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The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

Senior Reflection: Joel Hendricks

Long Journey’s End
Photo from Moravian University.
Photo from Moravian University.

The end of this chapter is just the start of another.

When I first came to Moravian College, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Let me be clear: I came here because it was close, I didn’t have to pay tuition, and, quite frankly, I couldn’t bear the idea of having to grow up. I knew I enjoyed writing for media, I just didn’t see myself finding a place where I could. To me, writing was a hobby; there was no future for me. I didn’t see myself as “good enough” to make it, and my indecisive nature further pulled me away. Sooner or later, though, that decision would need to be made, and that was a decision I dreaded to think about.

The summer before my freshman year was filled with sorrow and COVID-19. Remember your high school prom and graduation? That’s great, because I sure don’t. How can I remember something that didn’t exist? I was moving on from grade school in the most depressing way imaginable. All the friends I had made throughout eighteen years of my life were going their separate ways, and I didn’t even get a chance at a proper goodbye. It felt like I was on a game show, coming so far only to lose everything right at the end. Dejected is not strong enough to describe how I was feeling.

I remember my first taste of college, though. I was in my hotel room in Cleveland, Ohio, sometime in early August. That day I visited the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (a favorite of my dad’s). I could see the Cleveland Guardians baseball stadium lighting up the night sky. From my phone, a notification popped up. I received an email to my newly acquired Moravian account. It was a reply to the summer assignment I had to send to the first-year writing seminar professor I would have in the fall. 

Hi Joel,

Thanks for your thoughtful email. I appreciate your emphasis on the ways that we communicate in addition to the messages we intend to share. You are really pointing towards the rhetorical effectiveness of the writing we produce. Whenever we write we are doing so within a rhetorical situation of writer, audience, and text. Our navigation of these three components of the rhetorical situation decides if our purposes will be realized. Thinking of writing in this way helps us understand the writing we do every day (texting, writing in one’s journal, emailing a professor, etc) within a constant framework from which we can identify best practices for future use (a process called transfer).

I also want to commend you on your openness to share your apprehension about the shift to college and your recognition of the supports you will need to be successful in this new chapter…I had to use some cliches too :). Approaching college from a position of curiosity and excitement is, in my own experience, perhaps the absolute best component of Freshman year.

I look forward to working with you this Fall.



PS GO FHS Patriots

“What the heck did I just receive?” I said to myself. The … rhetorical effectiveness … situation … transfer … what does that even mean? I was so incredibly lost. I ran across the hall and slammed my fist on my mom’s hotel room door. I had no idea what this man was trying to say in his email because none of it made sense to me. I was hoping she could translate for me and tell me what I was missing. Little did I know that this was the beginning of my journey to finding my passion.

The email from Chris confused, but also excited, me. He seemed to understand my fears and worries, which put me at ease. And … did he reference my high school mascot, The Patriots? Not only was he understanding, but he established a connection with me right away. This was my first experience with Chris Hassay.

Chris, you might not realize it, but you shaped me into the person I am today. That first class I had with you opened my eyes to the world of communication and the power we have as writers. From the first time we spoke, I knew I could rely on you as a mentor. Your approach to guiding students into the realm of higher education gave me the motivation I needed to keep chugging along. 

Photo by Hayley Carroll.

And it didn’t stop there. You knew what I wanted to do even before I did. You saw in me someone who loves to write. You worked on molding me and assisting me until I had the confidence I needed in my own writing to stand up tall and call myself a writer. And then you went further. You pushed me to become a writing fellow and writing consultant, and despite my pushback, you pushed even harder. You didn’t give up on me even when I thought I had reached my limit.

I won’t lie, Chris, I was hesitant even when I agreed to join W@M. I couldn’t see myself doing what you did, which was to guide writers to showcase their strengths and communicate through their writing. However, again, you knew what was best. Joining W@M was one of the best decisions I could’ve made. 

At the end of last semester, I received an email from one of the students I had the chance to be a fellow for. In that email, the student thanked me for being there to help them and for giving them the confidence they needed to be a writer at Moravian.

And then I cried.

