Opinion: Mission Hundred Days: Day 36

“I have emotionally matured and learned so much about myself since my mom took my freshman first day photo in front of the Peter Canisius statue. I even changed my future profession!”

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Francesca McKernon on her first day of freshman year (left) and her first day of senior year (right). Credit: Francesca McKernon

I remember moving into my freshman dorm on the 6th floor of Bosch in the Summer of 2016. An excited but nervous freshman, I saw my RA, Lanni, setting up the wall decorations for the new year as she waved to my mom who worked at the college, and I thought to myself: This is college. I made it. I’m here. After we set up my room, my mom took a picture of me in my tie dye shirt and athletic shorts, with my lanyard on my neck, and mismatching socks. With a homemade quilt, a Game of Thrones poster of Daenerys and Monet’s “Bridge over a Pond of Waterlilies” I was so excited to begin this new chapter of my life. 

Thus began the journey of many journeys to The Buffalo Zoo, Shakespeare plays in Stratford, Ontario, visiting Washington D.C. and San Diego, California, being a Campus Ministry immersion leader, joining The Griffin Newspaper, going on Kairos, studying abroad in Belgium, and becoming an Orientation Leader. 

My high school senior quote was from Rocky Balboa from Rocky,” which says, “You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” I had particularly struggled with my mental health in high school and remember my small amount of motivation and hope. Therefore, the shiny new experience of college was far out of my mind. 

With the help of my mom, I submitted my college applications and got accepted to Canisius! I ultimately chose Canisius because of their English program, how close it was to home, and because my mom worked there. It felt like a familiar place to be. My step-sister Stephanie, an alum of Canisius, gave me a tour of the campus. I can’t explain the exact feeling, but walking through the tunnels of Horan O’ Donnell I had a gut feeling that this is where I would go to college and belonged. It felt comfortable to me. Like my mom, also an alum of Canisius, I became a Golden Griffin! Ka-kaw! (Do griffins ka-kaw? Or rawr?) 

On my first day of freshman year, my mom took a photo of me in front of the St. Peter Canisius statue and said, “I’ll take one today and your first day of senior year.” I couldn’t help but think, “Senior year? That’s 4 years away! High school took forever, so I’ve got plenty of time!” But as the saying goes, “College goes by fast.” I personally found that time went by both fast and slow in college. The days and weeks were slow, but the months and years went by fast. 

Looking back at my time at Canisius, one club I am grateful for is The Griffin Newspaper. I remember my mom telling me freshman year to join at least one club, (maybe even the newspaper, she suggested!) Sophomore year first semester I started writing some articles for the opinion section, but second semester, as they say in poker, I was all in. I would write regularly every week and visit with the other writers on Thursday publishing nights. 

I met my best friend Emyle Watkins in The Griffin! One of the first times I visited the office, I nervously looked around and recognized Emyle’s face from campus. She was the first one to look up and say “Hi! Let me show you around.” 

I have emotionally matured and learned so much about myself since my mom took my freshman first day photo in front of the Peter Canisius statue. I even changed my future profession! For most of my life, I thought I wanted to become an English teacher because of my love of writing and helping others. And while I love literature and writing, I’ve learned that my calling is to be a therapist (specifically a mental health counselor). Throughout my life I have been inspired by the kind people around me, and my own therapists whose career is literally to use psychology and empathy to help other people! 

At Canisius, I’ve met some of the most kind, selfless, and wonderful people, including: all the facilities and dining hall workers, the Public Safety officers, Campus Ministry, the Counseling Center and my therapist, the entire English and psychology departments, The Griffin Newspaper, and all my friends (there are too many to give appreciation to here). 

Honestly, every single one of these people or groups have helped me when I was struggling or made me smile. Without you all, I don’t think Canisius would be the wonderful, heart-jerking, tearful, laughter-filled, growing journey it was. 

I’m also so proud of myself for all the hard work I’ve done on myself and in the classroom. Growth isn’t an easy thing, but that’s why it’s called growing pains, because sometimes you need to feel the pain in order to grow and heal. 

So thank you Canisius for everything. And for letting me express my love for Jeff Goldblum on more than one occasion publicly in the newspaper.

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