Life is all about the choices we make and where those choices lead us. I’m going to start a new blog series about my life’s choices, both good and bad, and where they have taken me. I’m calling it “That’s What I Chose.” I was just listening to an interview with Barefoot Contessa on Katie Couric’s podcast and she was asked about never having children. Barefoot (Ina Garten) simply said, “That’s what I chose.” I loved it and along with some other current things it made me want to reflect on the choices I’ve made in life.
My soon to be nephew is going through the college decision process as are the senior class of 2017 at my high school. I have told all of them, “Go with your gut. Go where you feel you can most grow in confidence and in who you are as a person.” Today’s high school students have much different admissions experiences and choices than I did back in 1995. I’ve recently been thinking about that time in my life.
It was the summer of 1994 and I was getting ready to be a senior in high school. There certainly were brief conversations about my next steps with my parents, but we were on two different pages, hence the brief discussions. My parents wanted me to attend our local community college and I ONLY would consider applying to Michigan State. You see, growing up I struggled in school, a lot, so my parents had good reason to be a bit concerned sending me off to a school of 35,000 students. I didn’t learn to read until I was in 2nd grade. I took Ritalin for ADD. My summers were spent in tutoring trying to make up for lost time with reading skills. By 6th grade I was spending three, sometimes four hours a night with my mom doing homework. In 9th grade I was diagnosed with dyslexia. So….I can see why my parents wanted me to start college slowly. But what they didn’t factor into this entire experience was, as Macho Man Randy Savage would call it, my “intestinal fortitude.” I wanted college so badly. I wanted to leave home and meet new people and experience new things so badly that I was going to make it work.
However, looking back at my high school class ring, I’m pretty sure I did not always think I’d make it to MSU. I definitely remember insisting to my parents that I wanted a class ring. My dad had one from college and I thought it was so cool, but I did not know if I would go to college. Considering the struggles I had, was college for me? Our school colors were blue and gold so everyone got fake blue gem stones in their class ring. I chose a fake emerald green gem because, what if I never got to be a Spartan? But I persisted and insisted that I was only applying to Michigan State and that is what I did. I had to get away.
In late August I sent my paper application in the mail to MSU. September 22, 1994 I received a letter in the mail congratulating me on being accepted into the class of 1999. I was going to be a SPARTAN!!! Before this happened, my parents would say, “We’ll buy you a car if you stay home for two years and go to KVCC.” Or, as worried and sensible parents would say, “What if you don’t get in?” My response to that, “I’ll figure that out later.” Luckily for me, I didn’t have to worry because I would be a Spartan!
Sophomore year at Michigan State I moved to a new dorm. Early in the semester I saw a guy carrying his Entertainment Weekly Magazine into the bathroom. I thought, “I get Entertainment Weekly too. There is someone LIKE ME here.” Cary and I quickly became friends and after 21 years he’s still one of my best. I knew that going away to college would be life changing and it was. Cary and I would make mixed tapes and endlessly talk about his love of Mariah and my love of Whitney and who was better (Whitney). 🙂 I met so many other people too at MSU who have shaped who I am as a person and who have supported me all through this wonderful life.
I had to go against my best advisors, my parents, and make a choice for myself. We all can look back now and realize the magnitude of my choice and its importance. I wouldn’t be the person I am today had I stayed at home. For so many personal reasons, leaving and getting out on my own shaped me and allowed me the space to mature and grow and meet people who would help me become the man I am today. I left home with so many hopes and maybe a few fears, but my desire to grow out weighed it all. It’s ok to not listen to our parents always, at least for me, one of my most defining choices was counter to my parents’ wishes. They’re ok with it now–whew it all worked out! Oh and they bought me a car anyway, so there’s that too. Thanks Mom and Dad. I love you!
So there you have it, a new blog series “That’s What I Chose”. I look forward to some of these topics: That One Last Drink, Wilmette, the high school swim team, study abroad in Australia, relationships, and much much more.