Illustration by Olivia Vennel
Here it is everyone, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: my final send off.
Now that sounds like I’m going to war, but really I’m just graduating. Yes, I know. The lack of my presence at Kent State will hugely impact campus life. What will everyone do without me?
Much like many other graduates, this moment is insanely bittersweet. I have never felt so relieved yet so terrified in my entire life. It’s now the time to be a bonafide adult, to be a part of something that I don’t even know exists yet: the future.
That’s a pretty intense introduction, so let me relax it a little. My time at Kent State is coming to a close. After graduating a semester early (thank you to my sweet and dear advisor Ms. Ellie Hansen), I can say that this time has absolutely flown by. It feels like only a short time ago I was a little (rather, big) nervous freshman who had 50 multicolored pens and something to prove. Did I prove what I needed? Only time will tell. Also, I now only use blue and black pens. Character development.
I feel as though I lived a million lifetimes through the course of my college years. I welcomed new family members and let go of those who passed. I started jobs and ended jobs, loved them and hated them. I joined clubs and found my place in student media, among so many other intelligent and wonderful student journalists who not only showed me how to walk the walk but also acted as an incredible support system throughout my time here. I tried things and failed and then got back up and failed again. I cried and laughed and questioned and wondered aloud, “What on Earth did I get myself into?” I witnessed firsthand how COVID-19 impacted my college experience, along with so many others who weren’t as lucky as me. These million lifetimes somehow fit into a measly 1,277 days. 1,277 is a lot to take for granted. And I don’t regret any of it.
Looking back, I think I would hate my high school self. Who gave her the right, you know? So ambitious she would stop at nothing and would sucker punch anything that got in her way. I’d like to say I still have that drive, but instead, the ambition has turned into determination. Something a little softer, a little more understanding of my sleep schedule and mental health. I am determined to accomplish these goals for the week, instead of stopping at nothing and taking on too much. I’d like to sit my 18 year-old self down and say, “Just breathe. Take it one day at a time. Forever is composed of nows. Don’t use your nows as a way to get to forever.” A little softer, a little kinder for Annie Z.
Going forward, I hope to go to law school, because I’m a schmuck. A schmuck for learning, a schmuck that wants to be an advocate for others, a schmuck that wants to see just how much student loan debt one can get into (hahahaha …). On a serious note, I believe my purpose is to help others. To advocate for them in a system that stomps out justice and hope. To be there for children and families and those with disabilities and those less fortunate than I. My purpose is to churn out as much good as I can. To cycle it through reverse osmosis style, in hopes that in some weird way the good will find its way back to me. Ultimately, I’m very selfish and should be stopped at all costs, but for now, I will use every part of me to get to the point of being there for others, of helping them in ways with resources I could have never thought possible.
There are so many people along the way that I could not have gotten here without. My parents (shout-out Ali and Don Z), who never doubted me and never stopped believing in me, who gave me an undeserving amount of support, encouragement and help through times of despair and serious doubt. My siblings (my true fans can list them all), Donnie, Henry, Owen, Levi, Lucy, Avery, Bo and Blaise, for being my true purpose and making me laugh every step of the way. My wondrously intelligent and strikingly beautiful BFFL, Holly A. Liptak, who if I don’t end up marrying will be in my wedding and hopefully my life for the rest of time. (Oh, worm.) Will Babbitt, the most handsome and jolly good fellow a lady could ask for. You were my light through the storm, the waffle to my Nutella (so very 2015 of us). Without any of you, my life would be incomplete. Thank you for being you and for loving me the way you do.
Also, thank you to the staff and members of The Kent Stater, the Burr Magazine and the Portager Newsletter. You trusted me time and time again with the weight of words on a page and gave me so many opportunities to hone my journalistic skills and style. I am forever grateful for the support and encouragement. Please join these amazing student-led organizations.
Here we are at the end. Oh my. We finally reached the end or maybe just the beginning? I think it’s up to me to decide. It wouldn’t be a proper ending/beginning without the use of someone else’s words. The great comedian/actor/dynamite Jewish gal Jenny Slate writes in her book entitled “Little Weirds” (hence the title of this blog. Please Jenny Slate’s publicist don’t find me):
“And I see the leaves turn a bit in the air and the breeze coming feels like the whole world is a pet that is breathing on me, and I think, Well I am so sensitive, and I am very fragile but so is everything else, and living with a dangerous amount of sensitivity is sort of what I have to do sometimes, and it is so very much better than living with no gusto at all. And I’d rather live with a tender heart, because that is the key to feeling the beat of all of the other hearts.”
OH! And check out Jenny Slate’s stand-up/documentary, because her grandma says something in it that will stay with me forever and will probably be on my headstone.
“It’s not just that you’re smart, and it’s not just that you’re beautiful. It’s that you’re good.”
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