Four years ago, I came to Bradley to do one thing: play tennis.
As many athletes do, I chose what college to attend based largely on the athletic program.
Bradley had my major, was far enough from home and offered a nice financial package without an unflattering uniform color or mascot. Count me in.
I imagined my college career through forehands and headlines. I never dreamt about the injuries, events I’d miss out on and people I’d lose time with because I was on the court, in the weight room, or worse, on a 10-hour van ride to Kansas.
And now, competing in the final matches of my career this weekend is one of the least sad events of these next few weeks. My teammates are my family, and I’m thankful for all tennis has given me, but Bradley has meant so much more than tennis.
Trite but true, Bradley has become my home.
Even when I didn’t want it to.
But the reason I love this place isn’t because it gave me what I was hoping for. It’s because it gave me what I didn’t expect.
It just turns out that’s what I needed.
In a word, Bradley has been a challenge, and the most satisfying thing about that is I’ve challenged myself.
When I came to school, I didn’t know how to play doubles. I was a singles player who didn’t know any doubles strategy and hated coming to the net. I started my career off at the last slot, No. 3 doubles, and now play at the No. 1 position. I also hold the record for most doubles wins in school history.
At the end of my freshman year I earned a job as a Scout reporter, only to be told a year later, after dedication and improvement, I wouldn’t be promoted because the editors thought I was too busy.
But I continued working hard, was asked to step up and now hold the second-highest position on staff.
I’m proud of these feats not because of how they sound on paper, but because of how relentlessly I worked for them. Turns out, hard work really does pay off.
I’d love to say I was responsible for making my college experience what it was. I pride myself in being in control and hate relying on others.
But as much as the awards, records and honors I’ve worked for mean, they pale aside the intangible memories my friends have given me.
I’ve never really been the type of person to have a lot of friends, because I’m pretty bad at letting people get to know me.
College was hard, because I had to let people figure me out again. And although I wanted to put a wall up all around me, I was lucky enough to find the right people who didn’t have to work to tear it down.
I’ve already had to say goodbye to some of these unique, intelligent and genuine individuals, and I learned it’s not impossible.
But next year, I won’t be living within a mile of any of my college best friends. In fact, I won’t be living in the same area of the country as any of them. And that’s going to suck.
Four years ago, I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be counting my college wins and losses from off the tennis court. But I guess if you go to college and come out without having changed the way you think, you really haven’t gone anywhere at all.
Thanks to my friends here who have made me feel like I’m ready to go places after I walk across the stage May 15. If we keep working hard, we will surely get there.
Emily Regenold is a senior journalism major from Cincinnati. She is the Scout managing editor.
We believe in you, Regenold!
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