I cried because I did for someone else what you did for me. Looking at my tear-stained phone, I realized the gift that I had. In my four years here, you have not only helped me find my footing, but you’ve also shown me that I can use my own skills to guide others when they need it. If I can extend that helping hand, then I will. It’s not because I feel like I have to, but rather it’s because you showed me first-hand how impactful it is when that crutch is there. Chris, I will lead my life by your example, so you have my utmost gratitude.

While Chris helped me find my place, other factors grounded me. I had the opportunity to take writing classes with people such as Mark Harris, Dr. Fodrey, and Liz Gray. The passion that you three have for writing convinced me that it was not a waste of my time. Not only did you teach me a lot and force me to reflect on myself, but you also showed me the opportunities that existed for me to express my ideas through my writing. Liz, I am so happy you got the job the summer between my sophomore and junior years. You can ask anyone who I worked with that summer; if you weren’t hired I was going to throw a temper tantrum. Thank you for showing me kindness even though I might’ve gotten a little carried away at times. 

Anyone who has met Dr. Fodrey knows just how smart she is. I had the opportunity to complete an honors project with her and let me tell you, it was fantastic. There were so many times I wanted to give up, but Dr. Fodrey, you didn’t give up on me. You knew I had it in me, and you kept me in line. I knew very little about the field of rhetoric, but now I’m comfortable being able to sit down and chat with you about it. Part of it is thanks to Chris, but if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have been able to apply my love for writing to my love for games.

Your kindness and calming words whenever I was stressed or anxious were always enough to ease my worries. You always knew what to say, and you did so in a way that filled me with determination. I’m not sure you know just how significant of an impact you had on me not just as a student, but as a person who can walk away with their head help high, knowing I can do whatever I set my mind to.

From you, Dr. Fodrey, I learned that I do have it in me to go that extra step. When I move on, I’ll think back to the conversations we had in which you encouraged me to keep moving forward. As I navigate the next step in my life, I’ll navigate it with the drive to go as far as I can, and then some.

Also, thanks for advising my self-designed major. You’re the best! 🙂 

And then there’s Professor Harris, who did not stop bugging me about joining The Comenian when I took his creative nonfiction class. Journalism was never something I had even considered before, so I just tried my best to avoid the topic altogether, despite his persistent requests. Professor Harris, I’m so glad you didn’t give up on me because joining the paper prepared me for the world more than I could’ve imagined.

The way you advise The Comenian isn’t traditional. Instead of being a body to sign a paper here and there, you take an active role. Your comments and guidance aren’t there to just make the current edition better, but rather you make sure that we take the lessons you provide and run with them, applying them outside of the paper. I’ve learned so much from you and the environment you helped put me in, so thank you!

And speaking about The Comenian, the other persistent person who got me to join was none other than the editor-in-chief, AJ. I finally folded at the start of my junior year and wrote an article to get him to stop bugging me, and it just happened to be the first of many.

I always assumed that I’d move on from school and lose contact with my friends, but The Comenian showed me that doesn’t have to be the case. The people in this paper are some of the greatest human beings you’ll ever have the chance to meet. Even though I’ve only known them for a short time, the bonds I’ve been able to forge have a strength that I never thought possible, and it encouraged me to strengthen other bonds I had outside of the paper.

I don’t think of the current Comenian staff as a club or a team. Rather, I like to think of them as a family. A family will bicker and get frustrated with each other, and it sometimes can lead to awkward moments. However, when we care about each other like a family those moments only exist to make us stronger. The dedication and helpful nature we have for each other is something you can’t find in some random community you join. It has to be built on a strong foundation, and the chemistry between all of us on the staff cannot be easily broken. Honestly, I’m convinced it can’t be broken at all.

Even through my reservations about becoming an entertainment editor, everyone had my back and showed me how to be better. They knew that I’d do the same for them, which gave me a renewed purpose in using my ability to help where I can. 

To my friends – sorry – my FAMILY, I extend my most heartfelt thank you. Fatimah, or should I use your full name, JOHN FATIMAH, you never fail to make me chuckle, and I think your writing is some top-tier stuff. You make my job easy as an editor because there’s never really any editing that needs to be done! Thanks for putting up with my goofy antics and being just as goofy back.

Oh, Todd … when you said you were joining at the end of last year I crapped my pants in excitement. You’ve been with me through a lot, especially sophomore year and the … uh… organization we joined and then immediately dropped together. How you manage to be so hilarious and genuine at the same time is something that I admire greatly. Thank you for being a light of positivity in a world that seems so bleak.

