Bang The Drum Slowly

I remember looking in the mirror and saying to myself, “what the hell are you doing with yourself”?

It was 2008, I was 18.  Walking the main hallway of my high school was always so depressing. Passing by my guidance counselor who always gave me such a menacing look of disgust. My principal was such a lovable guy but had lost all faith in me. I was the perfect example of a teenage dirtbag baby, minus the Iron Maiden.

I can remember in that same hallway looking at the senior class “big board”; a board plastered with everyone’s name and the schools that they were going to following graduation.  You want know what it said on mine? Community College. Talk about setting the bar low for yourself.

Truly, I didn’t think I had college in me, and certainly, my father didn’t exactly believe in me academically. He really pushed my brother to apply for all these schools, as for me? I think he was in denial. Looking back it’s easy to see why he thought that. I didn’t exactly believe in myself, why should anyone else?

They say your high school years will follow you for the rest of your life. Whenever you cross someone that you went to high school with they’ll always remember you as you were. I never believed in that; didn’t really care either. I marched to the beat of my own drum, a very slow beat at that. I was a massive jock in high school and also a big-time pot head-stoner. I showed up late to school almost every day with a strong aroma of weed permeating around me wherever I went. I could easily have drawn comparisons to the Pig-Pen character from the Peanuts cartoon series, in that wherever I went a cloud followed me.

I can’t say that I knew what the purpose of getting blitzed out of my mind at 7 am really did for me other than make me feel like I wasn’t there.

Oddly enough, my senior year, my highest grade was that first-period class. I was normally a straight C student, but in Anatomy and Physiology, completely stoned out of my mind, I got an A.

I was a standout baseball player and a multi-sport athlete. Surely a school would come to me with some sort of late scholarship offer, which was just like my style back then; late notice. Being a multi-sport athlete, you’d think I was some big jock back then and while my exterior might’ve shown exactly that, on the inside, I was screaming.

I received a late, late, late offer, and my dad forced me out the door with my bags packed. I ended up going the college route, but some kids just aren’t meant to live on their own at 18.

That was me.

Needless to say, initially it didn’t work out. After blowing out my elbow over the winter before the college baseball season began, I just stopped going to classes. I left school before I could have the distinct honor of being “flunked out”.

I ended up going here and there, skipping around local community colleges, spending my weekends doing the college tour, visiting friends at all their schools, and partying with them.

I had a full-time job that paid somewhat decent money, but still, I had some lingering issues and resentment towards a lot of things. It was so bad at one point, I had been sent to gamblers addiction therapy by my place of work because I was caught calling a bookie in the bathroom at 9 a.m. I’d waste my paychecks over the weekend at casinos or the strip club. I was at the bar from happy hour until close almost every day.

Nothing could’ve stopped the path I was on. Until one day that all changed; all my friends graduated.

The partying stopped; the weekend benders were no longer a thing. All my friends started finding full-time careers while I was still just a waste case trying to prolong my teen years for as long as I could withstand.

Now what?

This one time I remember getting high in a movie theater with a kid I barely knew, I went to go use the bathroom and it just struck a nerve. I remember looking at myself in the mirror just thinking internally, “what the hell are you doing with your life?”

I had no answer, nearly wept to tears at that very moment. I’ll never forget it.

Didn’t even tell the kid I was leaving, no text, no goodbye, nothing. I just left. Walked out of the movies into my beat-up Scion TC and drove off. Of course, I was still stoned so naturally, I stalled ( I drove a stick shift) a few times as I exited the parking lot.

I promised myself at that very instance I was going to going to do something with my life. Not always known back then as being a stand-up guy, it was hard to hold myself accountable for my actions or lack thereof. A month or so later, I walked my lazy, no direction, low-life self into a military recruiting office, and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

Now, while the military presented its own challenges and placed me in situations where it will affect my mental health for some time to come if I could go back right now I would.

At 31, I’m preparing for this college saga to finally end. It took me eight years year in total to do four years of college, clearly I drew some inspiration from the movie Van Wilder.

My college journey started at 18, I was just a kid with no purpose or direction. Bouncing from this school to that school, transferring here, taking a year off, ultimately joining the military, and now I can say I think I’ve finally made it.

I’ll be graduating with a 3.80-ish grade point average, and I think I epitomize the phrase, “If I can do it, anyone can”.

However, If I could talk to my younger self right now, I wouldn’t tell him to change a thing, and as weird as that sounds, it’s true. It was an unorthodox journey that just needed to happen. If you try and tell me there is beauty in the process on the path to success, I’ll probably just laugh in your face.

Nothing about my journey was beautiful. I followed my own beaten path, banged my own drum, and I made it here.

Took me a while, but whoever said the path was a straight line.