Chapter 2: The College Life

Okay, so now I’ve told you my whole life as an influencer. Now it’s time to get into another part of my life that was dear to me for four years: COLLEGE. Yes! College, college, college…The time of your life that is filled with so many emotions. Just when I thought nothing could beat the time of when I was in high school, I was wrong.

I’m not gonna lie! The last two years of college were the best two years of my life. The first two years were relatively quiet, but I’ll get into all of that in a second. I should first get into what I wanted to do when I graduated high school- Radio Broadcasting.

That’s right! I wanted to be an on-air personality, with my dream to someday work at a national or Sirius XM radio station. Boy, how that’s changed!

During my junior and senior year of high school, I attended a technical vocational school that had technology and electronics programs. Some of these programs included Graphic Design, Visual Arts, Automotive, and even Culinary. I, myself, was in the Radio & Audio Production program. The program had a student-led on-air radio station, as well as a state-of-the-art recording studio that me and some of my piers would use to make some beats and record music. I can’t tell you how much fun I had in that program, from learning how to be on the radio to using an real, professional recording studio. In a nutshell, this is where I truly found my passion for Radio.

After I graduated, I made the decision to attend a community college in my hometown. Unfortunately, this community college I went to did not offer a Radio program, so I decided to wait to pursue the career when I transferred to WSU as a junior.

As my freshman and sophomore of college passed, not only did my career goals change, but my personality and socialization levels changed as well. Because I initially went to a community college, and not to a university, I was surrounded by more of a tranquil environment, and did not really socialize with people as much.

In general, from the end of my senior year up to the time when I moved to Washington, I hardly hung out with anybody. I was mostly cooped up at home when I got home from school, I barely went out with any of my friends anymore, and I became socially awkward in front of large groups of kids my age (this was mostly at the community college campus). While I am an extrovert, and always have been, during this time, I just became isolated from people.

To this day, I still sometimes wrap my brain around why I turned into a nearly anti-social human being. And so far, I think the best answer I can give you is because as I became so obsessed with my new business that I started, as well as my school work, that I just grew up too fast. In other words, I worked hard too much, but did not play hard enough. I now look back at this time, and wish I would have spent more time with friends, socialized, and went out to parties and get-togethers more often. But life is too short for regrets, so I have been focusing on the future instead of dwelling about this mistake.

But back to my story…as I mentioned, my career goals also changed. Even after I graduated from the Radio Broadcasting program at the school I went to, I still did some sporadic work for the station, which mostly included conducting interviews. During this time, I still had a strong passion for Radio. I also got a job as a Promotions Assistant at a professional radio station a couple months after high school graduation. After being there a year and a half, I left this job in January of 2020, as I wanted to focus on finishing my Associate’s program, and I just felt like I had outgrown that job.

But most importantly, it was my final couple months at the professional station in which I felt less passionate about being an on-air personality. I felt as if I wanted to pursue bigger goals and dreams. Even when I went to visit my high school Radio Broadcasting teachers that January, they told me that they were unhappy with the lack of students passionate to be on-air disc jockeys. They went on to tell me that Radio is a dying industry, and all the students they’re coaching want to be rappers, singers, or record producers. As a member of Generation Z, I can 110% agree with what they’re saying.

When the pandemic hit a few months later, it gave me a lot of time to not only think, but reflect and re-evaluate my career goals, so I could truly ask myself the big question: What do I seriously want to do with my life? Is it my business? Is it anywhere else in the Broadcasting industry? Is it working in retail? What the heck do I want to do?

As I asked myself these questions, I decided to follow my parents’ advice: take a step back, let life happen, and eventually, an answer will present itself.

And so it did!

When I first got to WSU, it was a completely new environment for me. I had lived in Arizona for 20 years, since the day I was born. And all of a sudden, I’m going from a hot and dry climate where I’ve developed relationships with so many people, to a cold and wet one, where I knew absolutely no one.

Like I told you earlier, I was very socially awkward in front of many people my age during my first two years of college. It was during this time when I transferred to a new school which was when I began to open up more. My very first roommate, and should I say, now one of my best friends, Patrick Hunt (but everyone calls him Patch), has been one of those people who taught me to loosen up, and not be so uptight about life.

During this time, I started to relax more. I went from anti-social to completely social and outgoing again. I started going to parties and kickbacks frequently, and I also began to make friends. During my two years at WSU, I was part of several friend groups, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from all of them about socializing and just being chill. WOW, WHERE WAS I THIS WHOLE TIME DURING MY FIRST TWO YEARS OF COLLEGE?

More importantly, in regards to my autism, my “reborn” socializing skills provided me with a new test for my disability. How would students behave around me when they notice that I’m different than most other people who they interact with because of my autism? Autistic people are really good at masking their autism when in front of groups of people; in other words, they are able to go about their day without showing obvious signs of ASD when around other people. It’s usually only when I’m alone or around a close family member or friend which is when I’ll show my autism.