Lola, I know you have a lot bottled up inside, but I just want you to know that we see you and we appreciate you. You deal with a lot of crap, but you never fall down. Your tenacity is an inspiration to everyone around you, and I think you should hold your head up high. I want you to remember that any time the world looks like it might be crumbling around you.

Liz (A.K.A. Rizz Kameme), you are something else. Every time we talk I don’t really know what to expect, and I’m here for it. You stand your ground and make sure you’re heard, and you taught me that if I’m being silenced, then I just need to scream louder.

I’m going to miss you a lot, Liz. I think it’s because of the relationship we’ve formed. I tease you and you tease me, but when it comes down to the wire, I know for a fact you’ll come running if I call and vice versa. I don’t ever want to see you waver in your convictions. If others want to put you down, then stand up and keep fighting. I promise there will be those who fight with you.

And AJ, I don’t have a thank you for you. “Thank you” would be a disservice to what we’ve experienced together. I can’t even begin to describe how much it means to me that you have faith in me as a person. You believed in me when I didn’t, and it let me view the world with a clearer vision.

My mind is a place that’s guarded heavily, yet for the first time in a long time, I can put that guard down. Nobody else outside of my immediate family has worked so hard to show me how I can fit into this world we live in, and I don’t know if I’d even be going to grad school if you hadn’t been there to show me that what I do matters.

I’ve also never had a gaming buddy who I can nerd out with the same way I do with you, and that’s something I had sorely been missing most of my life. AJ, keep doing what you do for others. You have the ability to elicit a positive change in people through your writing, and I want you to know that.

However, I wouldn’t have even been able to attend school in the first place if it weren’t for my family at home. The undeniable truth is that I was given a beautiful childhood full of love and care because of them. I was such a little gremlin as a kid, yet through it all, they had my back and taught me that love can be a tool for positive change.

Mitchell, I know we live in two different worlds, but you are still someone who took me in and loved me despite that. Even though our interests and lifestyles don’t align, you were able to show me that something like that shouldn’t matter. We can still be brothers no matter what.

You always make sure to look out for me and keep me happy, which I promise you I appreciate. I know I’m bad at showing affection, but I want you to know that I’m going to live my life with a certain appreciation for what you provided to me. I swear to you, I’m full of love for you not just as a person, but as my brother.

Photo by Lola Offenback.

We’ve had our fair share of fights, but I want you to know that I don’t really care about those. I owe you an apology for being a crazy little brother that always annoyed you. It was because I looked up to you and wanted to be your buddy. Regardless of that, though, you are able to connect with me in a way nobody else can, and I’ll always remember that.

So, uh, I DEFINITELY owe my dad an apology. I’ve kind of been a jerk to you, Dad, and I really have no excuse for it. Even through all that though, you continued to care for me and take me out to do fun activities, which I promise has not gone unnoticed.

From you, I know that there is no extent to the lengths we’ll go for the people we love. I really am thankful for the fact that you are so focused on giving me the best possible life. From the trips to the expensive dinners, I appreciate every single thing you do for me. Again, I’m terrible at showing affection, but just know that I do love you. It’s not just because you’re my dad or because you do a lot for me, but because you are a genuinely good person.

How can I even begin to talk about my mom? Her love for me knows no bounds, and she is the reason I can exist as a human in this world. I literally cannot put into words how much my mom means to me.

Mom, you are always going out of your way to make my life even a little better, and the fact that you do it without a second thought is astounding to me. I guarantee you that I take note of the little things you do for me. I know it might seem like I ask you for a lot or take advantage of your love, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I go to you because I know I can trust you. You are someone who will make sure I am being safe and will put me on the right path.

You’ve always supported me, and that kindness and compassion gives me hope. The way I repay you is by sharing your kindness with others. Even then, I don’t think it is even close to enough.

And my little furry babies, Macarena and Lulu. You two little stinkers have watched me grow up since kindergarten. Macarena, the little smoosh ball, you’re such a silly goose and I love it when you cause problems just to snuggle in the best spot. And Lulu, I don’t know how much time you have left, but you are such a cute little sweetheart, and the memories I have of you and your pretty little purple collar with the bell are memories I’ll treasure forever.

