Over the Summer, I was asked to write a personal statement on What it Means to Be a Buckeye as part of the internship program I was involved with (HBGP shoutout!) at Ohio State. It took me nearly the entire summer to finish the assignment. How was I to answer that question simply in words?
How was I to answer that question without physically standing with someone in the Shoe during a night game that was a black out against Penn State when your cell phone doesn’t work due to the crowd and your vocal chords feel like sandpaper from cheering so loudly? How was I to answer that question without showing someone what it feels like to drag yourself (and your cup of coffee) to your car every morning at 6 o’clock because you LOVE what you do and the lack of caffeine and sunlight at that hour doesn’t seem to matter or even register? How was I to answer that question without taking someone to Caldwell and sitting in the lab with them working on a one-problem homework assignment for HOURS then finally getting the code to work and feeling so triumphant? And my goodness I actually feel out of breath even from just typing all of that! It was seemingly impossible.
So I decided to tell my story of what it means to be a buckeye. Because what I’ve realized as a Buckeye is that a persons story is one of the coolest parts about them. I’ve never once regretted sitting down with someone and listening to their life story over a (strong) cup of coffee or (rather large) bowl of ice cream. I’ve also never regretted sharing mine. Life- stuff happens to all of us. So why not share it? Why live it alone when we can live it together?
This is my Buckeye Story (and also what I eventually ended up submitting for my What it Means to Be a Buckeye Personal statement):
“Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on! O! H! I! O!” My five-year old self sent my pompoms soaring across the TV right as the Buckeyes snapped the ball off the 1-yard line and drove it into the end-zone. I turned around and gave a high-pitched-kindergarten-shriek. “GOOOOOO BUCKS!!!” I flashed a huge smile at my Dad as the Block O tattoos on each of my cheeks (yes, I wore two of them, wearing only one was bad luck) crinkled up into the wrinkles of my squinty eyes. At the time, I imagined that there was nothing in the world my Dad would love more than his five-year old daughter emphatically cheering for the Buckeyes. Little did I understand that it actually took every ounce of his patience not to quiet my creative cheer routines as he missed touchdown after touchdown due to my beloved pompoms (the instant replay became his best friend). If you’re an Ohio-State Football-Loving-Dad with a five-year old daughter that owns a Buckeye cheerleading dress, bless your patient soul.
I grew up in a Buckeye loving family with dreams of attending The Ohio State University. Both of my parents are alumni and by the time I was in fifth grade, I probably could have been leading campus tours. Not bad for a fifth grader.
But being a lifelong Ohio State fan does not even begin to scratch the surface of my story. As a Buckeye, I’ve realized that everyone has a story, and it’s our stories that make us unique, interesting, and treasured individuals. It took me a long time to find the right words to tell my story—my real story— not the shiny, glistening fairy-tale-esque, “Go Bucks!” version. The real one.
I grew up with a Dad that loved me so much. I grew up with a Dad who would braid my hair like a princess, shoot baskets with me in the driveway, and let me stay up past my bedtime- promising not to tell my mom.
But I also grew up with a Dad who was an alcoholic.
I grew up in this place where I was stuck in a constant battle between knowing that my Dad loved and cared for me so dearly, but I would still see him fall into his addiction time and time again. For anyone that has grown up with a family member that struggles with any sort of addiction, you understand that it truly is a disease. It is incredibly hard to watch loved ones suffer and be so severely affected by a measly 26-ounce blue can. But it happens.
My sophomore year of college, my parents decided to get divorced. Up until that point in college, I appeared as if I had it all together. I was on the pre-med track, I had a great athletic career going on, and I had some awesome friends and teammates. But on the inside, I was still fighting this battle, trying to work through years of the mental and emotional aspects that come with living with someone addicted to alcohol.
My parents announcing their divorce was the tipping point of everything. During that period of time, it took all of my energy just to walk to class. Athletics, which had previously been the place I felt the most peace and security, all of a sudden gave me anxiety and made me feel restless. I can honestly say that it was during this period of time that I realized being a Buckeye meant having a family. To someone whose family was going through a lot of life challenges— having my Buckeye family meant the world to me.
I had teammates and friends who would build me up in my faith and encourage me with truth when I was struggling. There is a girl on our team who would make me coffee nearly every single morning and then just sit and listen to me talk while I was sitting on her couch. I had coaches who were there as mentors. They refused to let me give in, and forced me to keep fighting. I had people on staff with Athletes in Action (a campus ministry at Ohio State) that would pray with me and listen to me. Quick shoutout to Sarah Schweisthal, you are the absalute best for all of those truth- filled mornings at Panara! I had a Buckeye family. My Buckeye family.
There have been times throughout my college career, especially my sophomore year, where it would have been so much easier to throw in the towel or to settle for mediocrity. But my Buckeye family would refuse to let me do that. They push me to be a better version of my self. They push me past the mental and emotional barriers in athletics and life in general. They help me to realize that I’m not alone in the real version of my story. They each have stories as well. Some are similar to mine, some are different. But that’s the cool part about having a family, you learn from each other, grow with each other, and care for each other through the unique stories that you each have to offer. And being a part of something as magnificent as that– that’s what I believe it means to be a Buckeye.
Side Note: My Dad and I now watch the games together and he no longer has to make use of the instant replay… I gave up on my cheerleading dreams when I grew to be 5’11’’. So to all you fathers that can sympathize with my Dad—it does, in fact, get better☺
So that’s my story. I love Ohio State. I love the maple-cream-stick at Buckeye Donuts. I love the cobblestone path by Thompson that I always fall walking down. I love my roommates, teammates, friends, and everyone else in between. I love how God has used this university and my experiences here to work in my life because He is the ultimate ruler of my life. I love my Buckeye Family!
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