Five Years Later

Photography by Travis LaCoss and Erin Brache, design by Grace Bukowski

I first enrolled at RIT in 2018, back when MAGIC Spell Studios was the newest building on campus, the word “Corona” referred mostly to light beer and “God’s Plan” and “Lucid Dreams” were blasting on the radio. It’s safe to say a lot has changed between then and now, myself included.

I was shocked that I even got into RIT in the first place. I almost dropped out of high school, and my guidance counselor told me that I shouldn’t even bother applying to college. I also figured that academia just wasn’t right for me, a theory supported by my first year here. I contemplated dropping out again after I failed three of my classes.

Maybe the only thing keeping me in school was this girl I had just started dating. I wanted to keep seeing her, but we hit a rocky patch early in our relationship when my personality kept clashing with hers. I would be loud and obnoxious to hide my insecurities, unapologetically bringing up taboo topics just to shock people. She often told me that I made her feel self-conscious and embarrassed.

Hearing that I hurt her just by being myself was incredibly tough, but that became a turning point as I continued through college. I promised her that I would fix my behavior — every day I would ask her if I made her uncomfortable or if there was anything I should have done differently. The answer was almost always “yes” at the beginning, but I slowly became more like the person I wanted to be: someone who people wanted to be around, someone who was a good partner and someone who didn’t have to put others down to make themselves feel better.

We will soon celebrate our fifth anniversary, with many more to come. I owe a lot to her. She taught me the value of reflecting on my actions and how to change if I did not like what I saw. On top of that, she gave me the courage to pursue an education that actually interested me, which eventually led me to graduate with a master’s degree at 22. Before I got here, I would always laugh at the statistic that 50% of students change their major. I told myself that I would never be one of those people, but guess what? I was.

In fact, almost every single thing in my life changed during my five years at RIT, including my name, gender and all of my interests. You have no idea who you will be once you graduate (or don’t). If you end up becoming the exact person you expected to be, then that most likely means that you failed to step out of your comfort zone and change your viewpoints. Do your best to find people who will respectfully help you learn from your mistakes. You will change, and that’s okay. Enjoy the ride.