When I was accepted to be a student at my alma mater in the winter of 2007, I was the least bit concerned with “leaving a legacy.” I was more concerned with getting out of high school scott-free and being able to have a good time, away, at college, while also earning a degree. I wasn’t thinking about what my job would be after, where I might work on campus, or the relationships that I might have formed over the next few years.
That was almost eight years ago. Eight.
Fast forward those eight years, and right now I write this blog to you from my home in Northern Virginia, having JUST returned from a five-day road trip; 1 day in Charlottesville, Virginia and 5 in Blacksburg, where I went to college at Virginia Tech. The impetus for my visit was to attend one of the biggest college football games in our university’s history; facing off against unanimous #1, Ohio State.
The 2015 edition didn’t turn out in our favor (Ohio State won, 42-24). As a SERIOUS Hokie football fan (only missed 1 home game over 6 years a student, having traveled around the country from New Orleans to Miami to Pittsburgh, etc. to support our team) you might think the trip was bust.
Back to the first paragraph of this blog. When I first started at VT, I didn’t think about leaving a legacy. Over the course of my undergraduate career, I got more involved and transformed into not just a student but a student leader. As a graduate student, I became a mentor to undergraduate students, by virtue of my graduate assistantships and also by sheer passion and love for paying it forward.
Over the course of the weekend, while spending some time either on the downtown mall in Charlotesville or hopping from tailgate to tailgate in Blacksburg (the tailgates weren’t JUST on game day. SERIOUS, right?), or down on Main St. at one of the many college bars you can find in town, I encountered more than 20 students or alumni that shared stories of our interactions as students. So many stories, and so much…emotion. Maybe I was a speaker in their class, maybe I was campaigning for Homecoming, maybe we shared a class together, maybe they saw me pumping my arms to roll up Kent Street or maybe they just saw me “around” repeatedly being my typical over-involved self, trying to make a difference on campus. Some even recognized me because of the incredible, kindhearted, giving group of friends that helped carry me up a mountain in 2012.
I am always honored when others share that they remember me from speaking at Hokie Focus as a senior in the spring of 2012. That was one of the best experiences of my life – and I’m happy to have been able to share something so memorable with so may others.
I don’t write this post to humblebrag about how many students I was able to help recruit to Virginia Tech or affect or influence or anything like that. And, of course, I’d be lying if I told you that it doesn’t make me feel REALLY good, extremely flattered but very proud when I meet these Hokies.
But most importantly, I write this post is because the reason those students came up to me is because of that legacy. And, yeah, at the end of the day it literally moves me to tears (it literally dude with one student, named James B.) Why, though? Because it defines the legacy that I was able to leave behind. WHAT LEGACY ARE YOU LEAVING BEHIND? If you’re a friend of mine that’s reading this blog, I know you are in some way. But can you pronounce how?
As you wrap up reading this post, I’m assuming you fit into one of two categories. Either you are a Tech student, or you are not.
If you are not a student, I encourage you to think, hard, about how you are leaving a legacy in your space right now. Personally, I work toward leaving a legacy as a Virginia Tech alumnus. Do you work toward leaving a legacy at your job? In the form of a family? As a community volunteer? I strongly believe we should all be focused on leaving a legacy in some way.
If you ARE a student, I encourage you to think, hard, about how you are leaving a legacy on campus right now. Do you have to become an over involved student leader to do so? Absolutely not. But before you leave campus and finish up your studies, think about how you might be able to impact at least one person, one space where you may be able to help others, one professor you may connect with, one student you may be able to mentor or guide. Those are relationships and opportunities that are abundant now – and will not always be.
I’m grateful to have been able to take advantage of those opportunities.
Simply and frankly: if I can do it, then you absolutely, certainly can too.
As I reflect on that time, I really think its only up from here as an alumnus. Crazy how 8 years changes things. Not to mention, I’ll always think of this trip where I could truly tell that my work on campus made a difference…not that the Hokies may have lost to OSU.