I once had a meeting with Dr. Bruce Dierenfield where I told him I was an English and biology major. He looked at me for a second and said, “You’re a rare bird.” I said, “Oh, okay,” because I wasn’t sure what you’re supposed to say when someone calls you a rare bird, or really any kind of bird. I’m still not sure.
The more I think about it though, “rare bird” was a pretty good way to describe me, not because I’m special or one of a kind or you’re-lucky-to-know-me or any of that. It was a good way to describe me because, like a rare bird with strange feathers, a bizarre beak and an unappealing song, I’m a weirdo. Majoring in English and biology is weird, but this odd double major combo was the only way I could’ve survived college.
When I graduated high school, I felt like a loser. All my friends knew what they were passionate about and what they wanted to do — I was passionate about watching unhealthy amounts of TV and YouTube, but I wasn’t brave enough to commit myself to being the first person to turn that into a career. So I came into college listless, majored in bio because that’s what you do when you half-heartedly decide to become a pre-med, and I put together a semester of lackluster grades that screamed “no ambition.” I didn’t care about anything. To make it worse, I was shy to fault, nervous around everyone and everything and I had no friends to help pull me out of it.
But it was in that same semester that Dr. Desiderio encouraged me to major in English, and the next semester I took creative writing. It was in that Old Main classroom that I, for maybe the first time in my life, felt passion for anything. Then, in my sophomore year — by this point I’d contemplated dropping the bio major — Dr. Grebenok explained something about membrane transport that was so fascinating, the back of my head blew off. Membrane transport! That stuff’s usually boring! And it went on like this for my entire college career. Another class, another professor, another time my brain and heart exploded into tiny pieces.
I finally put it together that I had a passion for words, sentences and stories. I had a passion for the intricate pathways inside of us, chugging away and keeping us alive. The pre-med thing wasn’t half-hearted anymore. And I have to thank Dr. Backstrom, Dr. Cochrane, Dr. Desiderio, Professor Gansworth, Dr. Grebenok, Professor McNally and Dr. Morey for that. I am beyond grateful. I feel like I’m giving an Oscars speech. I’d like to thank the academy, whoever you are. And I also have to thank the friends I’ve made here for keeping me smiling and laughing through all this craziness. Who would’ve thought that some of my best memories were made in the basement of a library?
As a freshman, I expected to step foot on campus and that listless feeling I had would go away. I’d figure out where I fit in, my whole life would be worked out in a matter of seconds. But it didn’t happen that way. It came in waves. Huge, mind blowing, life-affirming waves, and riding them has been a great thrill. So thank you, Canisius. Griffins are the best kind of rare bird.