What WIU Has Taught Me

By Kennedy Williams

The date was Dec. 21, 2018. It was the last day of finals. It was four days before Christmas. I was supposed to be happy. However, the happiness I was supposed to feel during that time never came to fruition. 

After I finished my finals, I took an Uber home. Nobody was home. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and repeatedly said, “You are worthless. You know it. Everybody around you knows it. You will never be enough.” During this time, I even contemplated suicide. I was at the lowest point in my life.

My mom arrived home a few hours later. She saw me crying. Time and time again, she asked me what was wrong. I ignored her. Finally, I told her that I felt like the world would be better without me. She immediately rushed me to the hospital, and I was admitted to Linden Oaks Behavioral Health in Naperville, Illinois. I stayed two nights and was released on Dec. 23, 2018. 

Few people knew what happened. The people who did know were very concerned. They would always ask me if I was okay. I would lie and say, “yes,” so they would leave me alone. I even added to the lie and would say, “Yes, a song by NBA Youngboy called ‘Survivor’ is helping me.” Sure, the song made me feel better, but I still felt worthless. 

It wasn’t until Dec. 16, 2019, that I felt better about myself. I received all A’s for my first semester of college, and, for the first time in my life. Then, I received all A’s again. During my sophomore year, not only did I receive all A’s, but I received an honorable mention for best non-fiction- short form news story by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. After that, I didn’t think things could get better. However, they did. During my junior year, I received all A’s again, was selected to represent the College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) on the Student Government Association, and received two finalists nominations from the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System awards for a best news feature story and best news report, and won the COFAC Undergraduate Student Leadership Award. Senior year is just beginning, and I was the COFAC student Lincoln Laureate nominee.

There were a ton of I’s when naming my accomplishments since being a student at Western Illinois University. Perhaps that’s the best part about awards. I get to take all the credit. However, that is not the case. It is we. If it wasn’t for the professors, other students, and the community believing in me, pushing me, and helping me, none of my (our) accomplishments would be possible. 

On Dec. 21, 2018, I told my mom that I believed the world would be better without me. Today, Oct. 23, 2022, I no longer believe that and that is largely due to the village here at Western. 

It would be easy for me to say that WIU has taught me that it is never too late to rewrite your story. Let’s be real, I had a 2.8 cumulative GPA in high school, but the real answer is that this university taught me to believe in myself. Needless to say, the Dec. 21, 2018 version of myself did not believe in my abilities. I believed that I was a disappointment. I quit when things got hard. At Western, I was introduced to people that believe in me, which motivated me to believe in myself. 

The pressing question when I go to sleep at night is no longer, “Would the world be better without me?” It has changed to, “In what way, will I make the world a better place?” WIU has given me that confidence, and if I am so lucky to do so, I will always give credit to the school in Macomb, where the colors are purple and gold.  

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