“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Six years at NJIT and the shy quiet freshman who stood in front of hundreds of Honors College students who spoke loudly for the first time… never really stopped speaking. He stood there scared and unsure of himself because for the very first time in his whole life, there was a future ahead of him with a ceiling that was unperceivable and still is. The world was there and his dreams were real, possible.
This naïve freshman did not know how far he would walk and the many lives with which he would share a drink, a smile, and tears. Like the many others who walked with him at the time, he knew not where his feet would take him or how far his dreams would guide his path. There was a promise long ago that he made to himself in the darkest corners of his young mind, he would find happiness.
And so this young boy became a professional photographer in journalism who challenged others in the field. He was taught by passionate photographers who came before him and walked down the path that allowed him to cross those of the Star Ledger, Associated Press, and New York Times. His works became posted on NJIT’s websites and publications, the pages of the Vector, for models’ portfolios starting in the field, wedding and engagements of dear friends and more.
His dreams of becoming renowned started with a “Hello, I’m Kenny Katzgrau and I am the Managing Editor of the Vector, would you like to take photos for us?”
And from that day forward, he walked with others who would bring his dreams to life. Through his time in the Vector, he met many others who walked down the very same path. He failed as Business Manager, returned as Photo Editor, became the Managing Editor, revived the organization as Executive Editor, and played the role as Editor-in-Chief for two years.
Yet, those positions meant nothing to him. What really mattered were the people: the ones he fought with as the school asked for prior review of the paper, the ones who stayed up with him when they did the paper on Monday nights from 10pm to 8am every week, and the ones who stood by his side through all the good times and bad.
Throughout those years, he joined a fraternity of wonderful gentlemen, experienced the joys and dangers of alcohol, parachuted out of planes, visited foreign countries and distant cities, and loved another more than himself. He has lived and still walks to live.
Like many others, he has stayed up late and skipped classes, laid on the couch and stared at the fan, and even spent all day playing video games from the comfort of his room. He got sick for playing in the snow without a jacket while building an igloo on the green and had only pizza for a whole week. He got angry and yelled at friends, but also learned to apologize as well.
There were times he fell in love with the wrong women, but also knew the comfort of being held by the right ones. The moments he did enjoy most were the days he got to dance bachata in a park with her, stayed up late studying and hiding in the library with her, and sitting under a worn-out gazebo holding her hand. Three lovely women whom he will never forget deserve a drink as he sips on coconut rum.
Lastly, he was an idiot. Just as afraid as the next person to say what he truly believes. Afraid that maybe what he says is stupid or the questions he asks are a nuisance. And though at times he curses loudly in his mind and goes for it, like many others there some words left unspoken.
He grew up, but not really. He was him, just with more experience… I presume of course. He did stop running around saying “Chu” in public.
There is nothing but excitement now and no need to look back any longer. Although the Vector and NJIT were an integral part of his life, the overlap between his future and the future of his university is diverging unto different paths. As he looks to the sky and covers his eyes from the blinding sun, the warmth of knowing that possibilities are now probabilities draft a smile upon his face.
The future ahead of him is so bright and vast that most would be fearful of what to expect, but he is not. He stares into the bright abyss of life and smiles as his first steps into the clouded and vague future tears forth a new path that he has yet to experience. Joys, fears, worries, happiness, and more are waiting for him with open arms across an expanse that is greater than space.
There is happiness. There is hope. There is a future.
Though, he does glance back from time-to-time. It’s to appreciate the trials he faced and to remember the people who have left his side for their own journeys. And that’s really how college life was, a series of instances where we either solo a difficult dungeon or form a fellowship where we tackle the future together. And for all those lives that passed by his, he is eternally grateful for even a second of their time.
He no longer needs to worry about the Vector. His successors are alive and too stubborn to die. Though they may get in trouble, they’ll do it together like he did with John Fostek, Monica Pajdak, and Marie Zoghbi. And though his retirement comes years afterwards, he sincerely thanks them once again with another glass of coconut rum.
And though these are his last words for the organization that he loved for the last six years, it is not met with sadness nor bittersweet memories, but joy. The Vector has a future once again, a future he physically bled for, lost sleep for, and cried for. It was his love and joy, one he was passionate for until the very end of his role.
Yet, six years at NJIT and the shy quiet freshmen is now a stern and happy super senior that never really stopped speaking. He now stands there with experience under his belt and sure of himself as the many times before him. And for the thousandth time he knew, there was a future ahead of him with a ceiling that is unperceivable and still is. The world was there and his dreams were happening, more than possible though. Probable.
And like he always says when he leaves, “Be good and don’t die.”
Wait… no, that’s not what I… he, would like to say.
Romer Jed Medina