Shannon Smith’s Senior Goodbye

A huge sun glare comes through the glass doors of Rechnitz Hall and I’m standing by the newsstand freshly stacked with that week’s edition, waiting for my art history class to begin. I pick one up and begin reading. I’m enthralled, I continue reading even as I set my bag down and sit at the desk. On one of the last pages, there’s an ad to join and write.

When I joined The Outlook, it was simply a way to get more involved on campus. As a transfer and commuter student it can get a bit lonely and I thought joining a club might be a great way to make friends. I remember saying these exact words to my high school counselor when I moved to New Jersey from Texas my junior year. She told me, “I’m going to need that on a poster in my office,” so I thought I couldn’t be wrong making the same decision when I transferred to Monmouth in the Spring of 2021.

Looking at where I am today, I think junior year of high school is a good place to start. When I first stepped foot at Keyport High School, it was bound to be a simple feat. Making friends, getting through my classes, becoming involved – I thought it would be easy. Boy, was I wrong. I spent most days during the fall semester at the lunch table with the newest book I got from Barnes and Noble or staying behind in the classrooms, editing the school’s yearbook to escape.

I put my all into Yearbook club. At a school where graphic design wasn’t taught as a class, this was a place where I could explore. I knew I had to do something like this for the rest of my life. I loved making layouts and finding just the right typefaces and colors.

It would be hard to mention my high school years without giving credit to the drama club. Here, I finally was able to make friends and express myself. Theater was an outlet for me in many ways. It really helped me to grow and make long lasting connections with friends and teachers.

So while it was a rocky start, I eventually found my footing but it wouldn’t be long before change ensued again. Soon enough, I would be graduating and heading off to college. Winding roads led me to a small school in Reading, Pennsylvania. I majored in Digital Media Marketing and loved (mostly) every second of it. While I got the opportunity here to do some great things, I realized none of what I enjoyed about the school had anything to do with what I was studying. I loved the theater club, the friends I made, and especially my work study where I was able to help in social media production across campus. However, I didn’t have any classes that rooted me in graphic design. When I asked my advisor about learning new design programs, I was told to spend some time learning on YouTube. I thought to myself, “Shouldn’t I be paying to learn what I love?”

A year and a half later during the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to transfer to Monmouth to actually major in graphic design and be closer to home. I spent a semester trying to navigate online learning and eventually got to feel the coastal breeze of Monmouth’s campus. I think you’re all caught up now.

As I said, I joined The Outlook. I keep myself quite busy overloading on classes to catch up as a transfer student, working a part-time manager position, and helping out in various ways across campus. While I was just going about my day-to-day, I never realized how much I was actually taking on. I kind of embraced it until it really started to wriggle under my skin.

It was all work and no play. I was becoming burnt out and isolated. I didn’t even understand fully what I was working so hard for at some points.

I couldn’t thank my mom enough for her help throughout the last four years. When things got busy for me, she was always there to pick up my slack, give me a hug, or listen to me rant for hours. This put it into perspective for me. Building relationships and having a support system ultimately started to mean more than working myself into the ground.

This idea truly solidified the summer before my senior year. I met someone who really took me away from it all. It’s almost indescribable but I was finally able to feel like I was having fun and doing things just for the heck of it. It was a reminder that life can be so simple and exciting. Though we’re a little ways away from each other now, being in that position made me understand how fulfilling that sense of adventure was.

It made me rethink my safety net. I felt I had decided on what I was going to do after graduation but that all changed. I think that is the common theme here: everything will change.

So while there are many thank you’s to go around, I think I’ll save them for graduation dinner with my family. For now, I want to leave you with this: For anyone who feels lost in what they decide to do, everything will change a million times. That is okay. Anything you decide to do will come to you in your own time and you don’t have to control it all, just go for it. Not everything will be easy, but not everything will be hard. Go in the direction of the things that will bring you back home to yourself and don’t lose yourself in the chaos.

I’m excited for what’s to come. A big thank you to The Outlook and all the editors and staff who have been a big part of my journey at Monmouth. Giving me a space to exist and allowing me to call myself a writer despite all the nonsensical poems in my notes app and the one good essay I wrote about my family trip to Virginia in fourth grade. Most of all, giving me a community when I needed it most.