‘There’s nowhere else to look, but ahead’

Senior Column:

As I sit here trying to write this column—my last as a Setonian editor–I can’t really stop to think. I just write.

My roommate is reaching for his guitar. I know what’s next. He starts playing some kind of tune. I’m not sure what exactly it is, I don’t think he knows either. A whistle is accompanying it—and occasional lyrics too. It’s the kind of noise that propels me from my desk, directly across from his, to the basement of Ora Manor, where an ill-lit room and a lone, fragile, chair await me and my scrambling under deadline.

On this particular night though the sound is invitingly soothing and I decide to stay. As I write, I stop for a moment and peer up from my laptop screen to the back of his guitar. My focus is shot—what a surprise. I look over at my desk. It’s cluttered. Ticket stubs, reminders that are too illegible to read, but that still look important enough to keep. There’s a book next to my hand. It’s about oil tycoons, I’ve ironically used it to stash spare cash in case of emergency—college life at its finest.

At 24-going on-25, I’m not at all prepared for graduation, just over three weeks away. I came to Seton Hall in the fall of 2013. I was a transfer student looking to finish what I’d started at a community college where I overstayed my welcome. Four years to complete a two-year degree to be exact.

My first year roommate and I were both of the non-traditional variety. We joked that Seton Hall was the closing pitcher in our education. The chords continue to be strung and I again look away from my computer.

There are photos directly across from me. High school graduation. I had a bad haircut, the cap looks as though it’s balancing on a mop. When I graduated high school, I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do—or be—or anything. Twelve years of school and you kind of think you know everything. It’s all one big formality, I thought.

My roommate stops playing and begins to pack up his guitar. I look back over at him.

“Why are you stopping?” He’s puzzled. “You should keep playing,” I insist.

He does a bit longer. I’m not writing now. I’m thinking. I open my side desk. There’s loose change, more ticket stubs, and a folded piece of paper with instructions on how to cook the chicken in the freezer. I never opened them until now. It’s a reminder of home—and how much I didn’t want to leave it.

But, we all have to grow up. One of a few lessons learned in this tail-end of my college experience. The music is slowing down. It, like me, is on its way out.

I have an envelope next to my foot. It contains résumés I handed out last week. I got an e-mail back. My name misspelled “Neil,” I should trash it—if you can’t spell my name right, why should I… I think better, I don’t have any leads. Beggars can’t be choosers.

My phone vibrates; it’s a text: “I’m freezing.” I can’t help that situation. I can barely help myself through a single column—about me. Writing has been easy for me. An oddity for a dyslexic kid— maybe that’s the source of most of my pride. Not because I did it all alone, but because it was a joined effort: my mother’s advocacy, my father’s work ethic, teacher’s commitment.

It almost makes me feel bad when I say I won’t miss school. Everybody tells me I will. I feel like I’ll be the exception. The one that doesn’t miss it at all. But they’re probably right. The music has stopped and the lights go out. I’m alone. I’m writing again. There’s nowhere else to look, but ahead.

Neal McHale is a senior public relations major from Brick, N.J., and can be reached at neal.mchale@student.shu.edu.

Author: Neal McHale

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