Ceciliah Leininger’s Senior Goodbye

As the oldest of three, I’ve always been the first: the first to talk, the first to ride a bike, the first to graduate. However, being the first also means not having as much guidance on some of life’s most challenging experiences. It also means being the first to fail, and for someone with a perfectionist complex as big as mine, this was something that was very difficult for me to reconcile. Even the possibility of failure scared me, so of course I was terrified of college.

Coming from Lancaster, PA, I didn’t know anyone and, looking back, I didn’t know anything. My fear was only exacerbated by the pandemic, a roadblock on an unmarked path that I believed to already be full of bumps and twists. All of this to say, my expectations were low for this next stage of my life despite my general excitement for college life.

Thankfully, many of my biggest fears did not come to fruition. I made friends my freshman year, many of which I am still close with today. I loved my major and the professors that taught my classes and truly believed that I had not only found my path but also the map needed to get to my final destination.

Well…my major was marine and environmental biology and policy. Looking where I am now—an English major and Lifestyles editor at “The Outlook”—something clearly went awry on that path.

I ended up switching my major halfway through the fall of my junior year. Typically, this remark is met with several questions: “Are you graduating on time?” Yes, thankfully the English major has plenty of free electives; “Are you going to be a teacher?” No, believe it or not, not all English majors want to be a part of the educational system in America; and the question I get asked most frequently: “Why?” This question is a little more complicated to answer because I genuinely loved my major. It wasn’t something I tried to force or was pressured into. I was (and still am) legitimately passionate about sustainability and environmental policy. The problem arose in my need for extensive, far-reaching plans for things that simply cannot be planned down to a T.

At first, I thought I had picked the perfect major for myself. The classes were all super interesting, I had made connections with my professors, and, because of the tight-knit nature of the major, I had made a ton of friends in and out of my classes (shoutout to my MEBP besties Einat, Jessie, Adriana, and Marie).

It wasn’t until the end of sophomore year though that I actually started to place these classes in the context of my future. I began to question whether or not I could actually see myself doing this as a career, and, to my surprise, I came up with a resounding no. I couldn’t understand why I felt this way. I loved the classes (my botany, zoology, and marine biology classes are still some of my favorites I’ve taken), but I just couldn’t see myself doing research or working in environmental policy.

Safe to say, I spiraled the summer before my junior year. I’m sure everyone around me that summer was sick of me because all I could talk about was my world-bending discovery. It was back to the drawing board, and it was scary being back at square one.

I probably looked at every single major Monmouth had to offer, but English had always been in the back of my mind even before I had consciously decided to make the switch.

I had always been a big reader and writer. Many of the pictures from my younger years show me curled up with a book or smiling up at the camera with one propped open in my hands. I had always written imaginative short stories in my many glitter-covered notebooks, and it translated throughout my time in school through my grades in my English classes.

At some point in high school, however, I had moved away from the idea of pursuing anything to do with reading or writing. I think my school, and society in general, so heavily encouraged STEM degrees that I began to feel as if my potential would be wasted if I pursued something outside of these fields. It didn’t help that I liked all of my subjects in high school. I’ve always loved learning, so I never found myself gravitating to a sole subject. I enjoyed math and science but also English and history, making my decision for my major a very difficult one.

As I reflected back on this that summer, I knew that I would be doing a disservice to myself if I didn’t at least try out some English classes. So, fall of junior year, I signed up for a couple alongside my MEBP classes and tested the waters.

Immediately, I knew I had made the right decision. I felt like a creative force for the first time in years. I loved having class discussions on books and literary movements and being with people who felt the way I did about reading and writing. I made the official switch to English halfway through my junior year, and I can look back and truly say that I made the right decision.

The thing that really solidified these feelings for me though was my work at “The Outlook.” As soon as I knew I wanted to switch majors, I looked up ways I could get more involved in activities that would allow me to write more. Immediately I reached out to Isabella, last year’s editor-in-chief. By chance, they needed a Lifestyles editor, and now here I am. It was my ideal position, and it honestly felt like fate.
I wanted to prove to everyone, not just to the team but also to myself, that I could do this and be successful, and I feel that I have done that. I absolutely loved working for the paper. Laying the spreads on Tuesdays has been my favorite time of the week for the past two years, and the work I’ve done here has really helped me hone my skills and solidify my interest in editing and journalism. I am now not only optimistic but genuinely excited about what lies ahead for me if it looks anything like working in the newsroom with the amazing team at “The Outlook.”

I want to thank all of the wonderful editors at “The Outlook” for an incredible year and for creating a fun, welcoming environment that makes me want to come in every week. I want to give a special thanks to Gabrielle Sangataldo—Editor-in-Chief—and Taylor Memoli—Entertainment Editor and next year’s Editor-in-Chief. I’m so happy that I get to call you both friends and have made some of my favorite memories with y’all. I know that you both will do incredible things, and I can’t wait to see what you accomplish.

Whatever comes next, I’m facing it head-on. Life is all about the unknown, which is what makes it so exciting. Although I’m definitely nervous for the future, I can say that I’m no longer scared of it and can’t wait to see what’s in store for me.