L i ke most of my high school literature, I remember reading something profound from some old prestigious white man. This time it was Robert Frost.
He spoke of two roads (SPOILER ALERT: the road not taken and the one most people took) and while many tried to convince me that those were the only two directions in life ... I disagreed.
There was a third road, and the four years I have spent at Penn allowed me to discover it. It was the road that was made.
From freshman year until now, I have been fortunate and ever so pleased to be given the chance to inspire, enlighten, humor and, more often than not, piss off my fellow peers. But I wouldn’t have preferred it otherwise.
After a failed attempt at being a typical pre-law undergrad at a very pre-professional university, I decided there had to be another way. WQHS Radio was that gateway, and as I went on the air speaking my mind and telling my truth, someone told me something I would never forget.
It was a Penn alum and former The Daily Pennsylvanian columnist, Cornelius Range, a 2012 College graduate , who told me: “If you write about the things you talk about, you would do some amazing things.”
And so I did. My first major gig was being a weekly columnist for the DP . For three semesters and 36 columns, I talked about student government hazing, my swiping thousands of people into dining halls (to which some of you are still not over, sorry), affirmative action and everything pertaining to campus life that you could possibly imagine.
The Ernest Opinion was a column about my way of weighing in on issues of relevance to the Penn community. And your opinions, whether supportive or the most malicious of all time, were motivating.
Because, for the first time in my life, I realized how powerful words were and how much of an impact one person could make in the lives of others.
Since my departure from collegiate journalism, my heart for the genre has shaped the way I express larger issues. The DP gave me the opportunity to have a voice to an audience of thousands. Today, that voice is shared around the world.
During my junior year at Penn, I forged a friendship and mentorship with a woman whose last name you all probably see daily on your Facebook newsfeed: Huffington. Yes, Arianna Huffington is a mentor of mine and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime over a year ago by giving me a personal account to blog whenever I like for The Huffington Post .
Over 40 published posts later, I am still remembering a piece of advice she told me when I first met her at Penn.
“Never grow a thick skin for people or things, always be permeable.” Thick skin, as she described it, would always block you from taking in the good when trying to protect yourself against the bad. Being permeable allows you to take in the good while letting the negativity flow in and out and not stay pent up against you like thick skin would allow.
I may not ever be into dermatology as much as her, but the metaphor made me realize how I plan to forever live my life: fearlessly.
With a permeable sense of being, I do not have a fear of the unknown, rejection and possible failure because those things will come and go. As Quakers, we oftentimes let ourselves be our own walls, blocking us from taking the road we are destined to make.
For in my life, I have realized that everything is not black and white. There is a gray. Everything at Penn is not just bad or good, but can sometimes be in-between. And there is not just the road not taken and the one everyone takes, but also the one you should make for yourself.
Because life has numerous paths, and we should be damn tired of having our destinations be so narrow that we limit ourselves by trying to fit in.
If there is anything anyone can learn from my journey, it is that I preferred making my own way regardless of the pressures to conform.
Ernest Owens is a College senior studying communications. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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