As this defining moment in my life approached in the fall of 2010, I can recall the overwhelming feelings that flowed through me. Between the excitement, nerves, and curiosity I managed to formulate a sense of what the next four years of my life could be. To start with how wrong I was about the future, I imagined my time at Penn State being four years; however, lucky for my parents, I decided to change majors my sophomore year and tack on a fifth year just for fun. This was purely a strategic move to ensure that I maximized my college experience, but really was to accomplish more than I could have ever imagined in my life.
I chose not to live in East Halls my freshman year, which had its pros and cons. What I regretted most about this decision, however, was the fact that I did not find my group of friends immediately. I did not have that freshman floor that always hung out or even a club to meet people through. For that moment in my life, I was a little lost in regards to making friends. It seemed so easy thinking back to my kindergarten years and becoming best friends with each new class I had all throughout elementary school. College proved to be a much different situation and in order to meet new people, I knew I had to join a club or something outside the engineering world. Let's be honest, who wants to hang around a bunch of engineers 24/7 and only talk about calculus theorems and Newton's three laws?
This is about the point that THON entered my life and honestly the reason I feel such a close tie to this organization. THON became a home for me and an outlet from school work.
[Enter OPP Committee 2011: Hulk Homans]
My first ever interaction within THON was my freshman Committee called the Hulk Homans led by none other than Amy Homan :) This was the first ever Committee that I went canning with, learned what FTK meant, and truly experienced the magic within this organization. This group of 30 some odd individuals from all over the country, studying different majors, and each one of us having our own personal reasons for becoming involved in THON grew into a close-knit family. Within that family, sprouted two of the best friends I have shared my time at Penn State with.
(Sometimes it is impossible to make sure everyone keeps their eyes open)
Sean, Shivam, and I were never really close while on the Committee, but the three of us went to every single event throughout the year. All freshman, all clueless trying to figure out college and life and THON. The first interaction Sean had with my family was showing up to our tailgate with a bucket of cheese fries he bought along the way. My mom always reminds me of this first interaction and that gigantic bucket of fries smothered in cheese wiz that was added to our collection of food. Shivam and I on the other hand shared a different food experience. We were generous enough to share Gumby's famous Pokey Stix with passersby one night on our walk home. (We may or may not have also spilled half of the pizza box on the ground before deciding to share our food). Despite our laughable moments and moments that may not be considered our best decisions in life, we decided as sophomores to live together for the following year. The only problem was, we needed a fourth roommate.
[Enter BJ Johnson]
This kid is by far one of the goofiest, most outgoing, and crazy people I have ever met. Him and I met in the most roundabout way, and to be honest, it was as if he was the last piece of this puzzle to my college experience. At the time, I didn't quite grasp this concept, but as the following two years have unfolded, I realized that the four of us came together in such a unique way. A way that one could never plan and is really left to spontaneity. Three of us met on a THON Committee which is not out of the ordinary, but the way that BJ automatically integrated into our group and the experiences the four of us shared over the next two years were amazing.
From endless laughs to a cleaning chart incentivized by a case of beer to handstand competitions to late night food fights with peanut butter and marshmallows to parties hosted in Cafe 206 to charring our kitchen ceiling and an unbelievable amount of brotherly love in this apartment, I don't think I could have picked a better group of guys to share my college years with. I feel at home in our apartment and the four of us have truly developed a unique relationship over these past two years. As I write this post, it's somewhat bittersweet because once again I don't know where the future lies from this point forward. These best friends of mine are moving on in life. Because of this, I took the executive decision into my own hands and decided early on that I was going to have two senior years. As senioritis quickly spread throughout my apartment, it was practically impossible this past year to focus on anything school related. As my mom kindly reminded me, this was not actually my senior year, and I must continue to work my butt off. Luckily, I somehow managed to do so and keep my grades up even as the year progressed.
Along with meeting my three reckless roommates, I had the pleasure of meeting BJ's parents through this sequence of events as well. Both Penn State Alumni and the definition of what it means to bleed blue and white! These two have have been nothing but hospitable to us since we met at their first football tailgate of my junior year. The classic spot right along Park Ave, plenty of food on the grill, and that perfect hillside to lay on when we finally had eaten way too much food. They are the ones who initially asked me to shoot BJ's graduation in the winter, and I felt so honored that they gave me this opportunity. I am also so grateful that they asked me to do so because this gave me an opportunity to capture my best friends being themselves. BJ and I managed to round up the other two on the morning of this photo outing and somehow we managed to put ourselves together in a short amount of time. It was also Saturday and we are known for moving a little slower on Saturday. These were some of the most fun pictures I've ever taken because they're so raw with emotion and I could never have posed my friends in such a way to capture some of these shots. I hope as you scroll through these photos you get a sense of the relationship that we share. These guys are my best friends in the world and I am beyond grateful to have shared all of the craziness that we have experienced together. Penn State and my life in general would not be the same without these three.
Congrats BJ, Sean, and Shivam on graduating! I can't wait for you guys to come back and take me out since you're all "real people" now.
To see this rest of these photos, please visit the Cafe 206 album under portraiture.