Dustin Massengill – Humans of UofL


    I grew up in Appalachia, the twang and slang are probably a dead giveaway. I did travel a lot though I lived in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, and I lived in a motel in Alabama for a while. Moving frequently, maximum time spent in a single town was three years. So, you could say I’m comfortable with change. 

    I can’t say if each place had equal impact on me as a person though. Tennessee will always have a special place in my heart, especially the small college town of Harrogate. Harrogate was my first “Home”, and it is a place my family would frequently move back too from other places. It was this small town that taught me what inner strength was, and how to take care of myself. I learned to be strong and look at the world with a smile every chance I got.

    Appalachia (Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia) is known for having very little and that is exactly what I grew up having. Several times I lived without water, electric, and minimal food. I grew up poor, even for Appalachian standards. But that is what made me strong, it was the little I had that made me love school and aspire for so much more. Tennessee taught me to be strong and see the beauty in what I had. 

    If Tennessee represents my youth to teenage years, then Kentucky represents my teenage years to adulthood. Kentucky is like the gentle mother, to the difficult father of Tennessee. Kentucky is like the gentle mother, to the difficult father of Tennessee.  Kentucky is where things started to go right for me, where I didn’t have to make myself look happy. Kentucky is where I learned that the most important people in the world are the family you choose. It was where I found friends that loved me even though I was gay, where teachers the pushed me past my dyslexia, and where a community took care of me when I moved out on my own Junior year. Kentucky taught me to trust people, and that sometimes people are here to stay.

    Growing up I always wanted to play soccer. My oldest brother and dad were football guys, but I turned out to be a futbal guy instead. I never could play though, we had too little time or money for me to play sports. When I moved out on my own in high school though it was different. The high school I was going to, Knox Central in Barbourville, KY didn’t have soccer at the time though. But I found something even better. I worked at this local olympic style pool for my first real job and my boss offered me a spot on the swimming team. That first week was horrible, the pool was set up for long course(50 m) and I couldn’t even swim full laps without stopping. I was convinced the whole team hated me, I almost quit. I didn’t though, I don’t know why. That team quickly grew on me and became some of the most important people life, even to this day. My dream of playing varsity soccer came true too, my senior year we finally got a team. I was only good at running fast and bullying the other team’s attacks and midfeilders so I got a starter position as a midfielder, I even got a nickname that kinda stuck reindeer and Bambi given to me during a match by the other team. Getting to play soccer was honestly the happiest days of my whole high school experience. I never told anyone how much that team meant to me, but to me, it fulfilled a childhood dream I thought long lost. I cried.

    I talked about being poor and having dyslexia, but I was also the first generation.

    So, I wasn’t dealt the best hand, compared to my friends here at the University. I did always want to go to University though. I remember talking to a teacher and my mom about college as early as 1st grade. As far as what I wanted to do that changed a lot, doctor, chemical engineer, biochemical engineer, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, and then a journalist, but always a graduate. I always saw pride in it, and I don’t know why. I didn’t know anyone that had been to college, but that was what I wanted. Being gay, libreal, and poor all played a role in wanting to go to college later in life, I wanted to escape to the big city, like so many others talk of doing. In high school the bright future of college started to look a little scary, when I understood the financial burden it would place on me and my family. So, I decided to make a list of what I wanted from a University.

    1. Big, I wanted something more than small town USA.
    2. Cost, Cheapest, and most aid.
    3. I wanted to swim at college.
    4. Out of State

    The funny thing is it’s hard to get all of that. I got swimming offers in small in state schools, and I tried connected to U of L but it never happened. Out of state schools cost too much, my grades were all right to get me into places, but not enough to leverage the cost. I obviously decided on U of L, because of the Cardinal Covenant scholarship program I could come here free. I’m more than happy with my choice.

    Being at the University of Louisville and being a first-generation student is hard, no doubt. If you think about what it really means to be the first generation and what generations do for us in all aspects of our lives, it is a clear benefit. The perk of having someone go before you is they clear up so much clutter, and it’s so much easier to walk a trail rather than make your own. It’s hard being a first year with no support system that understand what you are going through, because sometimes when you mess up and make a bad grade it feels like it’s just you, but if some else walked that path they’ll tell you “everyone messes up”, “I flunked that class too”, “Sometimes you miss class”, or a simple “You got this”. Sometimes your family doesn’t understand what that huge research project is, or how much you need to hear gratitude. It’s, hard but anyone can do it, just do it.

    I’m good at messing up, like really good at mess up. I’m probably the best at saying all the wrong things, and over reacting. I’m extraordinary at falling in love, but only with the wrong people or the right people at the wrong time. I do a fantastic job at taking responsibility for what other people do to me. I love attention, and I’m great at flipping out when that cute boy doesn’t talk to me. I am probably the best at caring too much. I stare at the sky so long it hurts because of it just so pretty, and I will probably cry with you because at least we won’t be alone because I’m really bad at being alone.

    Getting to the University of Louisville has been a ride well worth the trouble. Since I arrived at UofL I have been able to delve into new passions. The most two most influential decisions I have made have been where I applied myself outside of my studies. Working at The Louisville Cardinal the independent student paper, and my work as a photographer with the Athletic department have been the highlights my college experience. I have been able to get the best seats at all the sorts of athletic events, and been exposed to countless new and unusual experience working with the paper.
    These experiences have been so influential that I have decided to pursue a career in Multimedia Journalism. I plan on spending my Junior year on an exchange at Kent State University studying journalism more thoroughly and then coming back to the University of Louisville to graduate in May 2019. I can’t wait to see what the next 2 years have in store for me. Go Cards!