Lessons learned from an unforgettable summer

Doug Gulasy

It’s amazing how quickly your life can change.

Three months ago, I had my summer all mapped out. I was going to sublease a friend’s apartment in Kent, intern at Ohiovarsity.com and work as forum editor of the Summer Kent Stater. I was going to earn almost no money, but I was going to have the time of my life by partying with my friends who had stayed in Kent for the summer.

In my mind, the summer before my senior year was going to be unforgettable.

Then, in the second week of May, I got an e-mail: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was looking for interns for several of the newspapers in its media conglomerate. Being from Pittsburgh myself, I pounced on the e-mail immediately. Two days later, I interviewed for the job. A week after that, I was hired.

Now, two-and-a-half months after I began my internship at the Valley News Dispatch, I couldn’t be happier.

I was right: This summer was unforgettable – not in the way I had originally intended, to be sure, but mainly because of the many lessons I learned.

For example, I learned .

There’s no such thing as “outgrowing” your childhood.

Perhaps you remember my column from two weeks ago about David Bracken, the man with 9,000 toys. There’s nothing silly about what he’s doing. As a matter of fact, he’s going about life the right way.

Nothing’s more important than family.

I knew this already, but the lesson got driven home when I covered two soldier stories this summer. For one story, I spoke with Michael Deal Sr. and his two sons, Johnathan and Michael Jr. The three are so close that Michael Sr. and Johnathan decided to join Michael Jr. in Iraq.

For another story, I met a group of soldiers who were preparing to ship off to training. Watching them spend their final hours with their families before leaving was one of the most gut-wrenching things I’ve ever experienced. As close as I am with my family, I’m not sure I’ve ever truly appreciated them the way those soldiers do. I’ll try to do better from now on.

A person’s spirit can overcome even the hardest obstacles.

Isaiah Parks is 3 years old and was born with the genetic disease DiGeorge Syndrome. Isaiah had to undergo reconstructive foot surgery when he was 3 months old and open-heart surgery when he was 1 year old. He still faces possible surgery to fix a blocked kidney.

But whatever Isaiah lacks in health, he more than makes up in spirit. He has already outlived his disease’s 2-year life expectancy, and lives life to its fullest.

People should learn from Isaiah. Instead of whining about our problems, more of us should grit our teeth and push through it. Life’s not easy, and how you deal with its issues reflects your character. How do you want people to remember you?

I learned more, of course, but not all of it can fit in this space. But I’ll leave you with perhaps the most important lesson, the one I learned about myself.

Before this summer, I was your typical college kid: immature, sometimes irresponsible and, most of all, worried as hell about joining the professional world after graduation. Now, I know I can do it. I can function just fine in the adult world. I can go to work, do my job and get paid. I can pay bills . and on time, too.

Like I said at the top: It’s funny how quickly life can change. Three months ago, I was a typical college kid.

Now, I’m an adult. Who’d have believed it?

Doug Gulasy is a senior newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].