​The making of a masterpiece

Kendall Roden

When I initially began mulling over ideas for what to share in this senior column, I got overwhelmed…fast. Four years worth of memories rushed into my head: the mistakes, successes, trials and triumphs alike. So many moments, thoughts, emotions and experiences began blurring in my mind like watercolors painted too closely together on a kindergartner’s canvas.

Looking back on my start at The University of Alabama, I know part of me subconsciously desired a paint-by-numbers experience. I wanted a 100% guarantee that my four years of college were going to fulfill my exact expectations. After 18 years of idealizing college, I felt pressure to check off all of the boxes by fulfilling goals and accomplishments flawlessly. There was no room on my canvas, or in my collegiate plan, for mistakes or imperfections. However, it didn’t take me long to remember that I was by no means a perfect artist, and I was certainly not a perfect human being. 

When you graduate from high school, you envision (or at least I did) all of the things you will do differently in college. Procrastination? Never heard of it! Exercise? Daily! If you are anything like me, you had a list of college resolutions that was longer than the one prepared by Santa before Christmas. While my desire to follow the methodology of perfection led me to many incredible opportunities, it also made it very difficult to overcome challenges. Even the slightest mistake, a misplaced color here or there, was all that I could see. The good times were hard to recognize while the hard times seemed to scream at me off the canvas, serving as a constant reminder that I would never live up to my own standard.

Over the past four years at The University of Alabama, the artwork that once had a rigidly defined structure became filled chaotically with every color imaginable. I remember the yellow joy of running to Alpha Chi Omega on Bid Day and watching the Tide win not one but two National Championships. I remember the orange adventure of kayaking 10 miles through Panama on an Honor’s college trip and heading to Italy to study abroad. I remember the red passion I felt welcoming my first group of freshman to Camp 1831, giving my first tour as a Capstone Woman and presenting my own Tide Talk. I remember the strokes of green endurance I painted while making my first ever documentary and pushing through the countless MIS all-nighters. I remember the dark blue specs of knowledge collected from the enriching classes I have taken and the lessons I have learned from truly inspiring peers. I bask in the beauty of the purple transformation that I have seen in myself. 

However, these are not the only colors that I have experienced. I remember the yellow jealousy hastily painted after not being chosen for XXXI. I remember the red anger I felt at myself that dripped onto the canvas after I missed a Capstone tour. I remember the flecks of green selfishness, the times I should have been a better friend. I remember the tint of blue sadness that appeared during times of loneliness and contemplation. I remember the black stain of regret that mars the canvas from the shouldn’t haves, should haves and what ifs.

Here at UA, I have felt the brightest of yellows, the darkest of reds and the deepest of blues. There are certainly things I would change, brushstrokes I wish I could erase and others I wish I could add. There are times that I think back to that first day of freshman year, back when the canvas was still blank, and wonder what it would be like to start over. Yet simultaneously, I can’t help but look at this mess of a masterpiece that I have painted and feel proud. 

We should all be proud. We should be proud that we continued to paint, even after realizing that our canvas would not resemble our original expectations. Life isn’t easy, and college isn’t easy, but we were not made to be paint-by-numbers people. My final canvas may be an abstract and unique combination of many things and it may not make it into the MoMA like I had hoped, but I’ll be damned if I don’t hang it on my refrigerator for everyone to see.

My mom once wrote me a note during a difficult time that said, “I think as parents, we want our children to be happy..but I think as a person you have looked for more than happiness, you have looked for meaning.” My biggest hope for all of you is that you too will reach a place where you can find meaning in even the darkest, ugliest colors you experience. To each and every person who has helped me during my quest, who has inspired me, loved me, encouraged me, forgiven me and stood by me – thank you for adding the most beautiful colors to my life. To all of the people I never got lunch with when I said I would, I’m sorry. To my family for providing me with unwavering support during the best and worst times, I am forever grateful. And last but not least, to my fellow artists, each of you who have been painting your own works of art, congratulations. I wish you the best of luck when creating your next masterpiece.

Kendall Roden is a senior majoring in management information systems. She currently serves as the Vice President of Mortar Board, the Vice President of Culverhouse Connections and is on the UA Blend Exec Team. After graduation she will be transitioning into her job as an Associate Consultant at Microsoft in Charlotte, North Carolina.