When I started college four years ago I had no direction or aspirations for my post-graduate career. If you were to tell me at 18 years old I would be where I am today, I might believe it after I laughed about it for a good 15 minutes. I entered East Carolina University as a criminal justice major but quickly changed to communication as I realized I had little to no interest in politics. I spent the majority of my freshman year jumping from party to party, skipping class and ultimately ending the year with a .08 GPA. I had failed myself, my family and my professors. Embarrassment was one of the many emotions I felt when I spent the summer before my sophomore year picking up the pieces of a failed first year.
It wasn’t until the fall semester of my sophomore year that the pieces started to fall into place. I was retaking one of the many classes I failed, creative writing, where I fell madly in love with the art of writing. My mom claims I was always a good writer but I failed to see that in myself when I was younger. I could convey my emotions into words so effortlessly that I almost wish at times it was my only form of communication with the world.
In hopes to make a career out of writing I chose a journalism concentration for my major. It was the second week of my Media Writing and Reporting course when staff members of The East Carolinian came to class to advertise the newspaper’s tryouts. I took a leap of faith and tried out for the newspaper, knowing nothing about news writing but hoping my passion for writing would shine through. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for the opportunity to work for The East Carolinian.
For two years I’ve called The East Carolinian home and its employees' family. I’ve received white house press passes, developed professional relationships and written over 100 published articles. At times it was tough; it would be a lie to say the life of a student journalist isn’t tedious, tiring and sometimes unfair, but it’s always worth it. The East Carolinian completed my college experience and there’s no telling whether I would’ve stayed in school or even made it this far.
When I look back on the last four years, I'm reminded of the hurdles I’ve crossed to get to this point. I think about the day my parents moved me into my dorm, wishing me luck not knowing how desperately I would need it. I reminisce on sleepless nights spent in Joyner Library, fried chicken Wednesdays at West End Dining Hall and the many faces I’ve met along the way. I used to think my freshman year experience was the worst thing that happened to me during college, but now I realize it was a blessing in disguise. Without all the struggle I wouldn’t have made it here today, proudly representing my family as a first-generation college graduate. To anyone who has triumphed over the hurdles of life, remember how far you’ve come and always be proud of that.
Once a fighter, always a fighter. Cayla Menges signing off for the last time as an East Carolinian writer.