Journalism, Ohio University

What I’ve learned

A catchy lead doesn’t come easily. I’ll leave that as lesson one and move on as such.

It seems like it’s been forever since I moved in to Read Hall’s room 217, even though it has only been just a hair under 2 1/2 months. Athens is not only the place that I go to school anymore. It is a place that I call home and a place that I have grown to love, even though I was won over from the minute I first set foot on the campus in the spring of 2010.

Looking back, everything has changed. But as the cliché goes, everything is still the same.

Ohio University held its first “Junior Scholar Day” Thursday. None of the students here care about that type of thing, for obvious reasons — we are already here. For me, it struck an oddly special chord, though. In return for the cost of printing a postcard almost two years ago, Ohio University will cash in a small fortune of Ryan Family money. As I said, Athens won me over from the first day I spent here.

When I look at myself back then, I was captivated by the thought of coming to college and had all sorts of preconceived notions about how it would be. Mostly, none of them are true. I’ll run through a couple because I personally get a kick out of them.

1) College is similar to any sitcom, movie or story passed down through generations.

College is hard, at least for me. Classes are generally boring — at least they are right now. That lines right up with the typical college movie. My point, adversely, is that you simply cannot skip them — at least I can’t — because if you do, you fall behind. Simple as that.

There are not wild, exotic parties going on all the time. If you’re looking for a good time, have one. There’s plenty of cool things to do, just none of them involve carefully planned, elaborate outings. Also, the biggest discrepancy between the media portrayals and real life is that you go to a gathering and automatically know everybody. That is totally not true. I always feel like that weird guy who kind of doesn’t fit in. But then I look around and I have at least a couple of people that are even more lost than I am.

I guess that sort of thing will come with time!

*If there were a time to insert a LOL into something slightly academic sounding, this would probably be a time where I would do so. This is simply because, well, it would probably be funny to watch.

2) It is amazing to have as much food as you want at your disposal at all times.

Everything about that statement is untrue. It seems to me that every time I want to sit down and have a good meal (by college standards), the dining halls closest to my location are closed. On top of that, the food nearly as amazing now as it was for the first two weeks, where I didn’t care if the macaroni was good… I just knew there was a LOT of it and that it was there ALL the time.

Well… it’s still there all the time. And it’s still not good.

I haven’t weighed myself since I got here, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I’ve hit the freshman five or six. 15 would be a bit aggressive at this point, but hey, you never know.

3) Living in the dorms is something that you eventually learn to love.


4) College students sleep more than the rest of the adult population.

This may be true on some accounts. More or less, though, when it counts, productive college students do not sleep much. If you total it up, I would say that the majority of us “work” way over 40 hours a week. And we pay to do it. The difference between our “work” now and the work we will be doing for the rest of our lives, besides the whole pay thing, is that it carries over until all hours of the night, never really taking a timeout.

Maybe it’s just me being a journalist geek bro type, but the last thing I do before I go to bed at night is check my computer. When I wake up in the morning, I check my phone, put on pants and log on to my trusty Mac.

I think that’s funny, at least.

I am enjoying the college lifestyle more with every day I spend here, despite my whiney opening remarks. Learning to embrace less sleep, crappy food and spacey professors is kind of fun, oddly. It makes me feel like I am doing something to better myself, which, consequently, I am.

Mission accomplished.

The first quarter has turned out to be everything I would have hoped it’d be, for the most part. What’s really weird is the fact that I am leaving this place to return to Gaylord a week from today. Three finals, a quiz and one more story and I will be on the road back towards the great north.

(Turn hand, point right pointer finger to top middle knuckle of my left mittened Michigan-style hand.)

I get a lot of crap for using my hand to show my location. It’s the butt of a lot of jokes.

The fun part of all of this college stuff is that the novelty is wearing off. It doesn’t seem like I’m visiting or like I don’t belong here anymore. The more I think about it, these posts are getting very repetitive and I will switch up the focus next time. At this point, I think anyone who cares enough to continue reading knows that 1) I enjoy college 2) am being successful at college 3) am where I need to be.

The first quarter is wrapping up. What do I have to show for it?

I don’t really have that “one time, freshman fall quarter…” moment. At least I don’t think so.

I don’t have any horror stories or insane tales to bring back home. At least not American Pie worthy ones, that is.

