Senior Send-off 2021: Ethan Gerling

by Ethan Gerling | Art Director

My mom is a big Harry Potter fan and an avid reader. She also never really spends money on herself; if she has to empty her wallet, she prefers to do so for her four kids. So growing up, she only read the first few Harry Potter books, despite being a major fan of the series. The next one in line for her to read was “Goblet of Fire.”

I heard her complain often about how she wanted that book, but she would never buy it for herself. So I decided at the age of five to get it for her. I couldn’t buy it for her, oh no no no— I was five. I wasn’t even old enough to manage a lemonade stand. Instead, I decided to make the book for her.

I sat down with a big sheet of construction paper and a box of crayons and wrote the entire book for my mom to read. Of course, this version of the book was only two pages long. It also may have had a few story elements mixed around, considering my infantile mind had no clue what a “goblet” was and instead wrote a book titled “Goblin of Fire,” but I digress.

The point of this story is that I was a creative kid, and as I grew up I held on to that creativity. In middle school, I began to write and illustrate comics focused on the fantastical misadventures of my friends and me and would pass them around the classroom. In high school, I began to develop my own original characters, with attached narratives, and would storyboard more comics in my notebook.

When the time came to head off to college, I was excited to explore all of the new, creative avenues that would become available to me. But I was also absolutely terrified of the entirely new environment and its pressures.

Looking back at the majority of my college experience, I was right in both my excitement and my fears. I was able to take electronic media and animation courses that taught me so much more about the arts that I loved, and I simultaneously learned to express myself in new ways that I had never even heard of. I also carried a crippling stack of textbooks on my back, the weight of which will forever haunt me. I will be tormented for eternity by the useless knowledge crowding my brain, thanks to the unending gen-ed courses that have nothing to do with where I want to go in life. (Why I had to take a chemistry course to get a Communication degree, I’ll never know).

More importantly, my years at the University of Indianapolis gave me the opportunity to grow, and grow I did. I moved beyond my social anxiety and was able to find a group of friends who brought me comfort as I sprouted into a young seedling on the University of Indianapolis’s campus. I also gained the strength to separate myself from those people, when I realized they were becoming toxic. 

I gained the ability to manage myself in terms of time, finances and emotions. As I began to bud, I figured out how to plan my day, work when necessary, save money and set aside a moment for myself to breathe and cry. Boy oh boy, did I cry, and that was good. I needed to cry, so I did; I got things out of my system, and I moved on. 

At UIndy, I blossomed into quite the handsome young flower, if I do say so myself. Now, I have to uproot myself and walk away from the garden that gave me water, soil, sunlight … all of the nutrients I needed to grow. I must walk out into the big, scary world. As I look at the world, though, I can see that it offers so much more hydration, earth, and sun. I think I can grow a lot bigger in this world.

That creative kid I was still lives inside of me, and he is what drives me forward in almost everything I do. I often want to doodle in my notebook and write nonsensical stories, but now I can do so with a wisdom and experience that five-year-old me would be so proud of. When he made that book for my mom, I don’t think he ever imagined he’d one day win awards for his illustrations or inspire people with his stories. He has now, though. I have. And now I’ll leap into the world, inspired to create something that will make my mom just as proud as she was when she read “Goblin of Fire.”

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