Farewell Column: Wake Up, Mr. Johnson

matthew copy

Isaac Smith/The Carolinian

Matthew Johnson
       Sports Editor

After three months of family, friends and professors asking me if I was prepared to leave college for the real world, I routinely uttered a “yes” with an aimless pondering reminiscent of “The Graduate.” With all the complexities and convoluted nature of college, I am exhausted.

I am an exhausted 21-year old who wants a break. In regards to graduation, I was an excited individual who circled Dec. 10 months ago. Even with all its instruction, WebMD could provide nothing for my senioritis.

However, a football game I participated in last Tuesday now makes me hesitant regarding my initial thoughts.

    I have always loved sports. When this world was new to me, and all I had were my siblings, parents, grandparents and “Beauty and the Beast,” sports became my favorite passion, and still is today. Before later loves, like poetry, hip-hop and even Fruity Pebbles, sports were my thing. I followed my favorite team and players with the most faithful of sentiment; you would think they were deities to me.       

Because of this, I knew I wanted a career in sports. While my childhood dream of becoming a professional athlete is likely over, and I do not play for any nationally organized time, I do consider myself an athlete. I always played something when I was younger, either organized or just with my two brothers. And this is a boyhood I miss so much today.

Now back to last Tuesday. In the reflection of a simple intramural football game, I have been able to see how I have grown in my three-and-a-half years at UNCG.

In my first semester playing intramural sports, I was that quiet, baby-faced freshman who did not say much. If you had me on your team, you were fortunate as I was routinely the fastest ball-carrier out there. However, my indrawn nature kept me from truly expressing myself. I scored a touchdown, high-fived teammates and went back to work. I didn’t say much, and I just did my thing.

Flash forward to last Tuesday; I am able to see what three-and-a-half years can do. Ironically, this baby-faced senior is the oldest member of the team, and is referred to as “old man” by teammates. I still think I am the fastest member on my team, but that is arguable. Last week, in one of the best games I have ever participated in, the juxtaposition of an 18 and 21-year old Matthew could not be more clear.

I was barking defensive orders like a Bears linebacker. I slammed my fist on the ground in frustration. I was joking with teammates, referees and opponents. And I am pretty sure I dropped a few F-bombs in competitive anger, but I don’t remember; the game is actually a blur now.

And that game is now a blur due to its thrilling conclusion. Featuring a tipped-pass for a touchdown with 37 seconds left and a game-clinching defensive stop, I was hugging teammates like the war was over. And as I laid in bed giddy from the excitement a few hours earlier, a sudden feeling of heartbreak washed over me. It is nearly over. But I am very proud of the person I have become since freshman year.

And a large part of this growth comes from working at the Carolinian. After being told of a writing opportunity by my freshman adviser in the spring of 2013, I made a beeline to the newspaper office the same day. There, my awkward freshmen self was able to stutter an introduction to my future boss, mentor and good friend, Joseph Abraham.

Spinning in an office chair before a laptop screen where we would eventually research potential stories, labor over layout and watch lip-sync battles, Joseph with his kind-natured welcome, personified a simple, but critical step that I needed to take: the practiced skill of a confident voice. And this is what I have treasured the most since working at the Carolinian.

In the booth of an autumnal soccer game, or talking with the students about their opinions on hockey, each day at the Carolinian I have grown. The voice of the self is infinite, and The Carolinian has provided me a channel to speak. Honed with discussion, interview and simple banter, this newspaper has been one of the most cruel, enlightening and affectionate learning experiences I have ever had as I have sought to develop my voice.   

Since my first day at school in August 2012, my growth as a person has not been as drastic as say Charles Foster Kane, but it is noticeable. And for those who have helped me, I would like to recognize them. From my colleagues freshmen year, Everick Davis and Shannon Hall, to my staff these past two years, Brandon Boyer, Terrence Hinds, Daniel Johnson, Kenny Mann, Lindsey Dancy and Roger Thomas, I thank them for their work. I also would like to thank The Carolinian Editorial Board which has been like a family these past few months.

As a competitor, I do hate failure. After a heartbreaking defeat, I have to repeatedly tell myself, ‘it’s okay. Once you wake up, the sun will still be out.’  But it is a love-hate thing. Losing is an obstacle I have faced, but it also sets a space for long-term progress. Once I leave this campus, I believe things will get demanding. But I know with my time at this newspaper, I am prepared for the fray. I am ready for growth, which walks hand-in-hand with failure. But, with that appendage, is progress. And because of that, I cannot wait to begin.

Categories: Campus Sports, featured, Sports, Uncategorized

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