Things change, feathers fall
Andy Henderson, junior mass communications major from Royse City, Texas, has a bird on his left arm.
The bird is not of a specific breed; rather, it contains elements from several different types of birds. If you look closely, you can see that the bird is picking a feather from its body, preparing to add it to the pile at its feet. It’s molting.
“I moved houses a lot. We moved six different times when I was growing up, and I went to seven different schools before I graduated from high school,” Henderson said. “My parents were separated before I was born. My mom remarried my step dad and then, when I was 12, he passed away. Change has always been a part of my life.”
That same change followed Henderson to Arkadelphia in the fall of 2014, where he began his college experience as a freshman at Ouachita Baptist University. As an avid photographer, Henderson was disappointed to find out that Ouachita’s photography program was limited to a few individual classes within mass communications.
“I specifically wanted to get a degree in photography, so I began to look around to see what universities around my home and even around Arkansas had good photography programs,” Henderson said.
Considering Henderson State University and a few art universities around the country, Henderson eventually decided to transfer to Texas A&M Commerce for its renowned photography program. But by the time he made the decision to leave Ouachita, it was too late to apply for admission.
For the spring 2015 semester, Henderson moved back home, transferring to Paris Junior College in Greenville, Texas to complete some of his basics.
The first feather falls
“I went to high school in Greenville, so there were two professors at the junior college who were my high school teachers. I also took a speech class with one of my good friends from high school,” Henderson said. “It was really cool to transfer colleges and still know people, as opposed to being at a completely new place by myself.”
Henderson quickly realized, however, that he was looking for something more than junior college, somewhere to call home. As the semester passed by, he slowly lost interest in attending A&M Commerce, becoming increasingly uncertain about what he wanted to do with his future.
“I had all of these big ideas,” Henderson said. “I looked into the fire academy to be a firefighter and I even considered attending film school in California.”
In the midst of this, Henderson received a phone call from his aunt and uncle in Maryland.
“They wanted me to come stay for a week during the summer. I was talking to them about that and they said, ‘You know, we actually have some friends who are looking for an employee at their company to come do some manual labor and office work. Would you want to stay for the whole summer?’” Henderson said.
Excited by the prospect of living with his family on the east coast, Henderson accepted the job opportunity and moved to Maryland for the summer to work for a pool company.
Another feather falls
“The reason that I left Ouachita was not solely based on photography. It was also because a lot of the mass communications stuff intimidated me,” Henderson said. “Photography was safe because it was something that I was passionate about. I felt that if I were to keep doing mass communications, I might get confused; I might not know how to do something.”
Having no experience with pools prior to arriving in Maryland, Henderson encountered this type of confusion early and often in his summer job at Pool Tech.
“I didn’t know anything about chemicals. I didn’t know anything about how things were labeled in a storeroom or a stock room. I didn’t know how to ring people up or conduct water testing or clean a pool out. Everything was a learning experience,” Henderson said.
A constant sense of failure loomed over Henderson’s head. He wanted to quit. He wanted to move back to Texas, but he was exactly where he needed to be.
“By having that experience with something that was so incredibly hard and being able to push through it, I realized that some things are difficult. You’re not going to know how to do everything, but that’s why you push through and that’s why you keep going,” Henderson said. “Working at Pool Tech – something I was able to do even though I initially had no idea what to do – translated to, ‘If I can do this for this small thing, I can do this for college.’”
And it didn’t take long for him to remember that small private Christian university in Arkadelphia. After being gone for a whole semester, Andy Henderson was coming home.
Another feather falls
“When I was transferring back to Ouachita after I left, the people who I was in contact with still knew me after all that time. Even with me only being there for one semester, people like the Roots and my admissions counselor, Dawson Pritchard, still remembered who I was,” Henderson said.
Henderson returned to Ouachita in the fall of 2015 as a sophomore kinesiology major with a minor in mass communications. He now wanted to be a basketball coach.
“About halfway through the semester, I remembered that I love mass communications. I love public relations. I love advertising. I love social media,” Henderson said. “My courses in mass communications were telling me, ‘Hey, you really like this, but you’re not majoring in it.’ So I switched them back, and now I am a mass communications major and a recreation minor. And that’s what I plan to stick with.”
The most recent of Henderson’s “feathers” fell when he returned to the world of communications, and more will undoubtedly fall in the future. But these feathers, these small changes in his life, have shaped who he is today and will continue to do so for years to come.
“Change has always been a part of my life and it always will be a part of my life,” Henderson said. “But just like molting, it’s a natural change. It’s change that’s supposed to be a part of your life. Without change, it’s hard to grow.”
By Evan Wheatley, Features editor