A leap of faith
Have you ever wanted to just leave? I mean, seriously just pack your suitcases and uproot your life? Because that's what I did.
When I was 17 years old, I knew that I wanted to leave my comfort zone. My comfort zone was situated in a tiny village in the southeast of England. I'd spent my childhood in the same region of the country, with the same people and the same lack of ambition.
So when I started applying to universities, I made a conscious decision that I would choose a program that allowed me to experience something different. Not just new classes or a new club, but a completely new country.
When I was younger, I shook my head at the thought of staying away from home. I would skip sleepovers and social gatherings due to anxiety. Of course I wanted to go, but I mentally couldn't. I couldn't get out of my box.
When I went to university in England, I cried every day for a month. I was only two and a half hours from home, but I found it almost unbearable. I toyed with the idea of dropping out nearly every day. Nonetheless, I stuck by it and with each passing day I became less dependent on those around me.
The saying goes that, "not all those who wander are lost." Little did I know that my wandering in a new country would lead me to where I am today.
I needed to wander. I needed to take a leap of faith.
I set my heart on Buffalo. I worked feverishly to get my grades and purchased my flight ticket.
One of the most frequently asked questions that people ask me (after, can you say banana? Or, do you live in London then?) is, why Buffalo?
And I can understand the dubious looks that I get as I offer my response. Of course Buffalo offered its challenges. (Did I truly fathom a 'Buffalo winter' before I came here? No.)
It was one of my academic advisers who suggested I research UB. Compared to the University of Miami or UCLA, UB wasn't quite the American image that I'd had in my mind. I was dubious, too.
But this adviser knew that I wanted to pursue journalism. And he knew that UB had something special. He knew that there was a body of students who were independently producing something that was rivaling some of the largest journalism institutions in America. He knew about The Spectrum.
There are places in life where you feel comfortable - places where you're not afraid to be yourself - and I never though I'd find that place in a windowless office in UB's Student Union.
I'd never before been in an environment that simultaneously comforted and pushed me at the same time. I never thought The Spectrum would become such a huge part of my American collegiate experience, but it immersed me.
For me to write such a "goodbye" column seems a little unwarranted. The people whose columns surround mine in this paper are the people who have not only watched The Spectrum grow into such a reputable publication, but they have dedicated years of their time and love into making such a growth possible.
And it's truly inspiring to work in an office where people your own age are so driven and so determined to make a difference, so resolute in making their mark.
My time in the office was fleeting, but in such a short space of time I was able to watch and work with people who believed in me and were willing to help at every corner. And while I could easily turn this column into a list of thanks, I'll restrain myself and put a limit on three mentions.
Sam Fernando - proof that the best friendships can be built in only a matter of weeks. You showed me that you should chase down the things you want and prove everyone wrong. That strength doesn't come from compromise but from head-driven fortitude and courage. Thanks for listening to me whine and screaming with me when things were out of our hands.
Joe Konze Jr. - thank you for being so patient with me while I tried to figure out how this journalism thing we do really works. You taught me the importance of being meticulous and working through your flaws - the importance of holding yourself in a professional regard so that others will, too. And while all of the above is true, you probably still won't believe it.
And lastly, Aaron Mansfield - thank you for giving me the opportunity to walk into The Spectrum in the first place. For constantly proving to me that personal brilliance is something that you owe yourself to strive for. And that patience and determination are two of the most important qualities to pursue.
Nobody who frequents The Spectrum office is a person who is willing to watch his or her life pass by. The ambition and drive that radiates from that office is incomparable. And I'm excited to be able to applaud the continuous successes and achievements that are in their futures. These people have motivated me without knowing it.
Saying goodbye is intimidating. Knowing that I have to board a plane next month leaves me with a knot in my stomach that I can't reach. But I'm leaving this office with knowledge, perspective and friendships that would never have prevailed if I'd had settled in my comfort zone.
I can tell you with a heart full of newfound confidence that if you're not brave, you're missing out. Make the next step and find your space.
Then go and do something even better.