What St. Cloud Means to Me



“Damaged. You’re a little damaged.” These were the words of my hairstylist as she was removing what little remained of the hair on the back of my neck.

This is what I get for sharing my feelings,” I thought to myself as she began massaging and shampooing my head with a technique that would make anyone fall into a trance they never want to exit.

I came to St. Cloud a few years back as a young man looking to better my life in some way. From the inception of my time there, events happened and I learned very quickly that life was ruthless and unfair. I no longer had the security of feeling that things were always “going to be okay.”

But I needed that to happen. Shortly into my tenure at Cloud, I met a guy named Rhino, who would eventually become one of my best friends. We began riding our bikes around the state of Minnesota, eventually deciding to make the trek north to Winnipeg during spring break one year. These adventures with Rhino not only inspired a passion within me, but also gave me a purpose and rescued me from a path of personal endeavors that frankly, was not me.

Now, as I leave St. Cloud with a master’s degree I never thought I would earn (much less achieve at the vulnerable age of 24), I have learned that St. Cloud has seen my best, and my worst. It’s seen me go from a compassionate young man that prioritized others before myself, to someone that now doesn’t think about others enough. St. Cloud has seen me go from someone that rarely ever drank, to someone that treated Thursday-Saturday as open season, to now seeing the consumption of alcohol as merely an every-so-often luxury. This city has also seen me learn to love someone besides myself, only to learn that love, and everything else for that matter, doesn’t last forever.

St. Cloud will always have a spot in my heart, as it was a place where I learned more about who I am. For as many successes as I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy, there are arguably equally as many failures. I walk away from this university without a sense of purpose in this world, without a clear sense of personal identity, and without the company of a few of the better people I have had the pleasure of meeting. I have mistreated people, some intentionally, and others unintentionally. Some people I hurt because I felt they wronged me. Some I hurt because I thought it would ensure that I wouldn’t eventually experience that same pain. At different points, being selfish and oblivious to other’s feelings became almost second nature, a way of masking insecurity and vulnerability. No matter how I dice it up, there is nothing to say except that I am apologetic to those I have not given the importance they deserve. These people know who they are, and they know that at one time I would have done anything for them. Not that it matters now.

Quite literally, I leave with a master’s degree in English, and no job or career path, other than the one I am on now as a writer. Contrary to what a few individuals think, no, I am not independently wealthy. Being a writer has its benefits, but unless I someday write a book that appears on a reputable best sellers list, I will be just as normal and financially strung as most middle-class Americans.

And that’s perfect. My best friend and I are set to begin our quest out east tomorrow. I don’t know what will come of this journey. We will probably meet some awesome people, eat some unique food, spend a few nights in questionable motels, and pop a couple tires. I’m sure he will hate me before it’s over, and I will share equally as much contempt for him. That’s life as best friends, as brothers who are literally about to spend every waking moment together. He will see the best and worst of me, for better or worse. Having been through this before with my boy Rhino during our excursion north, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

No matter which direction we go in life, we all end up enduring hardship. We all hit that point where we question our existence and if we have what it takes to survive in this unforgiving world. We all eventually become damaged, but that’s part of what makes us human, having that resiliency to take adversity in stride and forge on. And once you overcome these various pitfalls, the reward becomes so much sweeter.


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