And no, Mom, I don’t have all the babes. Sorry to let you down!

What I do have means so much to me, though.

I am starting to put the pieces together on who I am. In the past, I have had the fatal flaw of being jealous and needing others to make me happy.

I’ll throw a huge asterisk on that, because I am a generally very upbeat person and have never seen myself as unhappy at all. I’m nitpicking, as my journalism professors would say.

I am growing into myself, a little bit. What I have learned is that I cannot be jealous of what I cannot control, which are the only things that I could be jealous of, if that makes sense. There is no logic in being jealous of something you can obtain. At least that’s my thinking. Parallel to that, I am creating my own happiness. I should be in my room right now, combatting a late video game night and such. Instead, I am occupying the study lounge, pounding away at my keyboard.

I’ve learned that I am a much more expressive person than I would have ever given myself credit for in the past. Not only do I like sports (the original reason I got into journalism), but I also get a kick from knowing how things work, knowing how things work first, and putting fingers to keys better than the next guy.

Sorry, the old school “pen to paper” would have worked much better, but it really doesn’t make sense, because I can’t remember the last time I physically wrote a story.

I like to watch random documentaries and look at photographers’ personal websites. Visual things such as info graphics and page designs actually catch my eye these days. I have even learned to appreciate weird plays and stuff, even if I get tired and leave halfway through — sorry, Kristin!

The cool thing is that it’s not something I am training myself to like or experience, I’m doing it for me. For those on the outside looking in, it may look like I am physically going crazy. I don’t come home until late. Lunch breaks are kind of a nonexistent deal. I have become well acquainted with the sweatpants, slip-on shoes and headphones.

To wrap up the scattered 1,500 words preceding this sentence, I can liken college to how I was taught to write when I was younger.

I was told to just start writing, to let things flow and simply put pen to paper (there, I could fit it in!) and let everything take care of itself from there.

That is exactly how college should be on TV. It’s actually pretty interesting. Maybe I’m biased, though. I’m the one living it.

I came into college unsure of myself, yet so sure that I was going to have a heck of a college experience. I rushed into things, making a ton of friends, getting deeply involved in The Post, and worked hard in my classes.

And then the second paragraph hit, and I realized I had to actually pull everything together and make something of this hypothetical story-based simulation deal I call life.

I got all frozen up, trying to pick my words way too carefully, both figuratively and literally, in this situation. My stories were not good. My social life was kind of boring. And the funny thing is that, in hindsight, I didn’t see that at the time.

All I had to go was take the third grade writer approach: loosen up and make do with what comes naturally. I am blessed in the fact that I can get away with that sort of thing. Originally, I was trying so hard to impress, thus picking my words too selectively. Since I have learned to let myself go and trust myself more, I have been able to go back to the writer, person, friend, whatever I am supposed to be.

It’s not so much making every word perfect as it is perfecting every work.

You can’t get to the latter without taking a step back and allowing the former come to you.

At least that’s what I have learned. And I think that not because it’s what I was told, but because I experienced it and I am proud of the fact that I can recognize it.

That’s a big deal because in the past, it took other people to tell me things — repeatedly — before I took them to heart. Don’t ask me why.

I’m here, which is a great thing. When I leave for home, I will be leaving for a place where I was a different person when I was there last. It’s going to be interesting to meet back up with those who I have barely talked with since leaving for Athens. On the same note, it’s going to be equally compelling to see those who have helped shape the person who I am. Not only the person I was when I left for OU.

I kind of went back and forth about whether I wanted to hit the publish button on this one. It doesn’t really make all that much sense lineally and is kind of whiney at the beginning. Really though, I think it echoes how I honestly feel about a lot of things. It’s not all smiles all the time, but I have learned to focus on the things that can bring one to my face.

I came down here to become a better journalist and have a little fun along the way. In just a couple of months, I have come to the realization that this college experience is going to be a lot more than that. I haven’t even taken my first set of finals yet, and I can already pound out more about myself than I could over the summer.

That brings me back to my revolving life theme: that’s why I’m here. 



2 thoughts on “What I’ve learned

  1. I’m going to miss you over break, bro.

    Posted by brandoncarte | November 13, 2011, 7:53 pm

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My name is Jim Ryan, and I'm a breaking news reporter for The Oregonian and OregonLive in Portland. I'm an Ohio University graduate from Gaylord, Michigan.

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