Thomas Fletcher (fletch31526) wrote,
Thomas Fletcher
fletch31526

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WNL-LXXX: The Prologue

Although you wouldn't know it by the weather, summer is coming to an end in this part of the world. The football players have been in two-a-days for a couple of weeks and schools are cranking up for another fall.  Although I've got plenty of friends and kin folk teaching school, the one noticeable change for me is my commute time. When school is out, it takes me about 20 minutes to drive from the firehouse to home. Once the soccer moms' SUVs and school busses fill the streets, the trip can jump up to 40 or 45 minutes. I hate school. Heh.

If you've been following me for a while, you know that I wasn't much of a student. I think I was smart enough -- at least, the standardized tests said as much. It's just that I wasn't big on things like homework and studying and putting other parts of my life on hold for school. I've been told those were important issues. Somehow, I managed to get through college and get my degree. It only took me six years and three universities to make it happen.

For the most part, I think that life takes its course based on the culmination of many small decisions. Every once in a while, though, you get to make one of those decisions that changes your entire life. I made one of those in the Fall of 1996. After exactly one semester at the school I thought was going to be the perfect fit for me, I transferred out.

Throughout my entire senior year of high school, I had this one university picked out. It was four hours from home -- which seemed like the ideal distance. They had a pretty strong radio & television program, which appealed to me because I wanted to remain in journalism without having to smell the ink. I took the ACT only twice because on my second try, I scored just high enough for a free ride. The stage was set for me. It was the best arrangement possible. And then my mom & I made the drive up to campus for freshman orientation and the first day of school.

One day before that trip, I was probably convinced that I was the most sage 18-year-old on the planet. However, when it came time to say goodbye to my momma and face college all by my lonesome, an 18-month-old might have been more stoic. I was scared shitless. My mom, who had raised me by herself for the seven years prior, was pretty scared, too. I don't hold it against her, but she planted the seed in my head that I could come home whenever I wanted to... That she would support me if I decided that school wasn't the place for me... And so I started day one of my college career looking for an "exit strategy." It didn't take me long to put one together.

I sometimes wonder what would have been different had I stayed there.

The answer is easy... Everything.

Staying would likely mean a much different relationship with Jessie -- one way or the other. It means I would have never met Alex or Lindsay or Jonathan or the dozens of other people who were so important to me when I finally found my college home. Crazy enough, it would most certainly mean no fire department. I didn't become seriously interested in becoming a firefighter until covering them for the local paper after leaving that first school. Who knows... I might have actually gone into radio or television. With the economy and the 24-hour news cycle ruining journalism, I can't imagine how miserable I would be today.

The crazy thing about it is that even knowing that so many good things happened in my life because I bailed, I would discourage anyone in my shoes to do the same. More is learned by staying the course, I would tell them. Quitting is easy for a reason. Hopefully, they would follow my advice and learn many lessons in the process... But at what cost? That's the gamble of waking up every morning and getting out of bed. We never know where the decisions we make today will lead us.

Tags: public, wnl
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