My freshman self would not recognize the senior me.
I thought of this as I walked past my freshman dorm recently, on my way to my part-time job at the Times Leader. You know when your life seems to zoom out, and it’s like you’re looking at yourself from someone else’s eyes?
I became disoriented.
If you told freshman Toni that she would be a communication studies major, that she would want to be a journalist and that she would end up being the head of two campus organizations, I think she might have laughed in your face.
Freshman Toni wanted to be a biologist so that her human interaction was limited. She did not want to be a part of anything on campus. She was way too nervous.
I doubt anyone would even recognize the Toni in my ID photo, with her moppy hair and bright yellow T-shirt from freshman orientation.
Every time I see the photo, I remember how scared I was. How I woke up the day it was taken with a stress headache, and how I cried the night before.
It’s incredible how much that college can change a person.
When you go, it’s like you get a blank slate to reinvent your identity — and I think a lot of people take advantage of that.
I’m a shy extrovert. You can imagine the kind of frustration that causes. After about a year of college, I was ready to break out of my shell.
There are few opportunities to do this outside of college. Here it’s possible to get a taste of what different careers might be like. I did that by joining The Beacon, Wilkes University’s student-run newspaper, as a freshman.
At that point, I thought I wanted to be a chemist — or maybe a psychologist. Or an English professor. Maybe an engineer.
I just wanted to try journalism, because I liked writing and wanted to get better at talking to people. I also noticed that I happened to get along with communication studies majors more than their science-focused counterparts.
Coincidence? Probably not.
Who knew that it would change my career path? Who knew I would end up as the editor-in-chief at The Beacon by my senior year? I sure didn’t.
College is a time to explore your options and explore yourself: your capabilities, your interests, your strengths and the ways you can improve upon your weaknesses.
If you think you would enjoy something, there’s no better way to find out than to try, and there’s no easier time than college.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up changing your whole plan.
Toni Pennello is a Wilkes University senior who works in the Times Leader newsroom.