It's been five years since I left Wilson High School and went on to higher education. At times it's been the longest, most tedious challenge I've ever faced – and I've almost given up. Other times, it's the most fast paced, fun and exciting time of my life and I never want it to end.
Along the way I've met some great people, ranging from professors to classmates to the crazy people that craft this newspaper. I've built some lifelong friendships and found a career path that I'll be able to gladly wake up to every day and not dread.
I found myself taking a leap of faith when applying to UB. I didn't know exactly what I wanted out of my education, and thought coming here would solve that – and it did. Then, I took the advice of a recently deceased friend (RIP Moe, we all miss you very much) and joined The Spectrum. That changed everything.
The windowless dungeon of our basement office in the Student Union consumed my days –which turned to months, and then before I knew it, two years had gone by.
The "Life and Friends" Desk became a family of sorts, laughing, screaming, crying and group hugging all the way through that unforgettable fall semester. I never had so much fun at work than I did spending it with those three fabulous friends. I often regret taking a promotion and leaving them alone in their corner.
There's the senior sports editor-turned-boss, the most boisterous and big-hearted person I've ever met. We interned together, spend way too much time together inside this office and share a love for a modern-day Hercules.
We stirred up a certain committee and raised a little hell within the UB administration and came out with the only two Journalism and Mass Communication degrees from this school in recent history. If it weren't for him pushing me along, I would have given up a long time ago.
And then there's "Squid." We became a little too good of friends, wasting way too much time on "Mario Kart," "Hand Banana," drinking out of cups and "rambling on." I can see him going far in his journalism career and I have a feeling we'll be seeing him on ESPN soon.
The late nights of editing and looking at flats brought us all a little closer, even though poor Jen suffered the worst through our belching, jokes and harassment. Thank God she did; if it weren't for her, this paper would have many, many errors. She's one of the best editors I know and hope to see her take her skills far.
There are too many professors and teachers I've had to thank each one individually in this column. But so many have had an impact, from simply helping with an assignment to encouraging me to do bigger, better things.
I think back to middle school, a time where my future looked bleak. Graduating high school, at that point, seemed impossible. But with the help of a few good teachers, I got my act together and made it.
I can't thank the teachers and staff at Wilson High School enough. If there is any lesson out of this, it's to trust your teachers. Take some time to listen to what they have to say because believe it or not, they, too, were once in your shoes.
Lastly, I need to thank my parents. They always believed in me, even when things got pretty rough. They were there to support – and to punish – and see me through to better days.
Without their love and support, I know I couldn't have made it this far. I think this coming Mother's Day I'll be giving my best gift yet. I don't say it enough, but I love you both very much and I can't thank you enough for being there for me.
I'll miss UB, but at the same time I can't wait to get out. I won't miss the boring lectures, cramming for tests and staying up all night to get a paper finished.
The best advice I can give to any undergraduate who is still reading this is to take advantage of your time here and make the absolute most of the thousands of dollars you are paying to come here. Join a club, get involved and make some friends. You won't regret it when it comes time for your commencement – which is approaching faster than you might imagine.
But my time here has ended and it's time to walk across the stage once again. Only this time, I'll be wearing different colors, walking with new friends – and I don't have a clue what comes next.
My only hope for the future is that it's ready for me.