I have just concluded my final assignment in my collegiate career and have set my sights on Beasley Coliseum for the Spring commencement ceremony on Saturday. But as the day of celebration approaches quickly, I keep looking back at the fond times you have given me over these past three years. The memories that will last a life time and the lessons you have taught me at every step of the way.
For the sixth time in my family’s history, I will walk across that stage as a student, and return on the other side as a proud Washington State University alumni. About seven hours later, my cousin, and roommate, will carry the honor of being the seventh. It’s a tradition that spans nearly five decades and carries infinite stories. To say the least, I was born for this moment.
Before I join many of you in the Cougar alumni family, I want to take a brief step back and reminisce on my journey from WSU fan to WSU alumnus.
Despite coming from a line of diehard Cougar alumni, I never got to make the voyage over for a Cougar Football Saturday that many WSU faithful did as kids. But every Saturday in the fall for 20 years, CFS lived on six hours away. Football wasn’t my first love. I didn’t really start to fully understand the game until I was about nine or so. The first game I vividly remember, Alex Brink connected with Brandon Gibson 35 yards down field for a game-winning touchdown.
Of course, there are the other games that I don’t remember so vividly and so fondly. Or the years dreading school on Monday after a game over Thanksgiving weekend that didn’t go in the crimson team’s favor this time around. Being a young Coug fan became part of my identity growing up. People knew me as the kid who rooted for WSU in a predominantly purple area. The kid who kept wearing crimson to school despite WSU’s miserable football record.
Following high school, I decided to stay at home and do two years of community college before I finally came to Pullman — a place I still had yet to visit. When I told my cousin, a recruiter and WSU alumnus, at one family gathering that I still hadn’t been to Pullman, she panicked. “What if you hate it!?” she asked. I assured her there was no way I could hate Pullman. After being practically brainwashed and spending a handful of Saturdays a year watching it on my television, there's just no way I could hate it.
As I began my final year of community college, my dad finally caved. It was finally time for me to visit the promised land. We flew into Spokane and drove a rental car down. As we came closer to Pullman, my cousin’s words echoed in my head. “What if you hate it?” But as soon as I read the City of Pullman sign off Davis Way, an odd sensation came over me. The same feeling you get when you pull into your neighborhood after a long day. The feeling ... of being home.
The feeling rang as true as the Bryan Hall bells when at the end of the first quarter the following day, that certain song played over the Martin Stadium speakers.
I finally knew what it meant to be here. What it meant when every Coug I talked to couldn’t stop gushing about how special Pullman was. I knew that this was exactly where I needed to be.
When you talk to those same alums, they’ll tell you about the strong desire to come back to Pullman. How that desire can almost become magnetic. Like a force pulls you back to Pullman. About a month later, I felt that magnetic force after reading one tweet.
I had to be here.
My buddy and I loaded up the Subaru and joined the convoy of Cougs making the trip from the west side to Pullman. It was this weekend I got to experience real Wazzu. Exploring Greek row, trying (and failing) to fall asleep on the Streit-Peram dorm floors, and stumbling my way over to the corner of Ferdinand’s and Stadium Way at 3 a.m. The best weekend ever was complete with a Minshew to Patmon connection and the party was on.
Two months after Pullman’s biggest weekend ever, I got the email I had waited 20 years for. “Congratulations! You’ve been admitted to Washington State University!”. At last, I was a Coug.
Pullman, before I was even a Coug, you taught me how special you are.
Being A Coug
In August the following year, my family and I made the trip over and moved me into my dorm. I stayed in a small solo dorm in McEachern Hall. Shoutout to all my fellow Southsiders. May your calves forever be strong.
My first year in Pullman was spent exploring how to live in Pullman. The weekends start on Thursday nights at Stubblefields (RIP) and in the fall, we live for Martin Stadium on Saturdays. With the football team off to a 3-0 start led by Anthony Gordon, I got to further myself into becoming a real Coug with a real Cougar football experience that one night in September. IYKYK.
My first semester taught me how to manage by myself. How to manage my time, how to manage my money, how to find that perfect balance between school and free-time. Pullman, you taught me how to grow up and how to live on my own quickly and effectively. You also taught me that while a tequila sunrise in your Stubby Glass is fun in the moment, it may not always end too well later.
