Most of you probably can’t recall what you were doing 2,596 days ago. But I can.
I remember waking up in my house and falling asleep in a fraternity house. I remember how strange my CDs sounded in the muddy acoustics of that little concrete room. I remember having to lock my guitar case, because for the first time I had to worry about someone else getting into it. I remember the twinge of sadness I felt when the in-room Internet connection didn’t work, leaving me with no link to the only world that felt comfortable.
But mostly I remember my mom.
My parents and I were standing in the parking lot of my new home – an on-campus frat house, one floor of which Georgetown College had reassigned as a freshman residential hall. My stuff was unloaded. We’d made a trip to the store to collect forgotten items. Now it was time for Mom and Dad to go.
The three of us had a conversation by the car, the details of which have long since faded. As it ended, Mom began to cry. Maybe Dad did, too. I can’t remember, because I was choking up as well.
A few minutes later, they were gone. And even though it wasn’t her intention, Mom’s show of emotion made me feel that I was doing something wrong by staying.
Three full semesters would pass before I left Georgetown, but in retrospect, that moment probably doomed my chance of finding happiness there.
And that’s the best thing that could have happened.
From that point on, college was important to me but never a priority. From that point on, I always went to class, but I was never in college. And from that point on, I knew I didn’t need to spend four years away at school – instead of putting my life on hold, I wanted to get my life started.
Had I graduated from Georgetown in May 2001, I’m sure I’d be nowhere right now. It’s a nice enough school, but there was absolutely nothing for me to do. I would have a degree in something useless like English – no offense, Dad – and I’d be wandering through the working world with little direction.
But if I hadn’t started at Georgetown, I probably wouldn’t have landed here, so I don’t regret those three semesters. A specific series of events led me here, and the comfort I lacked at Georgetown I found on the Hill.
As I’ve mentioned before in this column, the last five years of my life have developed in reverse. I moved back home, got an apartment and spent nearly four years working full time at a newspaper. I enrolled at Western and chipped away at college, majoring in print journalism and learning how to do the job I already had.
Last semester I became a full-time student again. If I don’t screw something up in these last two weeks, next Saturday I’ll finally graduate.
It’s easy to find stories similar to mine at a large, public school like Western. It’s nearly impossible to find them at a little school like Georgetown. I don’t recommend my path to everyone though, and I have no problem with students who choose to follow the regular four-year plan.
But I’m grateful I wound up here, because I’ve grown up more in my five years at Western than I ever could have at Georgetown. In the last five years I found my calling. I found a pretty girl who isn’t repulsed by my foul attitude or fat face – and even if she is, she’s thankfully keeping me around. I sort of learned how to pay bills, cook and clean up after myself.
These days I think a lot about my first day at Georgetown and how that moment in the parking lot made college and graduation seem somewhat insignificant. I wouldn’t even bother walking the line if I hadn’t made a promise to Mom. But I’m glad it’s happening. Now I’ll have proof that I’m not a total collegiate failure.
I also think about how difficult the past 2,596 days must have been at times for Mom and Dad, whose personal and financial sacrifices are the only reasons I got this far at all.
So I have no idea how Mom will react next Saturday. I doubt she’ll cry this time, but I won’t mind if she does. She’ll certainly have enough reasons to be overcome by happiness or sadness or relief or whatever.
By then, exactly 2,605 of them.
Daniel Pike is a senior print journalism major from Glasgow and the features editor for the Herald.
His column appeared on Thursday. Reach him at [email protected]