My family, thanks for everything. I know “thank you” is overused, but nothing can even come close to describing everything you’ve done for me and what you’ve taught me. You guys did it … you raised a troublemaker into a functional member of society.

I was even lucky enough to have my mom get me an “in” at Reeves Library. Think I’m a nepo baby? Well, I guess I am, so cry about it.

I started as just a volunteer for high school, but the library turned into a job, and quite frankly, a second home. The staff there created an environment that I never expected to find so comforting. Janet Ohles, despite her retirement, was a big influence on me. She was always willing to go the extra mile for me so that I could find a place at the library that felt natural. When Kim Demyan took over as the director, she continued to nurture that environment for me.

The library has played a massive role in molding me into the person I am now. From the goofy antics, I put my supervisor Kris Beutler through to the opportunities provided to me through my internship, nothing comes close to the growth I’ve had the pleasure of going through with these amazing individuals.

You will seriously not find any better bosses than Kim and Kris. To begin with, Kim is the sweetest person on planet Earth. She never fails to greet me with a smile, and it is a surefire way to make my day. Kim, thanks for everything. I’ve gotten the chance to see just how kind you are to everyone, even when others might not be kind back. You embody the very phrase “kill ‘em with kindness” which I find incredibly admirable.

It is very easy to match somebody’s negative energy, but you have mastered the ability to take the negative energy and turn it positive, which I am lucky enough to have witnessed. It’s a skill that I know will serve me well in the future. Kim, you represent everything that humanity should be striving for, and I will not ever forget the hospitality you provided for me all those years ago.

Kris … you are literally the best boss in the world. No other supervisor would let me get away with the manic nonsense I put you through. Even through that, you are always willing to play along and let me take care of what I need to take care of, even if it conflicts with my shift. 

I want you to know that even though I complain all the time about doing my job, I would absolutely do anything you asked me to do. You showed me a working environment that is not only fair but also rewarding. Because you are adamant about us workers as people before employees, it only makes my drive to work for you that much stronger. Even if future employers aren’t as lenient, I still feel comfortable entering the workforce with the knowledge of how I should be treated; I should be treated not as a number but as a person.

Also, you are such a good person to give advice. Those countless conversations we’ve had have been nothing but eye-opening and comforting, so thank you for being you!

I also want to thank the other librarians for being helpful to me as well. Throughout my time at Reeves, they’ve made sure to watch out for me, which I appreciate immensely. Special thanks to Kris Petre who I’ve had the chance to work with since I started volunteering at the library. Kris, you are a big part of everything that makes the library special, so thank you.

One thing I never expected to do when I first started as a student was become a resident. I wanted to stay at home because I didn’t think I could handle living by myself. I wanted that comfort of familiarity I had always known so that if something went wrong, I wouldn’t be lost. However, I realized my sophomore year that I was sorely missing out because I was a commuter. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with commuting, I just began to see how what I was looking for wasn’t fully available through being a commuter. I had to make the choice of staying a commuter and probably missing out or taking a risk to live on campus but being able to have important experiences. 

I chose the latter, and next thing I knew I was moving into Hillside 4C. I was scared, but I managed to fight through my reservations and learn how to manage myself when I didn’t have my home to fall back on. Keeping myself fed, getting places on time, and even balancing school and fun were all things I had to become accustomed to. However, it was the people I met that really changed my worldview.

First off, I don’t think I ever would have formed such a tight relationship with some of the dining workers if I didn’t have to eat there every single day. Derrick from the B&G is an example of that. It has gotten to a point where I actively go into the B&G hoping that he’ll be there because he just makes the best food you can eat on campus. He’s also such a genuine person that I always find myself striking up a conversation with him.

Also, whoever makes those Oreo brownies in the Star, you deserve a big ‘ol smooch because they are so good.

I also wouldn’t have gotten close with people like Ebony, Lili, or Tal if it weren’t for living on campus. Ebony, thanks for looking out for me. I find your company to be very enjoyable and I know you always have everyone’s best interests in mind. You are an example of how a friend should be, and I am grateful to you for helping me realize that.

Also, Ebony, you are always dragging me out places, which I truly do appreciate. If not for you, I would rot in my bed all day. You sometimes know what’s best for me even if I don’t want to admit it, and I know you’ll always make sure I’m taking care of myself. 

