COLUMN: Now is the time to plan for the future

Michelle Poje

This summer, an embossed piece of paper will certify me as a “journalist.” I will walk across a polished stage and pray my 3-inch heels don’t send me tumbling. My mother will cheer my name from the stands, and my father will hang from the rafters with a surplus of cameras in order to document every second of my two-minute transition from college student to career woman.

And one of my biggest supporters won’t be there to witness it.

When I entered college as a pre-journalism major in 2001, my grandfather was ecstatic. I can still see him waving a copy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer in the air with a broad smile on his face.

“Someday this will be you, honey girl,” he would say, tapping the picture of some smirking columnist.

“You bet,” I would reply, a fake smile stretching across my face.

My grandfather didn’t know he had more interest in journalism than I did. At the time, I was a lackluster journalist-in-training who was sleepwalking through classes and cursing my friends for leaving me behind for other universities. I had dreams of seeing my own byline in the newspaper, but also had this idea in my head that, if I devoted four years of my life to merely going to class, I would magically receive a degree and then magically receive a job three days later. I was much too lazy and naA_ve to even consider gaining work experience and establishing contacts in that time.

My much needed wake-up call didn’t come until after my grandfather became sick. He was diabetic and had suffered a minor stroke that left him barely able to walk. But every time I saw him, he would hit me with the familiar comment of “someday, I’m going to see you in the paper.” By this time, I had been in school almost four years and had done nothing beyond complaining and going to classes. And yet, he was still waiting, was still clutching a newspaper and living happily unaware that his granddaughter was suffering from a total lack of ambition.

In the final days of my grandfather’s life, the knowledge of all the time I had wasted hit me hard. I was no closer to becoming a journalist than I had been four years earlier. I had no work experience, no degree and, worst of all, no byline. My grandfather’s dream was dying along with him. And the realization of what I had to do to be successful had come too late.

Every semester, I see students who remind me of who I used to be. They are students who want to be artists or lawyers or screenwriters but are wasting time and opportunities. Four years of college doesn’t automatically equal a career just like opportunities don’t walk up to you and offer you a job. Now is the time for us to mold who we want to be.

Today my name will appear in the newspaper. Students and residents of Kent will look at my picture and read my column. My mother will congratulate me on being published, and my father will proudly clip out my column and make copies for everyone he knows in the greater Canton area.

And one of my biggest supporters won’t be there to witness it.

Michelle Poje is a senior journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].