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Senior column: Sunsets over the Murray Baker Bridge

Photo via Hernan Gutierrez.

One of my favorite views in Peoria is coming down the hill on I-74 during sunset and crossing the Murray Baker Bridge. There’s something about seeing the sun sinking behind the Twin Towers Place downtown that just brings me so much joy.

I remember being at work last year when plans for the seven-month Murray Baker Bridge shut down were announced. I thought to myself, “Good thing I won’t be around then.”

Funny how that worked out.

In high school, I thought I wanted to study computer science and applied to colleges as a CS major. Then, through competitive speech my senior year, I found my voice. I realized that I wanted to become a journalist to speak for the voiceless.

Knowing that Bradley’s communications school had a great reputation, and having played sports for the majority of my life, it was an obvious choice. Upon arrival at freshman orientation, I decided to pick up a sports communication major.

With two majors that had zero overlaps in classes, I knew my junior year that I would probably need to stick around for a fifth year.

While failing calculus twice and CS 102 once should have told me this, it turns out I wasn’t cut out for computer science. However, because of scheduling conflicts with classes, I would still need an extra year.

Now as the sun sets on my fifth year and given how this school year has played out, I can’t help but ask myself, “Was this year worth it?”

Before the pandemic hit, I justified taking this extra year by looking at the fact that I’d get an extra year of the “college experience.” Coupling that with taking classes that I knew I’d love and reigniting an old connection, it was easy to accept.

It would be easy for me to say this school year wasn’t worth it. After all, I didn’t get the extra year I thought I would, my dream internship got canceled and I got my heart broken.

Despite all of that, this extra year taught me so much about what I want in my career, in my relationships and in my friendships.

I learned that having conversations with coaches and players, getting to know them and telling their stories is why I love journalism. I learned that in relationships, people deserve communication just as much as they deserve space. I learned that it’s okay to ask your friends for help when you need it; that’s literally what friends are for. Finally, despite all of my insecurities in these areas of my life, I started to learn that I am worth it.

With that said, soon, a sunrise will come where I am no longer a student on the Hilltop.

My college experience obviously goes beyond my fifth year, but this year has been so consequential to who I am becoming. I don’t regret the victory lap one bit.

In my closing weeks on campus, I can’t help but be nostalgic over all of the memories I’ve made over the course of my five years here. All of the all-nighters (regardless if they were in the library or elsewhere), the one-off food runs and the 2 a.m. porch talks will live in my heart rent-free.

As this sunset turns to dusk, I started to realize I may never talk to many of the people I made so many of these memories with again. So, I want to thank everyone from The Scout, BUTV, Lambda Chi Alpha and anyone else who has loved me into this moment.

My mental health has been the most volatile it has ever been this year. However, because of all of you, I have also felt the most love I have ever felt.

Like many of you, my time at Bradley has not been easy. This school has given me countless headaches, but I wouldn’t be the journalist or the person I am today without it.

Our lives are filled with thousands of sunsets, some in the sky, others in our careers and relationships. Sometimes you can expect them at the end of the day. Other times you can’t expect them, like the last goodbye to an old friend.

When you come across one, be sure to take a moment and admire it.

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