Graphic by Dakota Cox.

The last day of school came much faster than expected

Growing up is easier said than done

I don’t remember my last day of school, because at the time, I didn’t know it was my last day. The COVID-19 pandemic arrived in our lives and the rest is history.

I never knew as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, but learning came naturally. When high school came to a close, I chose to attend the local junior college because I didn’t know what to do with my life. Looking back on it now, however, the decision was mainly driven by a fear of the unknown and a compulsive instinct to seek comfort in the only place I’ve ever called home.

Again, when graduation arrived, I found myself clueless and afraid regarding my future. As I’d done three years before, acting on an instinctual impulse, I changed my college plans and sought comfort in familiar surroundings.

My first semester at Humboldt State was the most I’ve ever struggled to pass my classes. Living for the first time with roommates who were not in school was enough of a distraction, but our frequent and plentiful house guests that eventually all but moved in ensured I never needed to create a reason to focus away from my studies. The true cause of my struggle, however, was self-inflicted.

I was fifteen years old when I began smoking marijuana. It didn’t take long for the practice to become a habit with the access even children have in Humboldt County. It pains me to admit that over the years, my relationship with the sticky flower has become one of the strongest in my life.

After spending the entire summer with my dad’s side of the family in Colorado, sobering up, I returned home to a rude awakening: Mary Jane’s call was just as strong as ever – I had become an addict. In addition, my tolerance had disappeared, which meant every time I smoked, my brain became useless. For almost an entire semester, I treaded water with my head just above the surface, then somehow managed to emerge, escaping any consequences for my poor decision making.

In life you either sink or swim until you find somewhere you can walk on water. I didn’t know it my first semester at HSU, but I had found my frozen ocean.

Rolling blackouts and global pandemics aside, for the first time, I genuinely began to enjoy my education. I had chosen to major in journalism on a whim, and it wasn’t until I began to put the tools I’d been learning to use, as a reporter for the Lumberjack, that a switch flipped in my brain. In a single moment, when I first saw my work printed in our newspaper, I knew I’d stumbled upon my purpose.

By the time my second semester at HSU began, my bloodstream had absorbed enough THC to allow me a reasonable degree of brain function after smoking, and as a result, my consumption increased. Then, the pandemic began.

Time moves differently inside the walls. Some days, it feels as if the sun will never set, while I struggle to muster every ounce of my energy, to make it through another day without taking a nap. Most days, however, pass in a blur, and when I lay down for bed, I wonder where all the hours went – the mussel shell I use as an ashtray usually answers my question when I empty it in the morning.

Marijuana is not alcohol or cocaine. The effects of THC are extremely more likely to inspire actions of laziness and snacking than violence. For an everyday user, the effects are dramatically reduced to a state that simply takes the edge off – making generally everything about life a bit more enjoyable. But, this pleasure comes at a cost, beyond the price of a dime bag and the sacrifice of social stigma. For the past year, since shelter-in-place began – or for just about all of college, if I’m being honest with myself – I’ve been sleepwalking through my life.

Any stoner will tell you the worst part of the habit is the effect it has on your memory and, more importantly, your ability to focus. While under the influence of marijuana, you’re never entirely present in any given moment. It’s completely possible to accomplish a single task in an inebriated state, though many will take longer than they normally would, with wider margins of error. It’s when you begin to attempt multiple tasks at once, however, that these inconveniences become real issues. Unfortunately, this concept applies, on a larger scale, to the management skills of our lives, as well.

Despite the constant fog in my head, driven purely by a newfound passion, I set my mind to becoming a journalist. I learned to see the world through the lens of a photographer. I learned to perfect my work in the context of videography, where there’s no room for error. I learned to create illustrations, to better represent my ideas. I learned how to package my work as a member of the Lumberjack’s layout gang. And most important of all, I learned how to properly tell a story – all within four unorthodox semesters that took place mostly on a screen full of empty boxes. I became a journalist, but at a cost.

