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
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
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.
wonder what would have been different had I stayed there.
The answer is easy...
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
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.