John McBride

John McBride studies public relations and is graduating in December, 2020.

Gardening isn’t for the impulsive – the planning and preparation required will stifle any needs you have for instant gratification. A bulb planted in the fall won’t show any signs of life until after the last frost of winter, so you’re stuck waiting there for months on end wondering if your hard work will pay off or wither into nothing.

Gardening can be used as a metaphor for almost anything in life, making it a cliche. I’m John McBride the Garden Guy though, so I have creative license to use the cliche. Therefore, I’m going to say – and you can roll your eyes at this point – that college is a lot like planning and maintaining a garden.

As an itty-bitty freshman back in 2017, I was planting seeds for the rest of my life that I wasn’t even sure would grow to be anything. My choice in major, classes and friends would lead me to flourish under the warm sun or shrivel from a lack of proper care. In the spring of my freshman year, I could feel myself drying up. I wasn’t happy with my choice to become an engineer; I thought there was another life that was meant for me.

In the span of a month, my college career took a severe turn. I had rooted myself in new soil. Writing and communication seemed to be the right environment for me, and with that realization I changed my major to public relations, dropped my math classes and picked up a pen as a lifestyles staff writer at the Collegiate Times in my last couple months as a freshman. Before I knew it, I was going out on assignments, interviewing local gardeners and Virginia Tech professors, and learning more about the New River Valley in eight weeks than I had in the previous semester and a half.

I couldn’t do it without the support of everyone I met along the way, though. While many plants may be self-sufficient, I am not one of them. The writers and editors at the Collegiate Times, my family at Sigma Nu, and every professor and classmate I crossed paths with contributed in some way. Whether they came by and watered me every couple weeks or saw that I was beginning to wilt and gave me the proper care I needed at that moment, I wish I could return the favor a hundred times over.

I’m not in any position to give advice since everything I know was taught to me by someone else, but there are a couple ideas that I want to share. First, don’t be a weed. Weeds pop up everywhere and suffocate what we really want to grow – those beautiful flowers that attract butterflies and bees, which spread the goodness of a flower for miles. Good spreads more good in the world. I don’t want to be spreading misinformation though, so if we’re being technical, then weeds do have some benefits, but let’s just keep going with the metaphor for now.

Second, take care of the garden of your mind by challenging it. The plants with the deepest roots have been challenged more by the wind and weather, and they are the strongest in your garden. Without that challenge, your roots will be shallow, and a sudden breeze will topple you. Don’t take the class with the easy A. Rather, take the class that you are interested in, the one that slightly scares you and pushes you to do your best. You will learn more and be a better person for it.

I planted my seeds freshman year not knowing what would come of them, but I can happily and confidently say that I am proud of what I grew over the years. Whatever challenges lie ahead for Virginia Tech and the Blacksburg community, I know that we can face it and come out stronger. Each of us is a flower in a garden larger than we can even perceive, and our individual beauty and goodness has power.