My Afternoon in College

Filed under : General Stories

Story 103 of 365

Est. Reading Time 6 minutes

I’ve always been amused with the phrase “giving it the ol’ college try”. I don’t even really know what it means, or if a “college try” is an actual thing. I’ve always taken it to mean “try your best and don’t worry too much”, but I’m probably wrong. If it’s specific to the person, as in “treat this as you did with your days in college”, then anyone giving me that advice is fucked. My “college try” would last 3 hours before I walked away and never tried it again. That was my college experience.

The year would’ve been 1998. My mom and my step-dad had already moved to Colorado and were still getting their house built, apparently living in a trailer on their property while the house came together. I was working at the shitty local paper job and getting burned out on that, but I stuck with it cause that’s what adults do (I’ve heard). My mom wanted to see me go to college and get a degree in Graphic Design, or perhaps something related to it. I didn’t have much of an opinion on the matter, but college sounded fun and figured it would only help, not hinder, my future progress.

Looking for the right college was pretty much a crapshoot. As was picking my major. I’ve put more time into deciding which tie/pocket square combo to use before going out on the town than I put into either of my college decisions, combined. It’s not like I had a lot of options, though. I had never intended to go to college, so — unlike seemingly everyone else in my Senior year — I spent exactly zero time thinking about college, or sending off admissions letters 1or whatever the fuck it’s called when you send a letter to a college asking them to let you go there. I’m barely even explaining that ...continue, or scouting out college options, or considering my student financing options. By the time I acquiesced to my mother’s hopes of getting me into college, my options were either a Community College, or — my preferred pick — the Art Institute of Phoenix. It seemed like a nice school, I knew a few people who would be going there, and they had a pretty impressive computer lab. Amongst the majors they offered 2once again, pretty sure I’m not saying that right were quite a few artsy-computer-related things. Sure, I could just pick Graphic Design and call it a day, but I already hated what little I’d seen of actually being a Graphic Designer. That’s not the life I wanted. Scanning through the booklet, one stood out : Multimedia. At the time, things like interactive CD-ROMs seemed like they were part of the future of entertainment and advertising. I’d played around with Macromedia Director 3Director was the Flash of its time, but it was strictly for desktop use, not yet on the web while in high school, and it was a lot of fun. This course was aiming to turn me into a Director expert, and I’d be able to Interactive CD-ROM my ass off. The final project (or whatever the fuck you call “the big thing you do at the end of your schooling that shows you learned some shit, and your grade is heavily – if not entirely – based upon completion thereof”) was, in fact, to make an interactive CD-ROM.

Yeah, sign me up for that!

I went in for orientation, where I learned about and toured the campus, met my teachers (or… instructors? professors? yeah, professors I think), met some of my fellow classmates, and got a rundown on the whole shebang. It’s weird when you’re young and time feels much slower. They told me it was an 18 month course and I remember saying to my mom “jesus, 18 months?!?”. That seemed like a fucking eternity when I was 19. Meanwhile, now at 36, 18 months ago may as well have been last month. 18 months ago I was getting ready to move into the house I now live in — and we still haven’t quite finished setting up this place. Hell, my podcast Straight Riffin ran for over 2 years and it feels like that was a brief flash in the pan. That said, everything seems daunting when you’re looking down the road, miles away. If you told me I’d need to spend 19 years of my life making websites, designing interfaces, programming backend APIs, and more just to get where I am today — I’d have told you to go fuck yourself. But, looking back, I’m proud of the years I’ve spent honing my craft and my wealth of knowledge about web-based technologies is so vast, I can genuinely charge people just to talk to me about it, and I have clients that I made simply by being able to solve some seemingly-huge problem of theirs in a matter of minutes. My point is : keep your fuckin’ head down, and just keep moving. The road is the destination.

Naturally, I didn’t know, or care, about any of that back then. I started school on October 2, 1998. I looked at a calendar and marked off “graduate!” on the day they said would be my final day. It wasn’t unlike a prisoner’s mindset. I went to my first class, something about the theory of multimedia interaction, and neglected to make a single note. As I sat in on my second class, one of the administrator’s pulled me out of class. He said we needed to talk about my financial options. I was confused, because my mom made it sound like she had this handled. She had nearly perfect credit, and was co-signing on my federal student loan. As it turned out, all of her credit lines were tied up in getting her house built. I’ve talked to people about this over the years and been told “it doesn’t really work like that” in regards to a few different loans that I may have been trying to utilize. I simply don’t know, and didn’t care at all at the time, about the specifics. All I know was they told me I didn’t have the funding I thought I had, and they sent me home with a pile of packets and brochures that would explain my options. I threw those into the first trashbin I found as soon as I walked out the door.

I was free. My 18-month plan was wide open now. I could do anything. I didn’t do much of anything, but I could have is my point. In lieu of schooling, I taught myself. And, I didn’t focus on multimedia — which, it turned out, would’ve been a waste of an education. 18 months later would’ve put me in the middle of the first internet tech bubble and no one gave a hot shit about CD-ROMs or interactive multimedia presentations.

I did learn something in my 3 hours of college, and it’s something I’ll impart to you :

Life isn’t a series of checkboxes, and nothing is mandatory except death. Having no idea what you’re going to do with your life will keep you hungry, and keep you moving, and it should be celebrated — not stressed over. I still have no fucking clue what I wanna be when I grow up, and any guesses I might make on what it should be, or could be, are almost certainly going to be wrong. But, you know what? That’s okay. 18 months from now, I might be sitting in this exact spot wistfully remembering that time I decided to try and write 365 days’ worth of stories, or I might be headlining at a club in another state, or I might be dead. All I know for certain is I still won’t regret not going to college.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. or whatever the fuck it’s called when you send a letter to a college asking them to let you go there. I’m barely even explaining that correctly
2. once again, pretty sure I’m not saying that right
3. Director was the Flash of its time, but it was strictly for desktop use, not yet on the web