Tag Archives: College

This is Where Everything Changed

Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory painting by Salvador Dali

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali. (Image/dalipaintings.net)

It was unexpected.

It really was.

This is where everything changed.

That’s where I met my wife.

That’s my old apartment.

Whoa. Look at all these new buildings.

Whoa. Our freshman-year dorm is still using the same furniture.

Whoa. They banned tobacco on campus, and we used to smoke right there and there and over there.

The Taco Bell with the drive-thru we used to walk through four or five deep at 3 a.m. is gone, as well as the neighboring corner gas station where we used to buy cigarettes and cheap beer. In its place is a large new commercial development with nice restaurants, a huge Barnes & Noble campus book store, and a Starbucks.

It wasn’t the memories that shook me up, though there are plenty to go around.

It’s the time.

While I was looking over there, the world kept changing over here.

People were walking in and out of new buildings that weren’t supposed to be there. They either didn’t know the buildings weren’t supposed to be there, or had already adjusted.

Things were the same.

And things were different.

We live here in this place. And in other places the hands on the clock keep moving, and everyone living there keeps flipping calendar pages, and younger people move in and make choices and then more things change.

Things always change.

I was just a college student back before the world changed. Just a kid from a small town an hour and a half’s drive from campus.

I didn’t know where I was. A place teeming with knowledge and resources. A vast library. Thought leaders. Curious minds about that, and this, and other things.

I didn’t ask very many to share knowledge with me. When they tried to share it in classes I sometimes attended, I mostly thought about the fun things I was going to do later.

Maybe if I’d read more books and asked more questions and thought more deeply back when I was a student there, I wouldn’t have felt the shock.

Maybe I’d have known better.

Some of my friends from college still live near the city.

One is married with three kids. I’ve known his wife for years, but I’d never met his children.

Here’s this guy I have all of these memories with. And then—bam!—my entire worldview of him changes with an overnight stay at his home.

Three girls, ages 12, 9, and 5. Kind and beautiful, all of them.

The 5-year-old is magic and missing her two front teeth, and I wanted to clone her so I could have one, but don’t tell the 9-year-old because she’s great too, and knows many things about a couple of make-your-own-lip-syncing-music-video apps she thought I needed to have.

I told the sisters I was too shy to make lip-syncing videos, which probably sounded like a lie since their father and I were consuming beer and tequila the night before and seemed presumably less shy.

One of my friends corrected me: “You’re not shy. You’re self-conscious.”

Hmmm. True.

But back over here are these little people who, to me, didn’t even exist five seconds earlier, but now they do, and I love them, but probably not enough to make lip-syncing music videos to share on their favorite apps.

I was 18 when I went to college, but since I could barely remember the first four years of my life, it’s kind of like being 14.

And now 14 more years have passed.

I don’t know where the time and memories go. Like something we drop into a bottomless pit to eventually forget a little bit how things look and feel as they fall further and further away.

Walking through the center of campus on a hot, summer day, there were very few people around. Some incoming freshmen and their parents visiting for orientation. I took photos of this and that. I stopped in various places to sit and soak it in.

All of the familiarity to reacquaint myself with.

And all of the strange and new to get to know.

I would never have stopped to read an inscription back when I was a student there. In the center of campus was a small monument displaying the university seal. On the side was a quote from the university president back in the 1930s when the campus first opened.

I don’t have the quote.

But it talked about the students. It talked about me.

How this place was supposed to help students go on to do things in this world. Something about light. About hope. About truth.

After all of my wasted time and personal failings, what would the collective brain trust think about me?

Proud? Embarrassed? Indifferent?

I don’t think they’d care. I don’t think it would matter if they did. These are just the things I think about.

Because I’m not shy. Just self-conscious.

But not so much then. Not in that different time and place and life all those years ago.

Whoa. That’s where we used to throw the best keg parties.

Whoa. Our favorite old bars are now someone’s favorite new bars.

Whoa. That’s where I used to write with a pen and a notebook.

This is where I dreamed about tomorrow.

This is where yesterday became today.

This is where everything changed.

It really was.

It was unexpected.

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Marijuana, Bible Studies, and Bridge Construction

(Image courtesy of screen-wallpapers.com)

(Image courtesy of screen-wallpapers.com)

“Shit! I have to go.”

Everything was hazy and surreal in the smoke-filled room. It’s because four of us just burned a massive blunt. I was pretty high. There was nothing particularly weird about that. In college, I was often pretty high.

“Where do you have to go?” my friends asked.