Lili, I’m so glad we met. I know our meeting was … strange … but that doesn’t matter now. What does matter is that you have become a great friend, and I am glad we got a chance to become closer over these past two years. Your caring nature mixed with a bit of sass is such a joy to experience, so thank you for always being there to pull me up.

Photo by Lola Offenback.

Tal, having met you in class freshman year, who would’ve known we’d become so close? You are such a fun person to be around, and I find myself gravitating towards you whenever I see you. You’ve always been there to chat with me and goof around with me, and I couldn’t imagine a better person to start classes with, and now end classes with.

And Hayley … I met you freshman year, and we stuck together ever since. Even through COVID, you brought me to campus and made me hang out with you. Well, I say you made me hang out with you, but I definitely wanted to as well. We took on this school together, and now that we’re leaving, I don’t know if I’d be able to claim I could’ve done it without you. 

Seriously, I know we’ve had our fair share of grievances with each other, but the fact that we were able to stay tight just goes to show how much you mean to me. From causing chaos, to playing games, to even going on outings, I enjoyed every second.

Hayley, you are a good person. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. When it comes down to it, you will not sit down and let people get walked over. You will do what’s right … I know it. I promise you, from the four years I’ve known you, I’ve gotten the chance to see you become someone who, even if you sometimes don’t show it, has caring emotions for others.

Even when I moved on campus, you still stuck with me and kept me engaged. We got to stay up late and cause even more chaos, resulting in hilarious stories I know you like to tell (the Kiwibot government spy is a favorite of mine). You are someone who made my college experience that much better, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner in crime.

Also, quick side note, I am going to miss my 2:00 am El Jefe’s and Wawa runs with the goobers who came with me. 

So now it’s time to face the future. I’ve gone through this journey and learned so much, but the end is near. People like to say I haven’t changed a lot, that I’m still the same person I was when I began down this road. In some ways, they’re right, but I think a lot of my growth has been unseen.

Physically I look the same since, like, the beginning of high school so there’s not much going on in that department. Mentally, I still like to crack jokes in weird situations and overall keep a lighthearted tone in my life. My worldview though … has changed significantly.

I walked in as a scared, sheltered kid who didn’t want to grow up. I yearned for the endless now, a present that would stay forever. Taxes, mortgages, loans, all of those things terrified me. I wanted to live life as simply as possible with no worries in the world. I didn’t think I could contribute anything meaningful to society, so what was the point? 

But that wasn’t true, and I just needed to be shown that. Everyone mentioned above, and even more, you all taught me my worth and value as a person. They taught me that it’s okay to be scared for the future. We’re constantly fearing what we don’t know, and that’s just a part of life. Rather, it’s the people that give you the strength to walk into the unknown where a path begins to form before you.

Kindness, resolve, love, and passion, all of these are things I learned to hold close to my heart when facing the future. My time at Moravian taught me how powerful these are when you feel like you might be lost. I came to Moravian not wanting to grow up and lose the life I had, but now I know I don’t have to.

I mean, I have to grow up in the literal sense, but now I know that my life has always been this way, it was just a matter of bringing it out. There’s nothing wrong with being a little silly, or going out of your way to help someone when they ask for it. That’s how you should live your life; not with an expectation based on your perception of the future but with the lessons you’ve learned from the people you love. 

I don’t know what the future holds and that scares the crap outta me, but you know what? For the first time in my life, I’m okay with that. Even though I’m worried, I also know there’s an entire wealth of knowledge I’ve gained through my time as a student here that will be able to guide me. As I look back on my time here, one thing stands above the rest in regards to my takeaways.

It’s that I’m never going to be alone and that my future is only just starting now. I’m not going to sit down and let everything I’ve learned go to waste. I’m standing up tall and I’m going to walk into my future metaphorically hand-in-hand with everyone. The only thing left is to look back one more time and take it in, knowing that my past is an avenue to my future, and everyone along that road will walk it with me.

And that’s a wrap.

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    (john) fatimahApr 26, 2024 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks so much for mentioning me (using my real name!!!!!!) and for being so fun to talk to! I’m gonna miss you and i’m so glad i got to know you through the newspaper :’)