This is me accepting my diploma from EIU in May from former president William Perry.
It was just about 12 years ago when I graduated from Eastern Illinois University with my degree in journalism. Since that time, I worked at my hometown Saunoris Garden Center, went back to Moraine Valley Community College to design their newspaper website, donned my reporter hat for the Sun-Times affiliate Doings newspaper, enrolled in classes at Trinity Christian College for secondary English Ed, worked at Elim Christian Services as a paraprofessional, helped senior citizens get a line of credit at a financial services company as a loan salesman, tried the customer service field at Cinch Connectors, an electronic circuit company, and finally, found my calling as an English teacher at Crete-Monee High School.
In that time, I published four books and completed another two that are under copyedit review, traveled to 44 states and two countries, and saw some amazing events and concerts.
I met the wife of my dreams, we bought a house, and we had a beautiful little boy that is our whole world.
Within two years of graduating EIU, I published 20 Something, my first published book. It was a collection of poetry and it was largely written during EIU and post EIU, and it was about growing up in my 20s and what a weird time that was. I got out of EIU thinking that I should have a huge reporting job or at least a major career laid out, but I didn't. I wanted to snap my fingers after walking off the stage at graduation and have this life laid out right away. But it just doesn't work like that. It can take years, and within those years, there are little steps along the way.
Sometimes those steps go off into different directions. Working in other fields were just detours to my calling. But it did allow me to work with and meet some amazing people and get a sense of other walks of life, and other skills I still use in the education profession.
I loved the choice I made in going to EIU, and I loved my time there. I recommend the university to anyone seeking a state school, especially one for education or journalism. I learned a lot about me as a person there, met some incredible people - both friends and professors. I interviewed some incredible people. During my first year there, I talked to former Governor Jim Edgar on the phone for about 10 minutes concerning an obituary story. He was the nicest man.
I served in several capacities in my time there - reporter, interactive online editor, and the Editor-in-Chief of the Pounce Online magazine website. I loved it. I'm even wearing my EIU hoodie as I write this.
But during my last year there, I wasn't sure a future in journalism was exactly right for me. I think I was just going through the nerves associated with knowing that I'd be on my own for good soon. As a journalism teacher for five years, I now realize I can never fully leave the field, but at the time, I wasn't so sure. When I left to work at my Saunoris' full time, the place where I had worked for the last ten years, I always enjoyed it, but I knew that I was missing something in my life. That's what led me to go to Moraine to work on their newspaper site, and being around the education field once again is what led me to Trinity. Everything leads to something else, and I couldn't be happier where I am today.
Who knows where the next 10, 11, 12 years will bring me? Who knows where it will bring the world? Hopefully the days of pandemics will be behind us. But all we can do is control what we can control. If I had to give some advice to my 21-year-old self, it would be this, "It's okay. You'll figure it out. Life doesn't happen overnight, but everything will be okay."
Enjoy the ride. Life really is about the journey, and it's been a great one.