Finding my way: The Orion


Lars Gustafson interviews professional wakeboarder Harley Clifford at the Pro Wake Tour in Lathrop. Photo courtesy of Lars Gustafson.

Within a year of finding out I would never step foot upon a football field again with pins placed in my shoulder, my mom died from liver cancer during my senior year of high school.

Let’s fast forward a few months and spare the details. I got a late acceptance letter to Chico State and decided to head there to deal with the pain and depression I was feeling and move forward with my life.

“People have fun there, they party. I want to go there,” were my thoughts exactly.

But at the end of my freshman year, I had to deal with an extremely hard break-up that dragged me down even more. After a tough summer, I decided to move into the “Zoo.”

Bad idea.

Throughout my freshman and sophomore years in Chico, my life and my future were spiraling out of control. I found the answer to my own problems by partying and drinking.

It was the worst way to deal with the pain, but it was the only way I could get through my life day to day. I was numbing myself and taking the easy way out; I was on the road to disaster.

I hit rock bottom when I took myself to Enloe Medical Center after trying to end my life by drinking an entire handle and taking a large amount of anti-depressants prescribed to me. But, I still woke up the next day. I wouldn’t be writing this column if my attempt was successful.

As I slept in a hotel room with my dad the following night, I really wondered where I would be in a few years. Doubt filled my mind as I wandered into my next semester at Chico State unsure of where to go or what to do next.

I filled my schedule with classes, including “Intro to Journalism” taught by John Roussell. This class would open up a world filled of opportunity— opportunity I am still chasing to this day— that would forever shape my future. I started writing sports blog posts on Facebook that helped me get my first job at “The Orion” working for Nick Woodard, the sports editor.

Long story short, I became a sports reporter for “The Orion” and found my passion in life. I found something that filled me with energy and happiness. The way my life was going, I would not be here if I didn’t find myself and my passion for writing and reporting through “The Orion.”

My inner fire ignited as I found something that I really loved again. Not only did I love it, I excelled at it.

With the depression gone and my life back on track, we can fast forward again. I worked for Soul id, an action sports networking start-up in Chico as an intern. Interviewing Sally Fitzgibbons, Pedro Barros, Kolohe Andino, Willy Lara and more of the best action sports athletes in the world was a part of my job description. Within a year and a half, I went from never even taking a journalism class to having skills in writing, reporting, photography and videography. I went from having zero direction and struggling to get through the day to covering world-class athletes within a year of starting to work at “The Orion.”

Finding your passion is the key to happiness and success. If you are one of the people struggling at Chico State, find something you love and apply yourself, your heart and soul to it. Take it from someone who has been from the edge and back. Finding yourself is the one of the most important things you do in college and meeting new people and interests might change your entire life.

There are so many extracurricular clubs, classes and groups at Chico State, and I recommend that everyone finds something they can get passionate about while in school.

You never know how much of an impact it will have on your life until you try it.

Lars Gustafson can be reached at [email protected] or @larsonsports on Twitter.