Bryan Rekowski's girlfriend's younger brother was struggling at a small liberal arts college. So Bryan (class of 2010) wrote to him. His article, adapted from that letter, suggests growth comes from struggle, and struggle requires risks.

Struggle, then Metamorphosis

Senior Sales Representative Bryan Rekowski

Senior Sales Representative Bryan Rekowski ’10

I was not the most confident lad as I stood bright-eyed and bushy-tailed one fine August morning in 2006 in front of the Crissey Hall listening to our new enthusiastic head soccer coach welcome us freshmen into the family. These new freedoms and new rules (or occasional lack thereof) were a lot to take in. I didn’t dive flawlessly into the current, quickly hammering down strokes and adjusting to the flow. I belly-flopped, gasped for air, and skimmed the surface for the nearest flotation device. Life at K for my first two years was a constant struggle to keep up and find some sort of balance, some sort of identity.

First-year fall term I was a nervous sweaty wreck, concerned with what everyone thought of me and worried I would screw up. I tried to blend in, which wasn’t always easy. My first-year seminar, “Visions of America-On Stage,” was taught by Ed Menta, and he pushed me from my comfort zone. Normally I would sit in the back of a classroom and observe, taking notes like a mad court stenographer but never really interacting. That didn’t work with Ed. He demanded we take on characters and not only read plays but also interpret and analyze them, more closely than I ever had before. He forced you to question and to face the brutal limits of your adolescent level of understanding. It was after my first paper in Ed’s course that I realized K wasn’t going to be an easy road. I had considered writing my strongest subject and was abruptly taken back when I found a C- written in red pen at the top of my paper.

I realized I had to be more careful and critical of my work. But I didn’t want to put in the time and effort it would take. There were always people in every one of my classes that were smarter and caught on quicker. I didn’t take the time to learn from my mistakes. For the remainder of first year I was searching for answers but not the method or path to find the answers.

And by the middle of sophomore year I was fed up with my college life. I didn’t like my mediocre performance in class and on the soccer field, and socially I felt invisible. I’d been denied a three-month study abroad program in Spain for the spring.  Nor would I be allowed to live off campus with my soccer mates during junior year.  I was in a hard place.

I’m not sure what exactly clicked, but something began to change sophomore spring term. It started with little risks. The voice within me grew stronger and I started questioning outward. I worked up the courage to pipe up more in classes. I socialized outside of my soccer circle and got to better know the wonderful mix of eclectic students. In our spring outdoor practices and scrimmages I tried different positions and showed my versatility. It dawned on me that I needed a broader perspective on each part of my life before I could identify what I needed to do and how I needed to do it. I was looking at myself differently, not in an overly critical way but instead evaluating goals I wanted to accomplish, examining the paths I could take to reach them, and then forming and executing my plan within a realistic time table. By no means did I have one of those enormous desk calendars for my room where I could fill in every single waking hour of my life, but I did find harmony in a semi-chaotic balance of opportunity and cost, and I picked my battles properly. By the time I was half-way through my junior year my work was improving and I was finding balance. My last two years at K were the best of my life.

Bryan Rekowski ’10 (center) during Hornet soccer days

Bryan Rekowski ’10 (center) during Hornet soccer days

By senior spring term I was walking confidently through the sun-filled quad. I was smiling more often. I had finished my final two soccer seasons as team captain and started every game. I made Dean’s List and completed a major in economics and a minor in religion. I participated in on-campus and off-campus events and held strong friendships beyond the circle of my teammates. Those have endured to this day. I still get goose bumps thinking about those last spring days—discussing the financial crisis in Professor App’s senior seminar, throwing a Frisbee or football around the quad, and raucously cheering on the men’s tennis team to another MIAA championship.

K is not a school for everyone. But for me it was the place to learn more about myself and how adaptive I could be. I learned I can jump into the unknown without a lick of experience and rise, ready to take on the world.

Today, at age 29, I work as a senior sales representative at a two-billion-dollar logistics company. It had 250 employees when I started and has grown to an operation of 2,500 employees at 10 offices nationwide. I multi-task daily, providing cost and problem-based solutions to a multitude of customers in a variety of industries. I’ve learned to question even the processes we’ve put in place and to absorb all of the knowledge I can to make insightful and innovative decisions. I push myself to learn what is new and to live outside my comfort zone. (Thank you, Ed Menta!) When I look back, I don’t think about doing anything differently. I smile, and hope that some young nervous first-year student like me will be lucky enough to experience the full metamorphosis that K can offer.

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4 thoughts on “Struggle, then Metamorphosis

  1. Ed Menta

    Hey Bryan!

    THANK you so much for the shout-out (even though I’ve never used red pen)!

    Seriously, there’s nothing that makes an old geezer like me happy than knowing former students are doing so well. which you clearly are! We are REALLY proud of you, man – of all that you’ve done and will do. Yeah, some of us may have pushed you outside your comfort zone but you’re the one who took the steps and flourished – that’s really terrific!

    When you’re next on campus, let me know and I’ll take you to lunch or coffee to thank you properly.

    Until then, wishing you the best always.

    Ed

    Reply
  2. Nicole Kragt

    Bryan – thank you for these inspirational words. As I raise my 10 yo son I see him very much afraid to take risks in life that I know will help him grow. He’s afraid of failure and prefers his comfort zone. He is in awe of the students at K and has voiced how much he would like to be one someday – I’m going to have him read your words and discuss what his take-away from your experiences is. Hopefully, he too will be inspired and start slowly to take risks.

    Reply
  3. Bill Sines

    Thousands of K alumni will smile at your story. It is not a smug smile but one of recognition. Over fifty years on from my graduation I can still recall the same (or similar) experiences and emotions. The process of maturation is a powerful experience. Learning how to learn is equally important and profoundly influences the rest of ones life. Your story is inspirational … think deeply, step up, contribute, and live the examined life.

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