A Day in the Life: Zak Kaletka

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Do you know what it’s like to be a student in 21st century America? Our student writer, Zak Kaletka, launches a new, occasional series examining the lives of UW Tacoma students. We realized there would be no better person to start with than Zak.

My day, starts around 8 a.m., assuming I woke up on time. I’m a commuter, which has its drawbacks, but the time to decompress driving to and from campus creates a nice buffer between home and school. I almost always find unlimited parking on Tacoma Avenue, which coincidentally has a lovely view of the city in all of its industrial glory.

Unless I’m broke or running late, my first stop in the morning is Metro Coffee. I usually spend my time before class there, contemplating – AKA procrastinating on – doing homework. 

Then there is the walk to class, which surprisingly is a rather full portion of my day. Among my friends, I have a bad reputation for my inability to walk across campus without stopping and talking to at least five people. Once I hear someone's story I can’t help but stop when I see them. No two people here have the same story; quite often, in fact, the circumstances by which someone found themselves at UW Tacoma are incredibly unique.After graduation I hope to pursue a career in journalism.

I study communications. Classes can be broad, narrow, intimate, personal, and often impassioned. Especially in classroom discussion, life experience is often brought to the forefront of these conversations on culture and ideology. We examine how media reflects us and how we reflect media. These topics are hardly light hearted, and often they lead us to question the effects media have on us as individuals, a reflection that is not always easy. It is a bit peculiar to know that the circumstances of your life were determined arbitrarily by enormous social forces.

Like others, I often find myself contemplating my place here. We wonder if we are here by chance. I am proud of my accomplishments up to this point but at times that sense of self-doubt circles in my mind. I think that a lot of us deal with this imposter syndrome as a result of the expectations society places on us, expectations of who we are. We start to believe that regardless of our striving, our accomplishments are arbitrary.

I find myself in class, or work, or at a coffee shop wondering if I am enough. I contemplate my capability as someone from a non-typical family. I wonder if I will always feel like the “other” because I am queer. At times, I’ve wondered what the point of school was when I could hardly afford food after I paid rent. Not every day is a good day, but on those days I remember I’m not alone here.

I'm interested in how media changes the way we see the world.

This university has a faculty that genuinely cares about you. My relationships with faculty have been the most crucial influence on my growth here. I didn’t think I was a good writer until a professor said to me that I had talent. I didn’t think I had a unique perspective until a mentor wanted to get coffee to talk about it. When I started my first year here, I thought I was just an average undergrad student that would go through the college machine to get job credentials. I’m so thankful that wasn’t the case, that my time here has been not an opportunity to increase my capital worth, but to expand my mente.  

Everyone is coming from a different place, with incomparable struggles that they have had to overcome to get here. Even if we are not always on the same page, by and large, the UW Tacoma community is an empathetic one. We have a culture that seeks to eliminate marginalization and create a space where we can stand on equal footing.

In my life, I don’t think that I would have made it to where I am now without hearing stories that made me think I could accomplish my goals. Even if you think your story isn’t exceptional, it is. You’re here. You matter, and your story matters to someone else. You have the ability to transform someone’s life, just by sharing.

I would love to know, what is a day in your life?

We invite you to tell us what gets you through a day. Contact Zak at zakarb@uw.edu to pitch your story.

Written by: 
Zak Kaletka / August 5, 2016
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu