Enjoy the mess-up years

Melissa Gaug

I have now learned the reality of why my dad calls these crazy college years the “mess-up years.” This is the time in our lives when we should be making mistakes trying to discover who we are and what we want to take out of our time here at college.

Therefore, make mistakes and take risks that would make your old friends in high school drop their jaws. Get lost in the sappiness of choosing to watch a romantic comedy with your two best friends over going to the bars on a Saturday night. Take road trips at a moment’s notice without worrying about a hotel until you get there. Dance around your dorm as if half of campus wasn’t watching from outside.

I am not about to dispense advice that seems like it should follow with “trust me on the sunscreen” or have a soundtrack in the background that includes Vitamin C and Sarah McLachlan. Instead I will simply explain how after 23 years I am finally becoming content with life.

When I was 17 years old, I watched as one of my favorite people in the world, Brittany, lay in a hospital bed at the Cleveland Clinic with cancer. She was 13 years old with sparkling blue eyes and the most amazing singing voice I have ever heard. When she passed away I couldn’t understand why such a talented and beautiful life was cut short. Instead of questioning it and becoming bitter I decided to live my own life more fully and appreciate every minute that I had. Brittany made me realize how little time we have to make an imprint on the world.

By learning to really live I had to take more risks, so I took one by going three hours from home to Ohio University, and then took a larger risk by transferring to Kent State with my best friends, Anya and Carey, our sophomore year. This risk lead me to be able to see my best friends every day, professors who believe in their students more than our own parents, and a workplace that I can’t wait to get to every day because of the amazingly talented people who I am surrounded by – including my younger brother, Andrew, and my wonderful and hilarious assistant, Gavin.

Without the belief in doing something every day that scares me, I would have never learned how fun it is to dance all night to Kelly Clarkson with my favorite Stater friends, how insanely happy I could be in a relationship with one of my best friends and how excited I am at the possibility of moving to a big city next year to join my talented and driven photo illustration and newspaper colleagues.

Beginning college, I was this very shy girl. Yet I forced myself to become outgoing my junior year when I decided to join the Daily Kent Stater on a whim. Within four semesters I became photo editor and got to take part in more life-altering experiences than I could have ever imagined. These include taking pictures next to Sports Illustrated photographers in Detroit for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Conference this March and witnessing members of the famous 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment come back into the arms of their families at the Akron-Canton Airport last September.

I have made memories with co-workers and my fellow photography students that will remain in my soul for as long as I live, and when I type out my resume at the end of the semester it will never have enough space to hold all the incredible life lessons I have learned while in my “mess-up years.”

Melissa Gaug is a senior photo illustration major and photo editor for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her [email protected].