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Senior column: What I want isn’t what I need

Valerie Vasconez
Photo by Valerie Vasconez

Bradley has messed up my life plans.

Now, before this university revokes my degree, let me clarify.

I originally wanted to be a French teacher; the title seemed respectable, I loved the language and I wanted a chance to travel. However, Bradley only accepted me as a journalism major.

I had written for my high school newspaper, and English was one of my favorite subjects in school, but being paid to write seemed to be a far-fetched dream. Plus, I didn’t think I would have the skills to create anything impressive.

I thought that I could just change my major as soon as I got onto campus, but something about my “COM 101 – Survey of Communication” class changed my mind. It was there that I discovered the possibilities and the impact that a journalist can have.

Something ignited in me to keep going during that class. I wanted to take a risky leap because I wanted to pursue what made me happy. I would be accomplishing a childhood goal of mine.

My gosh, would I be in for a wild ride.

There were moments when I felt the unbearable weight of imposter syndrome. Sometimes, I felt like my peers deserved praise, and I didn’t. It doesn’t help that, as a first-generation student, I felt the added pressure to accomplish so much. I have so many eyes on me — old and young — and I just want them to be proud of me.

Now, pair all of that with my control-freak tendencies. If I couldn’t get into a course, if I didn’t get a promotion as expected or if I couldn’t make a presentation the way I wanted, then it was the end of the world for me. My life plan was extremely fragile and had no breathing room.

My now-husband would have to call me over the phone to remind me that I need to allow myself to make mistakes to get to my dreams. He’s been one of my biggest supporters and has helped me tremendously to get out of my shell and to forgive myself when things aren’t going as expected. I love his enthusiasm for my own passion and my advancement through university and, most importantly, I love him.

One thing that I learned throughout these four years is to be adaptable. It’s not just to make sure that you have a plan to fall back on, it’s also to ensure that you aren’t tunnel-visioning yourself down a path that won’t do you any good in the long run.

I joined The Scout freshman year, and I was sure I would join as soon as I spotted them at the activities fair. But I also volunteered around Peoria, leading me to see what life outside the Bradley Bubble is like and engage in a community. I also got a stringer job with the Associated Press and a summer internship with WCBU.

All of these experiences made me grow into the capable journalist and writer that I am today. I’m not just a writer, though; I can do so much more. I’ve challenged myself to learn a new language and start studying foreign cultures and politics, and I’ve also learned how to utilize social media for brands, work with a camera, edit podcasts and even brush up on my drawing skills.

Along the way, I’ve had plenty of late nights, laughs and adventures around campus. My friends here at Bradley and at The Scout have been the most unexpected finds in my journey. They’re the rarest and most unique crew that I will cherish deeply as the experiences we’ve had will be irreplaceable.

Angeline Schmelzer, my Editor-in-Chief and friend, there’s no amount of boba runs we do from now and until graduation to make up for the fact that we’ll be so far away from each other. Your talent and passion for journalism are going to lead you to so many exciting projects.

Kristyn Stallings, you’re the biggest reason why I stayed as we bonded over being women of color at a predominantly white institution. Binge-watching shows and YouTube videos as we procrastinated on you-know-who’s assignments has created my favorite memories of us together.

These people, and so many more, are part of the happy surprises that I’ve encountered here at Bradley.

I send tremendous amounts of love to Esmeralda and Leslie, who are still my sisters from other misters from my hometown of Las Vegas. Even after so many years apart, and our changes as individuals, we can come together and set the mood as if we’ve seen each other yesterday.

Finally, I want to thank my family that gave me endless support and encouragement that was matched with tough love to ground me in reality and made sure I’m not wasting my potential. I especially want to give notice to all my parental figures: my mom, my dad, Eztella and Kathy. While it’s my name on the degree, don’t think you haven’t played a part in getting me here.

I can only thank so many people before I might be asked to make cuts, and this will be a pain to edit on a Thursday night in Sisson, which I’ll also miss in a strange love-hate relationship when I graduate.

I like to think that Bradley saw something in me that I needed to discover about myself. While I want to know everything and plan everything, that’s impossible. Sometimes, what I want to do isn’t what I need, and that’s okay.

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