Op-Eds Opinion

Wheaton: Thank you, Springfield Student, for making me feel human

“No matter how we try, it’s our own stories that keep a loved one’s memories alive. When loss hits with such a palpable crush and creates a void that in the moment feels impossible to fill, that seems the right thing do” – Jeffrey Seglin

By Evan Wheaton
@EvanWheaton

The car door opens.

A 20-year-old boy steps out of his Chevrolet Blazer.

There’s black paint wherever there isn’t rust.

It isn’t much, but it gets the job done – most of the time.

The boy’s dark tie is loose, white dress shirt untucked. He just got off a shift at the grocery store where he works as a front end supervisor.

He walks across the parking lot in a plaza conjoined with a bank, post office and bar as the August sun sinks. It overlooks a busy street with a roundabout as well as a small beach parallel to it. He climbs some steps and heads down a walkway, wiping the sweat from his brow.

He pushes open the door of a Rita’s Italian Ice and escapes the heat. There’s only one other person in the shop.

Behind the buckets of multicolored ice under the counter is a girl with red hair in a ponytail. She’s wearing a blue tie-dye shirt and hat typical of any person who works there.

“Oh, hello, how nice of you to drop by. Guess you didn’t see me earlier?” the girl interrogates.

The boy pauses. What is she talking about? She claims to have been at the store a couple hours ago with her brother.

“I called your name, I waved and you even looked right at me!” she presses.

The boy gets defensive.

“I swear to God I didn’t see you,” he says. “It was so busy, there were like a thousand people in there and I was running around like a headless chicken all day!”

The girl cracks a mischievous smile and shakes her head.

“What are you getting?”

The boy orders his usual.

“Chocolate-Oreo Blendini.”

She begins making it as they ask about each other’s families. The girl always teases the boy like this, but unlike him, she’s uncommonly kind, outgoing and connects well with other people.

The two couldn’t be more different. The girl receives good grades and awards. The boy gets detentions and skips class often. She has goals and ambitions, while he gives up on himself time and time again.

Despite being polar opposites, the two share a close bond. One that can withstand the test of time.

And she never fails to make him feel human.

“I’ll be transferring to Springfield College this fall,” the boy says. “It’ll be like starting over.”

He isn’t sure what he’ll do when he gets there, yet he’s not worried about that right now. He’ll leave for school in the coming weeks, but it isn’t time for goodbyes just yet.

The boy and girl trade stories.

They laugh.

The two remain there for a while, uninterrupted. At first, the boy felt guilty for not seeing her. But he’s good now, because he’s there by her side.

Just like old times.

__________

My run with The Springfield Student has been a double-edged sword.

On the professional side, things couldn’t have been better. Within one year alone, I’ve had three internships, became an editor and mentored young writers.

My wrestling stories were hung up outside the mat room in Blake Arena and I’ve been able to freelance over the summer as well. I wrote a piece on the 2019 Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement, covered Hoophall and represented Springfield at the annual ACP convention in San Francisco.

I’ve also spearheaded the expanse of our sports coverage to club ice hockey and under our multimedia editor, Jack Margaros, our social media game has reached new heights.

Along with taking all the core classes for two majors in two years, I’ve kept busy and worked hard to make up for lost time, being a transfer and fifth-year senior that was aimless in life up until joining the Communications/Sports Journalism major.

A part of me is proud of what I’ve done here, but this wasn’t the product of a good work ethic. Throughout my time with the Student, I’ve been running. I haven’t stopped because whenever I do, I think about everything else that’s happened along the way.

Coinciding with my Springfield Student career, I’ve had old wounds reopened after a falling out with my relatives. I’ve also lost more people than I can count on both hands, constantly mourning. And I’ve been mentally struggling with several things from the past.

I’ve thought a lot about what life could be and what it is now. Not a day has passed where I haven’t been consumed with grief, guilt, regret and thoughts of who I am as a person as opposed to who I want to be.

If you really know me, you understand I’ve been functioning like a zombie, and I’ve been nowhere near 100 percent for a long time now behind closed doors. I’ve never been one to open up or lean on others, my problems have always been my own. I’m nothing special.

But there is someone who was.

Someone who’s been a paramount part of my life for as long as I can remember. Maybe, under different circumstances, she’d be reading this right now. People have told me how far I’ve come, but she’s not here to witness it. We were supposed to see our lives and careers blossom, but life had other plans.

Life – something Marty Dobrow and I discussed rather than traditional advising appointments or internship meetings. When I wasn’t losing people in my personal life, I was writing stories about others that died for The Springfield Student.

After the first one, that boy who likes Chocolate-Oreo Blendinis knew he was done giving up. Because the ghosts of everyone he’s written about are with him, memories preserved through practice.

Journalism. Who would’ve thought.

And despite my time in COSJ being so damn hard, I do think there’s room to smile.

