Row your boat aggressively down that stream

by joseph cotton, outgoing education and enrichment coordinator

My college experience has felt like a cycle of failure. My boat has definitely been flipped over more than once. I’m pretty sure I hit my head on the rocks at the bottom of the stream too, but I can’t quite remember.  

One of my most formative experiences as a high schooler was the second day of track practice my first year. I remember being sore and tired from the day before and showing up to practice, despite the voice in my head telling me to take the day off.  

“Day two will always be the hardest day,” my coach said. “Congratulations on showing up!” 

He was right: A lot of people show up on day one. I remember the gymnasium bleachers being absolutely packed with other first-years who decided they wanted to join the track team. Day two was a different story.  

At least for me, every day of college after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has felt like day two of track practice: struggle to just show up. It really felt like all the upward momentum I accumulated during my first two years came to a screeching halt. 

I started to disassociate in most of my classes. The joy and motivation for writing philosophy papers and learning about economics was suddenly taken away from me. I knew it was serious when two faculty members filed concern reports for me and a care management coordinator reached out.   

The thing that kept me going most of the time was working for Newswire. As cheesy as it may sound, I never wanted to let down my teammates sitting beside me in the office. I wanted to be there to see each staff writer give their best. There were definitely weeks where I could only find the strength to get my Newswire obligations completed as academics became an afterthought.   

It was ultimately through the Newswire that I learned to find the courage to flip my boat back over every time I capsized. Seeing the tenacious underclassmen get after it and tackle each story with the energy I felt I lost was truly inspiring. Turning my chair around in the office reminded me of all of my fellow editors who make the impossible happen week in and week out.  

In university, we often talk about how we can be there for others who are struggling with mental health issues. I strongly believe that the most important part of being there for the people in your life is just to remind them how much they mean to you. I’ve lost track of the number of times where a small comment reminded me that I had the strength to get up for day two. 

Personally, I believe that the worst thing you can say to someone who is struggling is that “it’s going to be OK.” The reason is simple: It is not going to be OK. 

Life is always going to be hard. Instead, I have tried to make a habit of reminding the people in my life that I know (emphasis on the know) that they are strong enough to deal with whatever life is going to throw at them. 

As I look back on my experience at Newswire, I cannot call it a failure despite all the mistakes I’ve made. How could I when I had so many people who refused to let me fail? 

At the end of the day, all we have is each other, and I could not have asked for a better group of people to work with through this journey.  

God bless,  

Joseph Cotton