Opinion: A place for the familiar



Nicole Stempak

Nicole Stempak

Nicole Stempak is a senior magazine journalism major and assigning editor. Contact her at [email protected].

One warm June evening last summer, I asked what I thought was a simple and innocent question: “Do you think you’ll move to Florida?”

My aunt was missing her daughters who live in Miami, so the idea of moving south to be close to them made sense to me.

She paused for a minute before answering with tears in her eyes.

“I can’t,” she said. “Everything and everyone I know is here.”

When I came to Kent on freshman move-in day, I had to leave the familiar behind – save whatever mementos I could fit in the van.

That night, I lay awake thinking about the next four years.

Back then, change was getting bangs or ordering a smoothie flavor other than strawberry. Back then, I feared change.

After that first night, I realized from that point on, my life would be a steady stream of changes. I could either spend the rest of my life reacting to them or the rest of my life making them. I decided to embrace change. After all, no one knew me or my previous aversion.

At the end of freshmen year, I met up with a high school friend who told me I was less like the person she had known for three years.

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that compliment, or even see it as a compliment, until I started reflecting on my time here.

I’ve created routines and a nice little life for myself. Despite the constant changes, I’ve grown comfortable.

I tried different smoothie flavors at Jazzman’s. I made the effort to know others. I broke out of my shy shell and eventually found a group of friends who accompanied me on new adventures.

Some adventures were more successful than others, but they all served important lessons. I learned I won’t discover something new unless I’m willing to try it. I learned I have to be proactive if I don’t like the direction my life’s headed. I learned who and what are important to me. I learned life was too short to spend doing something I don’t enjoy.

It seems Kent has become the familiar and everything after May 7 is unknown.

I don’t know where I’m headed, yet that doesn’t frighten me like it did four years ago. I’m not the person I was four years ago.

Driving home from dinner with my aunt, I took comfort in the fact that I was able to make the unfamiliar familiar.

Before I fell asleep that night, I remembered some sage advice a friend once gave me when I was homesick and lonesome: “You never really leave a place you love. Part of it goes with you, leaving a part of you behind.”

Contact Nicole Stempak at [email protected].