my time at UMass: the absolute rushed nature of being a student, without concern for what is happening around me, and without the time for it. It’s easy to get that tunnel vision as you stride around campus at a pace just above uncomfortable and just below a jog. Sometimes, there isn’t even the time to think. College is just a test of your limits and a test of exhaustion, unless your parents have lots of money. It was a sprint to the end, and it still took me seven years.

It feels surreal that it’s ending. When I started college, the mental image I drew myself of the timeline of my life was only a simple landscape. I saw life in simpler terms. Now it’s like a Pollack. There are exploding colors abound, and I’m curious as to what it all means, but I don’t know. I have more information under my belt, yet there are more questions than ever.

Sure, I do wish that I would have been able to graduate college in the normal four years. I will always feel that pestering twinge of regret for having lost three years of my potential professional life, even though I don’t think it was my fault. But without those three years to think, I never would have stumbled upon the thought of becoming a journalist. I never would have written an article on a whim for the Block Island Times while working one of my many jobs I had to support myself instead of attending school. I never would have had that article published and gained the inspiration and confidence I needed to reapply myself to a major in journalism when I returned to school. Without that time as a drop-out and that time I had to stumble around blindly and unintentionally stew and think, I don’t think I’d be writing this column for the Collegian today, willing and ready for the new opportunities the world might have to offer me. I barely consider myself a writer today, but I wouldn’t pen myself as a writer at all if it hadn’t been for the blind luck that was bestowed upon me when I wasn’t in school. One of the most significant aspects of my schooling was the lack thereof. I can’t wait to be finished, and I regret not finishing sooner, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I couldn’t.

Writing for the Collegian has surely been one of the most enlightening experiences I have had or ever will have. I’m sure of it. Even with the circulation of print newspapers on a steady decline, my time spent editing and creating layouts in the friendly dungeon of the Collegian office was some of the best life experience I could have asked for out of school. I was certainly more stimulated by debate and more driven by camaraderie working with other members of Collegian staff than I was in any of my classes throughout school. During class, students were often afraid to really speak out. Or they zoned out. At the Collegian, the most heated discussions would pop up even about subjects like chicken wings versus chicken tenders. There was never a subject too simple or mundane or too complex or too far reaching. All subjects and ideas were always open for discussion amongst the curious. Everyone appreciated it and no one took it for granted.

I’ll miss having an open forum to publish all of the dumb ideas and opinions I have about whatever came across my mind that day. That’s how I started writing for the Collegian. If something pissed me off around campus or made me think, that’s what I wrote about. It was a really nice way to get my thoughts out, lest they bounce around inside of my skull. Now, maybe if I’m lucky beyond the scope of the stars, I’ll get paid to do this. I can only hope.

Ian Hagerty was an assistant opinion and editorial editor and can be reached at [email protected]