[Editor’s Column by Ashley Moon published in the Yellow Jacket Newspaper on April 30, 2015]
I never wanted to go to Howard Payne. But thanks to the combination of great scholarships, a Christian atmosphere and safe distance away from my reckless boyfriend, my parents chose Howard Payne for me. So I came…kicking and screaming.
Like I would assume most do, I shed some massive tears my first night alone in the dorms. As a non-Christian with big city dreams and a close knit friend group that was enjoying life without me, I just knew that I would hate Howard Payne.
So for quite a while, I did hate it. I would scoff at the beat up houses around town. I would whine about the Chick-fil-A not having a drive through or breakfast. I would complain that the nearest city was over two hours away. I was totally unhappy. Even when great things happened that would normally make happy, I wasn’t persuaded.
Ever since I was a child, I have always been an outgoing person. But my first semester at Howard Payne, I didn’t feel outgoing at all. I stayed in my room instead of going out with my friends. I sat by myself in the caf instead of trying to talk to new people. I would show up late to class and leave as soon as it was over. I didn’t feel like myself at all, and I blamed that on Howard Payne.
But even when I hated HPU, there were things about it that I couldn’t deny, were pretty great. I had some incredible professors who helped me to excel in subjects I had previously struggled in and there were a few people who really made an effort to reach out to me.
Second semester of freshman year I had the opportunity to study abroad through Howard Payne. As great of an experience as this was, I spent much of my time dealing with the drama of my boyfriend back home and I was constantly annoyed with my peers on the trip.
This year, my third year at HPU, has been an incredible year. I have strengthened some old relationships and created new ones. The people I’ve spent this year, and especially this last semester with have been such a joy to be around. In Brownwood, I’ve found great restaurants, fun things to do and beautiful places to explore.
I honestly never thought I would say this, but I’m becoming very sad as my time in Brownwood dwindles. I’ve participated in a great community of loving, exciting and stimulating people, and in a short amount of time, I will have to move on to another season of life.
Last week, I sat in Studebaker’s with a cup of peach tea to write and reflect on what I’ve learned during my time in college. The most important lesson I can draw from the last 3 years is that attitude is everything.
Recently I drove through Stephenville and saw a marquee in front of an insurance office that read “anywhere is paradise, it’s up to you.” Those words resonated with me.
When I think about how happy I have been in Brownwood, especially in comparison to my miserable first year, I have to ask myself “what changed?”
All the people I’m close with, all the restaurants I love, all the beautiful scenery I’ve enjoyed were are here my first semester as well. The only thing that has really changed since my freshman year is my attitude.
Partially out of spite for my parents for sending me here and partially because of my desire to be somewhere big and important, I told myself that I would not be happy here, and so, I wasn’t. It was only after I loosened the vice grip I had on my pride that I was able to enjoy my time here.
I now realize that although HPU may not have been where I wanted to be originally, it has been so good for me. I’ve had the opportunity to study abroad and travel internationally several times, be Editor in Chief of a newspaper, win a national debate championship and so much more in my short time here. Although I would have worked just as hard at any other university, I’m not confident that I would have been able to as much at any other school.
After 3 years of college, a lot of maturing and a serious reality check, I am now able to completely appreciate what has been given to me through this university.
And although I could look back at my first year or two as a waste, I see it as a lesson learned. While in Studebaker’s, I wrote a note to myself: “Ashley, next time you’re in a place that you’re unhappy in (because it will undoubtedly happen), remember how happy you became at the end of your time in Brownwood.”
There will be spectacular and not so spectacular parts of any and every place you go. Your attitude and what you choose to focus your energy on is what will determine what kind of experience you have.
Wherever you are in the world, whether it’s a small town in central Texas or a massive famous city in another country, your happiness is in your hands. Remember: Anywhere is paradise. It’s up to you.