Monday, August 24, 2015
It’s the #FirstDayofSchool and I can’t help but relish in the possibility that immediately ensues with showing up on that first day. Showing up with your best foot forward, showing up with the excitement and anticipation that comes with a new chapter, or a new challenge is at the very core of living.
I still remember the packets for small liberal arts colleges and distinguished state universities that began arriving in droves during my junior year of high school. It was my first experience with junk mail, and my 16-year old, independent self was enamored with the glossy aspirations. A dream world was being sent to me with a folder of fun facts, potential degree plans, and only an application was in the way of making this a reality.
After meeting with the college counselor at my high school, she toned down my ambitious plans, citing my top choice university as a “reach” at best. And with that, I applied to safety schools.
My friends began receiving acceptance letters during senior year, and I slowly began to worry. Our grades and test scores were nearly identical, but for some reason the big, dream-laded envelope of acceptance never came.
It was like preparing for a marathon and then standing on the sidelines, while your friends ran past you, disappearing over the horizon.
Each and every one of my classmates went to college, and most people went to prestigious universities or competitive liberal arts colleges. There was a poster prominently placed in the hall of what institutions my class was headed for after graduation. I penciled in Austin Community College at the top of the alphabetical list with prideful irony.
I may not be going to Harvard, but I will be showing up somewhere.
In an effort to make lemonade with these souring college lemons, I stepped on to the campus of Austin Community College with no expectations and a tinge of defeat as I surveyed my college campus. While there wasn’t a plethora of student organizations, back-to-school parties, or a recreation center, there was a spirit of opportunity and it humbled me to realize the value of education I had always taken for granted.
People were spending their entire paycheck to further their education, starting over at 65, or finally writing that screenplay, and the sense of community permeated the outdated building. People were showing up to make the most of their life, not harboring resentment because a hurdle was thrown on to the track at the last minute.
Classes at ACC were straightforward, the parking was horrendous, but the people were incredible. Over the semester, I became familiar with following the price of gold from a war veteran, how to handle depression from a deeply depressed Psychology professor, and that if you just show up, everything will be OK.
After my first semester in community college, I seamlessly transferred to a state university, and after a few more transfers I graduated from my original first choice University, a “reach” at best. Show up and amazing things happen, because any day can be the First Day of something great.