In an early February lecture, my professor said something that I’ll never forget. When talking about our core values, he told us he believed that our health would be severely tested in the next few months. Sure enough, a month later, it was announced our spring break had been extended by a week. On our final night out before our long spring break, my friends and I did our bar crawl of Valhalla, The Coug and ended the night at Stubblefields. To this day, that is still the last night I’ve seen our friend from South Korea outside of facetime calls.
Our world as we know it had come to a screeching halt. What was going to be a quick, relaxing, two weeks at home, turned into taking the dreaded COM300 from my couch over 300 miles away with no idea when I’d be able to come back to the place I had began to truly call home. I caught my first wave of Pullman homesickness. I came back in May to collect everything from my dorm and say my goodbyes to my odd first year in Pullman.
While I returned to Pullman in July, it never really felt like Pullman. Classes were online and the only places I would typically go to were to the grocery store or the disc golf park. It flat out sucked. I missed Pullman even though I was in Pullman. There would be days I missed Pullman so much, I’d just walk to campus and walk around. Walking past the lecture halls, telling myself I’d do anything for a 9 a.m. in-person lecture. Staring into Martin Stadium, wishing more than anything I could be yelling like an idiot with my 30,000+ closest friends. When the clock reached the top of the hour, the Bryan Hall bells would still echo throughout the desolate campus. Not a murmur from students walking around to interrupt the sounds.
In my second year, Pullman, you taught me how to miss you. A full year of being in the place I longed for was ripped away from me. A full year of learning, making new friends and spending hours out at The Coug were gone.
As the days went on and we began to see our world return to normalcy, that thin line of hope for one last year of the real Pullman began to grow larger. People were out walking around Adams Mall, The Coug’s outdoor patio was growing fuller by the day. Pullman was coming back.
529 days after my last class in Pullman, I finally got to walk into a classroom again. 651 days after I watched Max Borghi punch in the game-winning touchdown, I was back with all my closest friends in Martin Stadium. Everything felt right again.
Pullman, you taught me what it felt like to be home again. You taught me what being a Coug is all about. Working hard and playing hard. Meeting new friends and enjoying new experiences. How to handle adversity and how to come out a better person because of it.
Being a CougCenter-er
As the Cougs got ready to tip-off this college basketball season against Alcorn State on a Tuesday at noon, I had to make the decision. Do I be a good student and go to sports law, or do I skip sports law for the basketball game? If you were watching the game or on Twitter, you may have seen my decision broadcasted on Pac-12 Networks.
The photo of my phone quickly went viral on Coug twitter. It even caught the attention of CougCenter’s famous Craig Powers. My friend showed me Craig’s tweet and my networking instincts kicked in. I had a simple message for Craig at halftime: “Hi Craig Powers!”
Two weeks later, after a friendly suggestion from a Twitter user, I met Craig at The Coug. At The Coug, I told Craig I was a writer and would love to join the staff. He gave me his email and had me send him a couple samples of my work.
The rest is history.
Over the last six months, I’ve gotten to enjoy writing and reporting for the blogsite I grew up reading. It still puts a smile on my face every time I see my byline in a CougCenter article. I can’t thank this staff and the CougCenter community enough for this amazing opportunity.
This opportunity and the long nights on the pursuit to find the bottom of what seems like bottomless pitchers of beer (or beets if you will) doesn’t happen without the incredible support of the Pullman community. Pullman, you taught me what a strong community looks like. What its like when people come together and help each other at every turn despite not knowing each other at all.
CougCenter, this is only the beginning. I look forward to continuing to write for you.
Despite the months turning into weeks, and the weeks turning into days, and now the days turning into a matter of hours, I still feel like I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I will be a WSU alumnus in less than 24 hours. I’ve had nearly nine months to think about that fact and yet it still blows my mind. Soon, I will have to say goodbye to home.
There are days where I feel unprepared to leave you. When I desperately wish I could come back for one more year and keep living the student life. Then there are other days where I feel you have prepared me well for this moment. The days when I get excited to tackle a whole new world because I know you have set me up in the best possible position to succeed.
Pullman, you have made me who I am today. You have put me in the best possible position to succeed in life because of the life lessons you taught me. You taught me how to grow up, how to be a part of a strong and helpful community, and you taught me how special places can be.
Pullman, I can’t thank you enough for these last three years. You are truly my home. While I have to leave you for now, know I will be back home soon. I know you will pull me back in like a magnet as you have done with so many others. I can’t stay away from you forever.