In college, I used to know this guy, Larry. Larry was a pretty intelligent guy. Not the wisest of guys, but generally pretty smart.
There was one thing about Larry that I’ll never forget: he was the first professional college student I’d ever met. At 30 years old, Larry had degrees in a number of fields: chemistry, biology, mathematics, theater, history… none of which he ever really did anything with. His philosophy: “I’m learning so much stuff here. Why should I leave.” Yep, Larry was a professional college student, through and through.
Although I haven’t thought about Larry in years, something today — a certain “je ne se quoi” — got me thinking about the “good ol’ days” of working in the USF College bookstore, a calm environment where students could both study and work, and where a young college guy could meet just about every beautiful lady in his school, including the one who would later become his wife.
(For those of you who may not know, the best way to meet girls at your school is by working in the text book area of your school’s book store. That’s because whether they like it or not, students will generally visit the bookstore at least once a year, though probably more than once. This is a great way to get to know them, talk to them — even if you’re not especially attractive — and practice your people skills. Oh, and get their phone numbers.)
Anyway, I remember a conversation I once had with Larry about graduating. Although it was only my second year, I was already looking forward to graduation. Given Larry’s history, I’m not sure he was the best person to talk to about that. Still it was a chance for me to ask him why he wasn’t doing something with all that knowledge. After all, having that many degrees would mean that he’d make a lot of money, right? And if you had a chance to make a lot of money — well, wouldn’t you want to get on with your life? I mean, everybody wants to get out of college, right?
“Gnorb,” he said in a father-like fashion, “stay in school as long as you possibly can. Don’t worry about being the first to graduate, the first to get that job, or the first to do anything. Just remember to have fun, and learn about everything there is to learn, because once life gets a hold of you it’ll be almost impossible to get out of its grasp. ”
Again, I don’t know why, but something about today made me wonder why I didn’t take his advice. Why didn’t I stay in school? Why was I so hesitant about going for another degree? (Money really wasn’t a problem at that time.) Why was I so intently rushing towards “the real world?”
Although I don’t know, I have a few suspicions. Namely, I think I was excited about the concept of becoming this big, famous, and rich Linux programmer, working for the top companies, and taking the world by storm. All from my little, green cubicle.
Yeah, that’s right. I said “from my little green cubicle.”
Needless to say, that didn’t exactly work out that way. And from everything I’ve seen, I know this much: it doesn’t work out that way. Ever. (There’s a reason cubicles are also known as “Veil Fattening Farms” and not “Future Historical Figure” fields.)
It may be me looking through the rosy-tinted glasses of nostalgia, but I miss being at USF. I don’t think there’s a day that goes by when I don’t wish that I could go back to being in school. Not to say that I don’t like life now; I’m grateful for all my experiences, and my life hasn’t been at all bad. But there a lot of things I didn’t do which I now regret not having done: studying in Australia, England, and Japan, as well as further pursuing my studies in philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, and science. In other words, fueling the fires of my curiosity, apparently vis-a-vis theoretical physics.
Sure, the tests and studying weren’t all that fun, though I’ll take a study group over a staff meeting any day, but those were a small price to pay for the opportunity to challenge myself and expand my mind in ways I could have never before imagined, to seek answers to questions I never before thought of asking.
Last night, I found myself thinking about the T’ai Ch’i classes I took, and eventually helped teach (thanks, George and Jackie). About how we used to go outside of the theater building and do T’ai Ch’i as the Sun set. (Then run in before the mosquitoes ate us all alive.) About how it felt to do back-to-back sessions of T’ai Ch’i and Yoga.
Likewise today I found myself thinking about hanging out with Joey ’till the wee hours of the morning, jamming with a piano and violin, or just walking around the deserted campus, itself seemingly sleeping and waiting for the next day. (Except on weekends, when the place felt like it was constantly sleeping in, lacking that vibrancy radiated to and through the college by the studentry.) I also found myself thinking about working again at the college book store, or walking around the store between classes, grabbing a book off the shelf and reading about whatever I felt like reading that day.
I think the only thing I don’t miss, strangely enough is the music department. Not all of it, mind you; I wouldn’t mind hanging out at SYCOM and studying with Reller or Hilton J, and I wouldn’t mind taking violin lessons from Dr. Hayden again (which seems strange, given the number of fights I got in with the man, most of which were due to my immaturity). And I don’t love music any less. But the music department at USF, with all its politics and its prima donnas, is something I don’t want any more of.
“Stay in school, and learn as much as you want, because once life gets a hold of you it’s almost impossible to get out if its grasp.”
I should’ve taken that little piece of advice. Then again, there was a lot of advice I should’ve taken which I didn’t. If I had, would my life be any more fulfilling? Probably not, since fulfillment has more to do with what I do with what’s in me than what happens to me. But I may have been just a little wiser for it, as well as a little bit more knowledgeable.
But it’s alright. I’ll be back there. Someday I’ll be back. With a vengeance.