“Art has been a hobby I’ve had since I could hold a pencil,” Sydney Austin-Watts, senior creative writing and English major from Harrison, Arkansas said. “As a punishment when I was younger, my parents would take away my pencils and crayons. So, I tried not to get into trouble too much.”
Though writing may seem like the obvious hobby of choice for someone so heavily involved in the English Department, this is not where Sydney’s interest nor her talents stop.
“I had this 1/8th of a life-crisis at 12 and decided that I wanted to do a bunch of things. When I was 12, I started karate. I started volunteering at my local library. I started having a life, basically,” Sydney said. “I started it and didn’t want to stop.”
Her passion that started so young is what has fueled her the past four years through her time at Arkansas Tech University and helped her accomplish what she is most proud of. “Actually, being at a university is what I am most proud of because no one in my family has done that, no one at my school really did that and I did it on my own.”
Sydney wanted more from her life than to stay stagnant in her hometown. Her ambition drove her to pursue something more than what was expected of her, and she independently and successfully did it.
“Scout from ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ reminds me of how I was when I was younger, though way more enlightened, but the attitude and resistance to what others wanted her to be. I was always a tomboy. When we went to McDonald’s, I would always ask for the boy’s toy, and even coming to college [I] was defying that expectation,” she said.
This resistant nature actually inspired Sydney’s name for her Instagram, @reblesyd. “When I was younger, I had a skateboard and I tried to draw ‘rebel’ on it and I spelled it wrong, so then I decided I didn’t have to worry about it being taken as a username. I had this running joke that I was such a rebel I didn’t even spell it right,” she said.
Another way in which Sydney defies what is expected is through her relationship with her husband, Jacob. On New Year’s, Sydney and Jacob eloped in an incredibly under-the-radar manner, only having a few family members there each.
“I decided that no one gets to keep the 1st as New Year’s, it’s my anniversary now. It was crazy because people always think of eloping as a spur of the moment thing, but we had been planning [to elope.] It came as a surprise to everyone but me and him,” she said. “I have friends that are planning weddings now, and even planning my elopement was stressful. It was just so much more my style.”
A way in which she channeled her love for writing was becoming the editor for the Fall 2019 edition of “Nebo: The Literary Journal” here at ATU. Though there have been challenges in the process, Sydney admits that it was all worth it. Getting past the stress of working with others, it ended up being a fun project for her.
“I made my theme ‘Make It Art,’ and as I was putting it together, I was, in a weird way, curating art pieces like you would in a museum. It was a lot of fun playing that role. Instead of trying to stand out myself, it was nice to be in the other seat and notice people. I had a chance to highlight my favorite kinds of writing and my favorite pieces,” she said.
Due to some complications with the issue and the printer, the Fall 2019 issue of “Nebo” is being released late. Though this may seem overwhelming to some, Sydney reminds herself that she didn’t fail.
“It got me down for a little bit and made me feel worthless, but finishing it was a good perspective to have. I didn’t fail. I made some mistakes but now I’m working through them. It’s so great to see a product come out of what you thought was a failure,” Sydney said.
Being that it is her last semester at ATU, Sydney acknowledges how bittersweet this moment can be. “This past year especially has been hard because I have made such amazing friends, our little friend group especially. I feel like I cherish them way more than I should for how little time we have actually been a group. Even cherishing them more than friends I have had for years. That’s something I hate to leave.”
Sydney does plan on attending graduate school, though she is unsure of where. ATU is always an option for her because she loves the faculty and atmosphere that her department has provided her in her time here. Thinking about leaving her friends is just as hard as leaving the professors.
“The biggest piece of advice I have to anybody is to be willing to change your plans and to roll with the punches. If something doesn’t go your way, don’t let that stop you from continuing. Accept things that change out of your control and be adaptable,” Sydney said.