I still remember how I filled out that form in the fifth grade.
For some reason, the state of South Carolina really cared about what an 11-year-old wanted to be when he grew up. Naturally, I wrote the best idea that popped into my head: I wanted to be homeless. You see, being homeless you could ask people for money. Step one: Put on a sad face. Step two: hold out a cup. Step three: get rich.
Eleven years later, being homeless is one of my biggest fears.
It's at this moment that I realized I've filed my final article for The Pendulum. It's a senior feature on offensive lineman Ned Cuthbertson. Nothing groundbreaking. Yet, it's at this moment that I -- ignoring the four other people in a classroom in the McEwen basement -- begin to cry.
Not a heavy cry, though I'm almost positive that'll come before I finish my column. It's a simultaneously joyous and depressing cry. Joyous because I've come to the realization that The Pendulum has saved my life and guided me toward a positive future. Depressing because now this part of my life is over.
I think what I want most in life is to be remembered. I don't need much money, Lord knows I could use less food. But I think what will truly make me die a happy man (along with a loving family) one day hopefully a long time from now is knowing my writing touched others in a positive way.
The Pendulum gave me that chance.
I still remember treating Elon's acceptance letter as some sort of silver medal I could have done without. Now I know it was much more than that.
I had always wanted to go to North Carolina. That was my dream. I was going to be a Tar Heel.
But a 3.5 GPA and a 2010 SAT score wasn't going to overcome the obstacle that is getting into UNC out of state (By this time I had been living in New Hampshire since my sophomore year in high school).
So I chose Elon and figured I'd transfer out a year or two after I got here. On Graduation Day, they'll be practically forcing my way out.
I thought I was going to be the next great sports broadcaster. Only problem was I had a figure for radio and a voice for print. Silly, stubborn me took three years to realize this.
I figured out I was a good writer by accident. It's funny how so many people can tell you you're good at something but you don't really hear the message until somebody else relays it to you.
My mom insisted for years I should try writing. But she's a mother (and a great one), it's her job to say that. I love her for all that she's done. She's my mother and she's supposed to be there.
But that didn't mean she had to. My dad certainly wasn't, and the black eye he gave me when I was 14 or so that he never apologized for really can't be taken -- by anybody -- as a sign of love. I haven't seen him in person in six years, yet every time I talk to him he tries to blame me for what happened.
It's life's negatives that really truly make us who we are. They define us, give us a voice, make us stronger so that when something positive comes along we can handle it.
And for me that first real positive of my college career happened during my internship with the Princeton Rays last summer. Not Princeton, New Jersey. This was Princeton, West Virginia. My mom was in tears as she dropped me off in that compound they called an apartment complex.
No cable, no air conditioning and a bug problem. Somehow I survived. And thrived.
That's because I was given an opportunity to write. Somehow your confidence grows when you see your writing published on a professional baseball team's website.
Looking back on some of those articles now, none of them are remotely close to my best work. The grammar is always on point. In all of my articles. I make a point of that. But the word choice was off the wall in places and I used about 62 different words for "said." Completely unnecessary.
But it was during these three months that I realized I could do this writing thing for a living. And not only could I do it, I WANTED to do it.
So the first thing I did when I got back to Elon was email Anna Johnson, The Pendulum's then-editor-in-chief. Not only did Anna direct me to Jack Rodenfels, and eventually Sam Calvert, the two people who served as sports editor the first month or so of the school year, but she also gave me the contact information of Bob Sutton, the sports editor of The Times-News.
It's funny how things come full circle. I had met Bob on two occasions. Once at an Elon-Samford basketball game I had to cover for my Sports Information class and once on opening night in Princeton. He was there because the Burlington Royals were in town. I doubt he made many road trips for the Royals. It's rookie league ball, after all. But it was opening night, and he was there.
So I made sure to re-introduce myself. I didn't even know him by name. I just recognized the face. But sure enough, Bob had a spot for me as a freelance sports writer when I got back to school, and suddenly I had concurrent experience at both a daily and a weekly newspaper.
All of these writing opportunities made me better at, for lack of a stronger word, writing. Of course, it helps when you're passionate about the subject. And, even at the high school level, I'm passionate about covering sports.
But there was a story last winter that REALLY interested me, and that was when the once indestructible existence that is Penn State football was torn to shreds by Jerry Sandusky. This story captivated me. How could one man be so evil? How could he abuse kids he didn't really know worse than even my own father abused me. I may have been verbally and physically abused, but even my father had the class not to sexually abuse me.
So I read the Pennsylvania Grand Jury's indictment. Word for word. All 23 pages. And it sickened me. So I wrote a couple blog posts about it.
And then I was presented with a story idea by then sports editor Justin Veldhuis. Elon running back AJ Harris' father played for Sandusky. That was my first real big story. I only had one source. But I made it work.
And it eventually got me a first place award for sports writing at the North Carolina College Media Association conference for that article. Probably my proudest moment in my 22-plus years on this Earth.
Eventually, I became assistant sports editor. I wrote a bunch of -- I think -- great features, improved my portfolio and met a lot of great people along the way.
And so this brings me back to that fifth grade form. I haven't found a job yet and my mind always leaps to the extremes.
What if I never get hired?
I'll be forced to live on the streets. And that scares the crap out of me.
But no matter what happens, I'll have The Pendulum to thank for saving my life. The friendships I've made here are timeless. I haven't gotten around to writing thank you emails to the amount of people I truly want to thank on the staff. In fact, I've only written two. But that's a fault of mine, not yours.
We've all had our negative experiences, probably in everything we've done. Somebody didn't like an article we wrote, or we got into a disagreement with some of the staff. Whatever. But it's that type of crap that makes us stronger, and I hope the staff of The Pendulum, like myself, had vastly more positive experiences at the office than negative ones.
And as my eyes get tearful and I bid farewell, I hope you guys remember me in a positive way and not just the guy that talked a lot during your office hours.
As much as we appreciate the people that make an impact in our lives, I think we all want to leave those same lasting memories in others' lives as well.
It's been great here. A truly exciting chapter in my life.
Unfortunately, eventually we all have to turn the page.