Ever since joining the Lumberjack, I’ve given the overwhelming majority of my energy to the newspaper, because it has created undeniable purpose in my life for the first time – I’m finally giving something back to the world that I’ve taken so much from. Doing something well often isn’t easy, however, because of the sacrifices required to arrive there. There’s only so much time in a day and as a result, aspects of our lives begin to become neglected or altogether abandoned. While the newspaper provides the oxygen that fills my lungs, in the chaos of this pandemic, a healthy diet and exercise have become concerns for a future Dakota. Meanwhile, with the separation of isolation added to the self-centered lifestyle I’ve adopted since leaving my parent’s home, most of my relationships with friends and family have noticeably deteriorated.

In a world with seemingly limitless possibilities, most of us gravitate to our comfort zones, and I am no different. With graduation once again looming over the horizon, I’m faced with a familiar fear regarding the uncertainty of the future, but for a completely different reason this time. I’ve lived almost my entire life inside the invisible boundaries of Humboldt County. Now, with my bachelor’s degree practically in hand, I know it’s time to move on.

In many ways, my early experiences with marijuana inspired growth in my character in ways that can only be understood by someone who’s stood in the shoes. I don’t regret the choices I’ve made. I’m also aware, however, that those days have long since disappeared into distant memories. Every breath of smoke I take into my lungs is an attack on my own potential to become a well-rounded human being. And everyone knows the path of self-destruction is not an honorable one.

Having grown up in Southern Humboldt with the friends and family I have, free bud is never more than a phone call away. I could spend the rest of my life inside of the fog, and I would if I stayed here. If it means I have to walk away from everything I’ve ever known in order to realize the person I could potentially become, then I suppose that’s the price I have to pay for the choices I’ve made.

It’s easy to seek comfort, even, and perhaps especially, when life appears to be at its lowest. A life of happiness, however, requires genuine, sustained dedication and sacrifice. It’s never too late to become the person you want to be, if you’re willing to do the work – because, what’s the point of living if you don’t love yourself?

Share This Post

More Stories

Nina G uses comedy to start conversations

During the virtual comedy event held by the SDRC, Nina Ghiselli tells her story and emphasizes the importance of student disability resources within schools.

It’s not just the Capitol Police

As the world watched from their televisions on January 6, we witnessed scenes unfold before our eyes that were, to many, unimaginable: supporters of President Trump swarmed the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, then proceeded to break in and

The San Jose State University Football Team Comes to Humboldt

On a day’s notice from administration, the SJSU football team spends a week and a half in Humboldt practicing because their county did not allow it. Students react to their presence on campus in the midst of a pandemic. Directed

Homelessness in Humboldt, CA

This is the first trailer of a homeless documentary created by HSU students. We have spent months filming and will continue to film throughout the next year. Follow the heartbreaking stories of the homeless community around Humboldt county and the

Thrifty Arcata

Taking a tour of the local thrift shops in Arcata during the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed and produced by Skylar Gaven.

House Plants Generate Peace and Meaning During the Pandemic

Three different people with the same love for plants! House plants have become quite popular these days especially since we’re all basically stuck inside during the pandemic. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but these beautiful green oxygen-makers provide more

Prop 22 represents political favoritism of money over workers’ rights

California’s passing of proposition 22 on Nov. 5 represents a frustrating history of workers’ rights being trampled by the overwhelming influence of greed in politics.  This proposition forces app-based workers to be classified as independent contractors, rather than employees. This

Remembering Evelyn Andrews 10 months after her passing

By Katelyn Dendas It has been 10 months since my friend, teammate and freshman year dorm mate, Evelyn Andrews, passed away. I don’t remember what the grief counselor said or what transpired after that Monday, but I do remember arriving

Protestors seek to defund HSUPD

Two local, activist organizations work together to stage a sit-in against Humboldt State’s police department.

Getting stuck on the Trump train

Writer Anthony Aragon details his experience of accidentally joining a pro-Trump car rally.

Justin Turner exposes the World Series to COVID-19

Justin Turner didn’t need to be the story in the wake of the Dodgers’ first World Series victory in 32 years. Instead here we are, wondering what sort of, if any, punishment Major League Baseball will decide to hand down

Four more years of fear

News Editor Carlos Holguin explains why he is worried about the next four years.

