January 25, 2014 – 6:50 P.M. – The campus of Rutgers University
My son and I walk into the Rutgers Athletic Center (The RAC) to watch a college basketball game and this overwhelming feeling, overwhelms me.
It had been a long time since I had been in a college atmosphere like this and damn, have I gotten old quickly. The students looked like they could have been my own children and that made me want to grab my son and physically prevent him from aging another day.
My son is in sixth grade and I would be happy if he stayed there forever. We can have adult-like conversations and hang like two buds, yet he still waves to me when he leaves on the bus each morning. The best of both worlds. I can’t envision the day when he is on his own at college (shit, we have some serious life skills training to get on) and doesn’t need us any longer. I felt a lump in my throat as I typed that last sentence.
But enough about him, this is supposed to be all about me.
After successfully pushing the age issue to the recesses of my brain so it could be reconciled another day, I began to study the faces of the college students as they went about their merry way. Every single one of them had that “It’s all in front of me” look and it kind of pissed me off. Lucky bastards. I have no desire to go back and be 19 years old again, but I would love to go back in time with my true passion in tow. I would like a shot to pursue that passion professionally from a much younger age.
I entered college in 1990 as a journalism major with a semi-mullet and a few pairs of pegged jeans (look the term up). I was going to expose wrongdoings on campus. I was going to rail against the PRC and censorship of music. I was going to get the great locker room interview.
I wrote a few fluff stories for The Signal, the Trenton State College (now known as The College of New Jersey) newspaper but it ended there.
By my sophomore year, I some how managed to convince myself that I would be doing nothing more than writing obituaries when I graduated from school. I needed to find a major that would allow me to walk right into a fantastic job fresh out of college. Mistake number one. I would love to go back and slap my early 90’s self and remind him that you work your way up dumb ass and that you should enjoy that process. Nothing comes easy and it shouldn’t.
Quick aside – I’d also tell my 90’s self that jean shorts don’t work.
I eventually graduated with a B.S. degree (pun intended) in Criminal Justice and also minored in Psychology. I didn’t want to be a lawyer or a cop; something in between. Like Jodie Foster in “Silence of the Lambs”. I ended up taking the LSAT’s for law school any way and did get “wait listed” at Seton Hall Law School. However, within seconds of getting that letter in the mail, I knew I wasn’t going to go down that path.
My first job out of college was working for a serious private investigation firm and it was never dull. True story, my biggest “mission” was to present a “summons to appear in court” to some ridiculously wealthy dude who had apparently knowingly passed on a disease to a woman he had “met” (wink wink) on vacation. I volunteered to drive hours to make that delivery. Big ambition guy. When I arrived, the house was guarded by a number of nasty looking dogs barking from every angle. I quickly rang the door bell once, making the legally required attempt and got the hell out of there. My first and only mission was complete.
Fast forward to today and I work for a great company as a project manager. I cannot complain. But damn if I don’t wonder what could have come if I had some cojones and stuck with the writing. And if I also knew that this passion for gardening was simmering beneath the surface at a younger age? Well that would have been nice. I think we need to rethink this college thing, specifically the timing. I was a dope coming out of high school and my own future wasn’t even on my radar. If I could go back to college now at this age, I’d get it right. I haven’t figured out the logistics yet, but give me time. I don’t think my employer would be OK with me taking a sabbatical to study horticulture and garden writing.
On the car ride home after the basketball game, I never turned the radio on. I enjoyed having a conversation with my son and did my best to reinforce the message of “do what you love” (Minecraft not included). I don’t know if that means anything to him now, but it will be a theme for the next decade so he better get used to it.