However, when I start socializing with different people, like what I did at WSU, I show small yet unclear signs of my autism. This includes things such as staring off randomly into space while the person is talking, or providing a very unique or distinct point of view when discussing a particular subject with somebody. Usually, the person I’m conversating with doesn’t understand these behaviors, but they’re usually okay talking to me otherwise. 

So this “test” for my autism that I mentioned was a way to see whether my disability was going to hinder my socialization skills again, since I had not been social in front of even a small group for so long. But everything turned out to be fine. I started making friends, who gradually came to understand my autism. I think a big reason why things worked out in this scenario is because I went to a very friendly and inclusive school that had very open- and- like-minded people. And with that said, by the way, GO COUGS!

But I should get into a deeper subject that I used to be extremely hesitant of talking about: talking to girls. Now, as you all know, a lot of college boys love to talk about girls. A lot of guys my age have it in their language every day. Even girls talk about guys in college, too, especially at parties and kickbacks. It’s just an aspect of college life that has been around for decades, perhaps centuries.

I will tell you that, in addition to being anti-social, I was scared to talk to girls. In general, I was scared to talk to them for almost all of my life. Don’t get me wrong! I have had friends who are girls, and I would engage in conversation with some of them, but I was very shy to talk to them. Now, I’m not saying I was scared or shy to talk to girls because I didn’t like them. I like girls! And to be honest, as someone who is straight, I do have crushes on girls. But when it came to socializing with them, I just couldn’t do it.

I think this uncomfortable feeling stems from a lot of experiences I had when I was younger. In the seventh grade, for instance, I tried asking a girl during recess if she wanted to go to the school dance with me. Her two friends who were at her side laughed so hard, they fell down to the ground. Even the girl who I tried asking out laughed as well. She then told me no, but in a very mocking and disrespectful tone. I was extremely hurt and offended, and I ran away from that situation holding back tears, very embarrassed.

Ever since that day, I have not asked a girl out since. But because my roommate and a few other friends have taught me how to loosen up when talking to them, I have made good strides in simply having conversations with them. I then realized that it was not so bad, and all I needed to do was just be myself.

For instance, I finally put on a brave face and did something last year that I would have never thought I would ever do. There was this lady who went to WSU who I really liked. I met her at her house when she and her roommate were throwing a house party. After a couple months of her having me and my friends over for a few more parties and kickbacks, I tried to go up and tell her that I liked her, but my gut instinct told me not to for some reason. I assumed it was because of all the nerves I developed over the years of being too scared to talk to girls.

A few weeks later, I saw her post on her social media that it was her 20th birthday. Since I was close by to her, I thought I’d use that opportunity to tell her that I liked her. As a grown man who was 21 and who was parked right across the street from her house, I was very nervous. I started thinking about the time when that girl in seventh grade laughed at me for asking her out to the dance. I started asking myself, “What if the same thing happens again, but even worse?” But then I realized something that my dad said to me a long time ago: to stop dwelling on the past, move forward, and focus on the future.

So that’s what I did. I accepted what happened to me nearly 10 years ago (also understanding that this all happened in seventh grade), and I mustered up the courage to go knock on her door. After a few hesitations, I finally was able to tell her that I liked her. I made it clear to her that these feelings did not mean that I was addicted to her, obsessed with her, or wanted to get with her. I just simply wanted to tell her how I felt about her. I even made it clear that I was not looking for a relationship, but I asked if she wanted to hang out with me sometime.

The whole time when I was telling her all this, she gave a bright smile towards me, and then walked over to give me a hug after I was done talking. I did not at all expect this, and was happy to not only have positive feelings reciprocated back to me, but to also know that I finally faced my fears, something that I had been unable to do when I was little, and throughout my teenage years.

And just in case you’re wondering, we are still great friends today. While we never dated or did anything else that involved being in a relationship, I was thankful that I got to try something that I had never tried before. Of course, I’m not going to give the lady’s name away from whom I’ve been talking about the past several paragraphs, but the lesson and experience I learned through that one moment is the major takeaway out of all this.

My lesson out of this situation is to move forward and grow from an experience, and not just run away after trying something and never trying it again. As a wise man once said, you can’t succeed if you don’t fail a few times. And to fail and eventually succeed is by just TRYING.

Overall, I plan on continuing to make strides in situations like these. I’m 22 years old, and I have never dated before. Heck, at my age, I’ve never even kissed a girl, and, as you can probably assume at this point, I have never had a girlfriend, nor have I ever had sex. But I do know all these things that I am a so-called “late bloomer” for will happen. I just need to continue to do what I have been doing in staying positive and patient, and I guarantee my time to do all these things will come.

Switching subjects, however, I mentioned in my previous chapter the video that got me recognized on TikTok, called “My Three Reasons on Why I Don’t Drink.” Well, in addition to that video, I have put out other ones with me mentioning that I don’t vape, smoke, or get high. Because I was in college at the time, these videos, of course, were highly controversial, especially to a lot of the Greek Life chapters at WSU.

