By Lilah Nielsen

When I thought of coming to Chico, I thought of it as an escape from my previous life, the previous me, my previous situation.

Before I entered Chico State, you could say I had a difficult senior year of high school. I was diagnosed with migraine-associated vertigo (MAV) and spent most of my senior days laying in bed, unable to move from extreme dizziness. There was no simple cure, and I had to live with it, but what I could do was decrease my immense anxiety and stress by being positive.

There was no doubt in my mind that Chico State was the right school for me—it was a matter of could I make it, could I manage classes with being so dizzy, can I be a normal student ever again? My unusual symptoms caused me to feel worried and in extreme pain going into this experience.

I’m thankful to say that almost immediately once I entered Chico as a freshman, things started to turn around. I made amazing and lifelong friends, joined so many clubs and communities, and played in various intramurals sports teams. I was in it! I was there and creating the college experience for myself. I was finally living the life I have always wanted and knew I could live. All I had to do was keep staying positive.

Throughout the years, I have developed into a dean’s list student, received my sales, leadership, and communication certificate from the Seufferlein Sales Program, became the president of the Association of Women in Business, and have become a well-known and familiar voice to many students on campus. I was a leader, I was known, and people wanted to be around me. This was the confident Lilah I had never ever seen before. Chico State gave me life and the ability to be myself.

A group of women in pose in front of inflated balloons spelling AWIB.
My roles with groups like the Association of Women in Business have given me confidence and brought great happiness to my Chico Experience. (Photo courtesy of Lilah Nielsen)

Flashing to today, which presents its own struggles, I continue to bring the same attitude. I have gone through ups and downs during my time here and often struggled with my health and anxiety, but I always rose above. I always said to myself, “Even though you feel terrible today, tomorrow is a new day to love life and bring a new positive mindset.” I have formed a shield around my body from any negativity, almost like Superwoman, that makes me an unstoppable force.

This COVID-19 pandemic is a lesson to all. We were missing out on what is truly important in life. We were taking for granted our relationships, our favorite restaurants, and our breathtaking school that we are blessed to be able to attend every day. I am done wasting precious time in my life complaining, regretting, or worrying about what’s to come. I want to live every day from this day forward as if it were my last, and I encourage you all to as well.

I was recently lucky enough to have a conversation with Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson. We discussed how devastated the Class of 2020 feels to miss out on graduation this year. I asked her about virtual Commencement and how we will postpone the real, in-person ceremony to next year. Personally, I think this is that it’s an amazing opportunity to come back next year when this all blows over and be able to have a reunion ceremony and celebration with my friends and family. This is great news to me. I’m incredibly thankful for what President Hutchinson has been doing in this community—thinking of others first and doing whatever she can to try to make everyone happy in such unprecedented times.

Lilah Nielsen speaks from a distance to President Gayle Hutchinson.
A spontaneous meeting with President Gayle Hutchinson on the lawn of Kendall Hall gave me the chance to thank her—from a distance—for her care and support of the campus community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you’re worried about us 2020 graduates going into the job market and struggling after college, I wouldn’t, because we are relentless, hustlers, and us Chico State students will get it done! We all have amazing lives ahead of us and this one bump in the road won’t interrupt us living out our life goals and dreams.

P.S. The world must have heard my message and prayers because immediately after writing this column, I received a call with a job offer that I wanted. Just another testament to how having faith and positivity can bring great opportunities in your life. Keep your head up and stay positive!

Lilah Nielsen is graduating this semester with her bachelor’s in business administration. She has accepted a job with Tealium as an enterprise sales development representative. She hopes to continue her career into sales enablement and marketing.