Dismal democracy

The Lumberjack editorial staff comments on America’s flawed electoral system As the world watches the United States 2020 election results, waiting for our pseudodemocratic process to churn out a new president, historically unprecedented voting methods misrepresents the reported Election Day

The Mario triple pack invokes a nostalgia attack

When I was a child, the first video game system I owned was a Nintendo 64. Among the games I played was Super Mario 64. I played it all the time and when I wasn’t playing it, I was lying

Women’s lacrosse drops their competitive season

Greta Roberts, president and player of Humboldt State University’s women’s lacrosse team, made the decision with her coach and teammates to cancel the upcoming spring season. The team decided that not being able to recruit in the fall would be

Dobby’s proposition opinions

Haven’t voted yet? Well, you’re running out of time. Here’s a quick rundown of California’s propositions on the ballot this year

Corporations buy out propositions

In a series of general and misleading advertisements, corporate backers of Propositions 22 and 23 show their grubby hands

CDOR continues virtually

The Campus and Community Dialogue On Race returns covering global justice for Black Lives.

Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Local food management practices of the Tolowa Dee-ni, Yurok and other indigenous peoples.

Humboldt State Admin attempts to discredit the Lumberjack

***A Lumberjack editorial represents both the majority opinion of the student newspaper’s editorial board, nine editors, as well as the overwhelming majority of Humboldt State University’s student body. Collectively, an editorial echos, embodies and advocates for community beliefs.*** Insensitive communications

Music of the Moment 6

21 Savage and Metro Boomin drop a classic with “Savage Mode II”

Spartans arrive at HSU despite campus concerns

***Editor’s note: SJSU football program was tested in congruence with Mountain West conference guidelines*** The Spartans have arrived and this time they’re not carrying spears or shields. Instead the San Jose State football team stepped onto the Humboldt State campus

Music of the Moment 5

After shooting Megan Thee Stallion, Tory Lanez cancels himself

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Comparisons between episodes of the classic TV show The Twilight Zone and our own dismal reality

Music of the Moment 4

YoungBoy Never Broke Again dodges the sophomore slump with his new album “Top.”

Self-Care Cuts

Changing your hair to change your life

HSU Seaweed Farm sets sail

The first commercially-approved seaweed farm in California will be on the map.

Music of the Moment 3

For better or worse, Big Sean is likely gone for good.

More Layers, More Protection?

Humboldt State demands double masking on campus, does more layers equal more protection?

The Ethnic Studies Bill is a Blessing

Ethnic Studies will thankfully become mandatory for all California State University students – as it should be.

The Complex Interface of Humans and Wildfires

How fire suppression is a mixed bag in Humboldt County Every fire season, blankets of smoke roll over Humboldt County. Here on the coast, that’s as close to wildfires as some of us get. But our practice of fire suppression

Defund HSU’s Police Department

Incidents of racism from the former UPD Chief, past examples of excessive force from current officers and a shrinking university budget.

How Not To Be Bitten By A Kitten

Please prepare to be prey Congratulations, a baby feline has recently come into your life. If they’re anywhere from 2-18 months, they bite. They see you as prey. Because you are prey. You always have been. You always will be.

Graduating Into Uncharted Waters

HSU graduates attempt to navigate a world turned upside-down by COVID-19 In May, Humboldt State University graduated hundreds of students, as it does every year. Unlike past years, graduates didn’t get to shake hands with their respective dean and receive

HSU Cultural Center Budget Slashed

Associated Students leaves student body devastated after significant reductions in cultural center’s budget.

All aboard the plague ship

Unprecedented times are met with normalized behavior, HSU puts students and community members at higher risk after reopening campus and student housing.

Music of the Moment

The hip-hop community rallies behind the Black Lives Matter Movement

Inside the Immune System

How the body uses multiple levels of defense against foreign intruders

Catcalling Can’t Continue

Verbal harassment toward women is about control and the assertion of gender discrimination

Major League Marijuana

Why I don’t think marijuana is everything it’s cracked up to be in baseball

Pigs Compost on Campus

CCAT tries to reduce HSU’s food waste footprint through new pig program