And this carried on nearly a year later. I had a very weary and unsettling experience one time in which one of my friends I made at WSU also had her own group of friends that she hung out with on the weekends. Long story short, I learned from my friend that her friends were initially uncomfortable to hang out with me because they have seen my TikTok videos of me discouraging underage drinking. They said to her they were nervous to drink or smoke around me, afraid that I would get angry or upset at it. I eventually explained everything to one of these friends, and she ended up being very understanding. We would later go on to hang out a couple more times before we graduated.

But the lesson I learned in this instance is that I have to be careful what I’m putting out on social media, even if it is my honest opinion. Because something that has little to no effect on me can have a serious effect on others. And this goes beyond social media; this applies to life in general.

But going all the way back to my passion of working in the Radio industry, as you may have guessed…YEAH…that changed. When I first got to WSU in August of 2020, I went to a kickback in my apartment complex I was living in, and a man who I still stay connected to today informed me of a student-led college radio and TV station that were both at the university. I instantly sent out an email to both stations applying for producer/director positions.

While I really did want a job at the radio station, the TV station got back with me quicker (it wasn’t until two months later when the radio station responded to my message). The lady from the TV station who got back with me is a wonderful person who I actually currently work with in the professional world. I’ll get into our current job together in a future chapter, but let’s just focus on this student station for now.

The TV station, called Cable 8 Productions, has been operating at the university for nearly 40 years. And I can’t tell you enough how much that place changed my life and made me into a better, smarter individual when it came to Broadcasting. I was at first reluctant to try out TV, because I had done Radio for several years up to that point. But I fell back on what my dad taught me a few years prior when I got social media: KEEP AN OPEN MIND. So, I said: “What the heck? Let’s do this!”

I auditioned a few days later for a staff position as a producer and director. That night, I received a call from another wonderful person who I currently work with today. She was one of the student executives at Cable 8 who judged me during my audition. And she told me the great news that I got the position!

Once I joined the TV station, I was both excited and pumped to see how inclusive the station was (and still is). They were open to everyone, including people with disabilities as well as people of different races or orientations. So I knew, as an autistic individual, the station was perfect for me.

After joining Cable 8 and working as a staff member, my interest in Radio became nonexistent. I was fully into TV, and loved filming and putting video clips together. Producing was literally one of my favorite parts of working there. At the end of my junior year at WSU, I interviewed for, and accepted, the role of Student Vice President of Special Projects for Cable 8, taking over for the student who was in previously in the role, as she and that year’s executive team were all graduating.

I spent the first half of my senior year in the role, learning how to not only work with a team, but oversee one that consisted of hard-working and talented producers, directors, and hosts. After leaving Cable 8 during the second half of my senior year, I was able to make the successful transition of being in an interactive student production class that acted as a live local news show.

All this hard work, all these ups and downs, and every time I put in effort was for one goal…FINALLY GETTING MY DEGREE. And it happened! On May 8, 2022, I held in my hand my Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast News & Production. As I walked back to my seat after getting my degree at graduation, I said to myself, “Man, I can’t believe I did it!” After many years of people doubting me and saying that I was incapable of doing it because of my autism, I proved them wrong.

But reflecting on my time in college, I could not have done it without my family, my friends, and all the lessons I learned during my four years

And there you have it! My four-year journey of being in college condensed into a few pages. There are a few things I have learned from this time of my life, which I would like to pass on to you:

  1. Keep an open mind to new challenges and opportunities. If you fall too far into your comfort zone and just stay where you are, you’ll get stuck like cement.
  2. It’s okay to take life seriously sometimes, but also have the balance of loosening up and chilling out every now and then. At some point in our lives, we all need to take some parts seriously, but that doesn’t mean live the rest of your life tense and uptight all the time.
  3. Read the room. If the environment at a party or kickback feels off or uncomfortable for you, or if you feel like the actions of some people you’re around during parties are making you feel uneasy or weary, get out of the situation immediately without thinking about it.
  4. Don’t be gun-shy. If you find an opportunity you like or are interested in, just take it! And worst case scenario, if you try this opportunity and don’t like it, there’s nothing wrong with backing out and trying something else.
  5. Have the balance of working hard on the weekdays, and partying hard and/or relaxing on the weekends. There are so many people out there who do too much of both, and that can be dangerous for you mentally and physically.
  6. Remember to just be yourself. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not. More importantly, don’t make yourself sound phony or better than what you really are.
  7. Be brave! Be strong! And be smart! Don’t let other people hold you back and tear you down. Use your brain, your common sense, your muscles, and everything you can to be the leader, and not the follower.

On a final note, I will tell you my journey with autism hit many new barriers and challenges from just being in college. Being autistic and living on your own for the first time, which was when I went to WSU in my case, is extremely tough. It’s tough for anyone, even for people who don’t have autism, but the task for me was especially daunting.

I also should say that making friends was tough at first…and this is coming from an autistic person who had no family or friends out in Washington (except for one cousin, but she lived hundreds of miles away across the state).

So for anyone who is reading this and has not attended college yet, my message to you is this: socialize with and make a lot of friends while you still have the chance. Life is too short to be boggled down in a work mindset all the time, and you need to find a balance between work and life balance. I sure wish I found this balance when I was a teenager. Will you?