Ian Mills

You deserve good things. In such a suddenly changing, comparative world, we often forget this. What makes it all worse is when we get trapped, reminded only of our worst moments and told we deserve the worst. Whether this pressure comes internally or from forces manipulating us from the outside, it is overwhelming.

Coming away from this trap and becoming free of these forces is difficult and feels impossible because, when you’re in these spots, it doesn’t always feel irregular. But when you get that, whether a literal or metaphorical slap on the neck, it is clear. It’s like waking up for the first time. What you choose to do next is up to you.

Last summer, I decided to watch “Best in Show,” a mockumentary from the year 2000 parodying a dog show. With a friend on the West Side of Binghamton, we ate the worst chicken wings of our lives, and for 90 minutes, nothing else mattered. That was the safest I’ve ever felt. It was a transition between what was and what is to come for me. Admittedly, after the movie ended, there was a chilling sensation of dread filling every thought I had. What happens now?

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and an hour-and-a-half of dogs waltzing around with overbearing owners, as great as it is, didn’t solve everything either. But what it did do was remind me that everything was going to be alright. Life happens, and it keeps going, but you can control its pace. Take a break, smell the roses and be with yourself.

Four years ago, I didn’t know if college was what I wanted to do after high school. No one in my family went to college right after graduating, and I was working a full-time job as a car-detailing salesman, so I was more-or-less living the dream and there wasn’t pressure to go. College always felt like an option, sometimes unrealistic, sometimes a dream.

It wasn’t until I got a push from someone I owe a lot to that I really put myself out there and saw what came back. So I did. I applied to a bunch of schools and kind of sort of got into Binghamton University. I got into the Binghamton Advantage Program, where I had to take classes at SUNY Broome for a year while living on Binghamton’s campus. This, along with knowing no one from back home, initially made me feel like I didn’t deserve to be here.

This unwanted feeling, along with the already instilled “must work all the time” mentality continued to grow. Instead of burying myself in homework, I looked for jobs and ways to make money — what I was used to. Classes went by, and it was fine, but this feeling persisted. I went home during the lockdowns and decided to work two jobs while finishing up the spring semester of 2020. Somehow, this desire to feel worthwhile still wasn’t satiated.

When we returned to school in my sophomore year, after about two months, I began working two jobs again, thinking this would prove that I earned this and that I worked hard to be here. Then, after one particularly long and mundane shift at the grocery store I was working at, the same friend who was there to watch “Best in Show” sent me a text. She asked if I was looking for a job, and as anyone who’s ever worked retail knows, you’re always looking for another job. I kind of rolled my eyes as I sat in my car after parking in the Hinman lot, resting my legs before the trip back to my dorm, cynically thinking it couldn’t be anything real. As I made the trip through the pavement and back into my room, I wondered what it could possibly be. Soon after, she told me about her job as a production assistant at a local TV station and how she thought I’d be a great fit.

I didn’t know what it entailed, but I decided it was a step in the right direction. The interview lasted all of about three minutes, and my now-boss asked me if I was capable of doing a bunch of tasks I had never heard of but, more importantly, if I was able to stay in Binghamton year-round. I said yes, knowing I’d be alone for much of the summer, but for me, it was once again an opportunity to prove to myself that I deserve to be here.

All this — working, going to SUNY Broome, being unsure about school in general — just grew an unhealthily large chip on my shoulder. I needed to prove to the world that I was enough, that I worked hard and that I didn’t slack off. Well, through the ups and downs and over the last 20 months, I’ve worked there five or more days a week and can without a doubt say that desire to prove myself hasn’t gone away, but it’s relaxed. Working full-time and going to school full-time isn’t fun — it has a lot of downsides, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun doing it or that it was unnecessary. Though there are times when you’re walking around like a zombie and the only thing keeping you up is a voice telling you to keep going.

When I came to college, I didn’t know if I was going to see the end of it. But I did tell myself that if I did, I’d go out by metaphorically jumping on the table, banging my fist on my chest and yelling to the world that I did it. What I know now is that I was just an insecure, selfish 18-year-old who didn’t know what he wanted. Now that I’m finishing up my time as a student, I laugh at the thought of how that drove me here. When I finish my classes, instead of yelling and hollering, I’ll probably just take a nap and send a text to those who helped the most. There was never a reason to be so mad.

When I was that kid as a senior in high school, I just wanted someone to believe in me. Now, as a 21-year-old ready to continue my bout in the workforce, I just regret not thanking and appreciating everyone who did.

I’m not saying to brush that chip off your shoulder or to take it easy, but instead of getting mad at your own insecurities, go thank your older sisters who never had the opportunities that you had, go give the guy who told you to apply to Binghamton a hug and go watch a movie with your friends. Feed both sides of yourself — you’re only getting hungrier one way or the other. Maybe if I did, I would’ve never believed those who told me I didn’t deserve the good in life.

Ian Mills is a senior majoring in business administration.