The Springfield Student was more than just a brand I fully bought into. It was an escape, something powerfully good when I needed it. Something I could help control when I’ve otherwise felt powerless. It was stability and gave me focus.

I’ve surrounded myself with a phenomenal group of people that are passionate and self-motivated for what they do. I somehow became one of the logs in the fire and their greatness allowed me to burn brightly when everything else was dark.

That’s why I put everything I had into this newspaper. I wish I had four years with the Student, but that’s not the case, so I’ll have to let my contributions speak for themselves.

For what it’s worth, I’ve found myself. I finally figured out my career path, but more than that, I’ve learned to be human. I’m not the same unambitious and detached kid that transferred to Springfield three years ago.

I’ve found my identity, and I have many people to thank for that:

Dennis Gildea – Coach, you’ll never read this, but thank you for pointing me in the direction of my strength and for giving me the feedback I needed.

Marty Dobrow – thank you for the personal guidance and deeper discussions of life. I couldn’t ask for a better advisor.

Kyle Belanger – thank you for being one of the strongest people I know and for always believing in me.

Laura Dubowski – thank you for the zany SCTV3 moments and for always holding the door open for me to return.

Ray Laferriere – thank you for the technical assistance on those stressful Thursdays and for teaching me how to edit video. You’re the backbone of TV club and COSJ is lucky to have you.

Brian Magoffin – thank you for helping us schedule interviews, get photos and literally everything else you do for us. We wouldn’t get anywhere without your constant support.

Sam Leventhal – Thank you for taking me under your wing, giving me so much opportunity, teaching me everything you know and coaching me through the bad times while rejoicing with me in the good ones. You weren’t my NSO leader, but you may as well have been the equivalent of that for my journalism career.

Vin Gallo – thank you for always having faith in me and helping me grow in longform. You’re the greatest storyteller around and you constantly inspire me.

Gage Nutter – thank you for the advice at Sam’s townhouse that night. And thank you for the laughs and memories. You always brightened my spirits and made me smile when I needed it.

Jack Margaros – thank you for taking a chance on me, helping me outside of work and school and being someone who I can call my brother. And nice pullout quotes bro.

Gabby Guerard – thank you for being the best leader I could ask for. And thank you for everything else outside of the Student as well. Keep crushing it, Chief.

Danny Priest – thank you for giving us all so much opportunity, insight, humor and for never losing your composure. I’ll certainly miss your one-liners and your ability to keep everyone sane.

Joe Arruda – thank you for being the epitome of excellence. Watching you grow and get it done is exciting and reassuring that the Student is in good hands for years to come, so long as you don’t continue your trolling at Syracuse of course.

Irene Rotondo – thank you for making all our lives easier. No one manages our writers like you and you’ve played a crucial role this year in being our eyes and ears while getting results.

To the 2019-2020 team: we’ve tackled quite possibly the hardest year of news in Springfield College history and we did so with several annoyances – those of which need no explanation. Oftentimes it felt like it was us six against the world, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You’ve all, in different and unique fashions, made me a substantially better version of myself. You aren’t just colleagues, you’re all irreplaceable friends that have made my life better.

To the rest of COSJ: thank you. This truly is a special major and so many of you have been a positive influence on me. You know who you are, and thank you all so much.

And thank you to my close friends that were by my side every single day since the very beginning of my journey at SC. Kyle Mailey, Anthony Gustin, Cam Smith, Ed Harasiemowicz, Kyle Murakami, Nick Lopez, Stephen Cone, Kevin Barrett, Helen Lucas, Danielle Hoffner, Hannah Silverman and Krystina Stoker (oh, and Jbird of course), thank you all for the memories.

I couldn’t have asked for a better crowd to spend my college years with. You aren’t just lifelong friends – you’re my family.

The Springfield Student is much more than just a college newspaper. Thank you to Student Activities and our readers who make this all possible.

I’ll always miss Wednesday nights in the dirty little office in the basement of Abbey-Appleton Hall. We made magic happen down there, and it will always have a special place in my heart.

Because I don’t know where I’d be without it.

__________

As I write this, I’m finishing a Chocolate-Oreo Blendini.

It’s one of the many little things that keeps memories alive, like the rush of wind or watching “The Sandlot” late at night.

That wacky, loving redhead always believed in people. And I guess, because of my experiences, I never did for a long time. But I do now, because I’ve seen the good in so many during my time on Alden Street.

She was right (as always) because everyone at the Birthplace made me better, just like she did over the past 20 years.

And for that, I’m very thankful.

This is your features editor signing off. We’ve all got a story, and it’s time I move on to the next chapter of mine. That chapter begins in a profession that lets me connect with people the way she did.

To Springfield College, COSJ and The Springfield Student – thank you.

Thank you for making me feel human.

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