“Bible study,” I said. “I forgot all about it.”

“Bible study!? You can’t go to bible study!” my roommate said. He didn’t say it because he, or anyone else in the room, had a problem with faith or bible studies. He said it because I looked and smelled and was acting exactly like someone who had just smoked a lot of marijuana, and he figured—perhaps correctly—that it wasn’t an appropriate time to study Scripture.

“Gotta do it, man,” I said. And then I ran off on my 10-minute trek to meet a guy whose name I can’t remember to discuss a chapter in the New Testament I can’t remember discussing.

You know, because in college, I was often pretty high.

Can’t Stay Hidden Forever

In January, an exceptional guy about my age died. Everything was fine. His wife was pregnant with their fourth child. He was in excellent physical condition. Then, the doctors told him he had cancer the day after Christmas. And he was gone a month later.

Just like that.

The story hit me hard. I had never met Paul Coakley. But I knew quite a few people who were close to him in college and stayed in touch into our adult years. The story was tragic and touching and I wrote about it.

A random Google search yesterday led one of Paul’s friends to that post. They shared it on social media and now several hundred people have read it, and many of them shared it some more.

Because that happened, more people I know in real life discovered this blog. The world closes in on me every time that happens. More people to judge the adult version of me. A version of me so different from the one they might remember when I was young, confident, always positive and optimistic, strong, brave, and afraid of little.

Now, they’ll find someone else.

A divorced single father who hasn’t lived up to his own expectations. A guy who failed to achieve professionally, socially and spiritually, the life I’d always envisioned.

I’ve been writing here for two years now. I’ve grown accustomed to many people reading the things I write.

But it feels so different when it’s someone you know. People you respect deeply and maybe wish didn’t know about all your skeletons. The skeletons on display here. I used to joke a lot about my mother and grandmother finding this place and freaking out. That will probably happen one day.

I use my first name and I show my face because I feel like a fraudulent coward if I don’t at least do that.

Someday, I’ll have to own all of it. It still scares me, even though I’m actively trying to care less.

You can’t stay hidden forever.

What I’m Doing Here

Relativism (the reality of things being relative to one another—not the philosophical doctrine) is a funny thing.

Some people have seen and done things many of us can barely fathom. Especially some kid from a quiet little Ohio town, like me. Those people read about me smoking pot and all the keg parties and my bouts with conscience regarding sexual desire as a young kid in church, and probably roll their eyes, because to them—Who cares!?

Others living purer, more disciplined lifestyles might be more offended by my casual references to sex or my somewhat cavalier use of bad words. And I still worry about what other people think of me. It’s a weakness. I’m working on it.

Except, here’s the thing: I KNOW everyone feels most of the same things I feel. Because I’ve been alive 36 years and that’s enough time to figure out a few things.

I wasn’t allowed to watch PG-13 movies when I was 13. I grew up in one of those houses.

So it makes total sense that I wanted to party when I got to college and lived on my own. It’s totally human to want to learn and experience things for oneself.

The sex stuff? Everyone who claims to not understand is a dirty liar. Most people just don’t talk about it.

Everyone has a different definition of good and bad.

Behaviorally, I’ve long been a I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints kind-of guy.

Philosophically, I’ve always wanted to be a good person.

The older I get, the less I understand what it means to be a good person.

I only know that’s what I want to be.

I don’t know if it’s possible to bridge the gap between the righteous and the fallen. Because most of us don’t even know for sure what either of those things mean. But if there is such a thing—a bridge?

That’s who and what I want to be.

I’m probably doing it wrong.

If This is Low, I’m Looking for High

Being stoned during bible study is a metaphor for my life ever since discovering there are emotional consequences to various life choices.

Using the loose definition of these words, I want to be bad and I want to be good. I can’t look you in the eye and honestly say that I don’t occasionally want to do things I loosely define as “bad.”

I don’t know what it means to be a good person, but a good, loose definition might be someone who follows their conscience. Someone who has principles and sticks to them.

I’m certainly guilty of not always doing that.

I got high a lot back in college because I liked having fun with my friends.

I went to bible study because I liked the idea of pursuing a higher path (no pun intended).

And I’m always trying to offset some of the bad with some good. Like maybe if I do a bunch of good things, I can erase some of the bad things, even though I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like that.

Like I’m trying in vain to scrub away some dirt in a foolish attempt to convince people I’m better than I am.

But I’m not better. I’m just whatever I am.

And if I ever did get to the top, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with myself.

I’m sure the view is nice.

But, in truth?

I dig the climb.

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