I blew an academic scholarship from Rutgers when I was 18 due to…basically acting 18. In retrospect, I don’t see how anyone does anything responsibly at age 18. Eighteen year old humans shouldn’t be considered adults. I documented my issues in Houston in earlier blogs, but there was no way I would be able to take classes out there either. When I joined the military, I figured I’d be able to just skate through school while being a 24 year old moron instead of an 18 year old moron. The result? I failed my first five fucking classes. Whether it was because changing my work shift threw off my routine too much or because I thought having a five page paper in Week 1 was unreasonable, I always found a way to justify giving up. Always had some funny story about how school was getting in the way of more important things like having fun. I never let anyone know how deeply those grades affected me. I had made my entire reputation from being smart, and based on everything on paper, I was an idiot. My combined GPA up to that point was a solid .6 or something. What if I was actually stupid? Or just destined to be average? It was a legitimate existential crisis. My already fragile confidence completely cratered. I didn’t (and still don’t) enjoy what I’m doing in the military, but what other option did I have?
Well, I’m 29 now, and I got my bachelor’s degree last Saturday. You know what I realized? Graduating had very, very little to do with my natural intelligence. Many people say that plenty of dumb people exist with college degrees, and they’re absolutely right. Almost anyone can follow rubrics to the letter and look up sources or Wiki to write a paper about something. But those “dumb” people had the resolve, work ethic, time management skills and made the sacrifices that were necessary to get through 40 classes (120 credits) of whatever their major was, and the older I get, the more I realize how much more important those qualities are for success than being born with a high IQ. I didn’t have some magical moment one morning where everything came together and I turned into some kind of genius. Really, no kind of success works that way. It was gradual. It was difficult. I had classes where between my long commute, work, and class, I was gone from 5:30am-11:00pm. Accounting almost made jump through a window. It made me grow up. It made me truly commit. It forced me to be consistent. And it was the best thing to ever happen to me.
I also realized that my earlier struggles with school in my were a symptom of a larger issue that I had. I was terrified of failing at something that I actually tried to achieve. I bailed on everything (and everyone) the moment it wasn’t 100% easy or convenient. That went for writing, school, basketball, weight lifting, relationships, the whole works. If I just dropped it (or her), I always had the safety net of saying that I could do it if I really tried. In short, I was a coward, and it’s really easy to be a coward when your support system doesn’t call you a coward. Cowardice is like smoking in that it doesn’t bulldoze you as much as it gradually erodes you. You push back your goals until tomorrow and your tomorrows become next week and your next weeks become your New Year’s Resolution and you look up one day in your mid-30s and realize that you haven’t done anything outside of exist and you wonder where all the time went. I was well on my way there. And then I wasn’t.
(Personal aside: I say really nice things about my wife in this blog often (because she’s pregnant and I don’t want her to kill me), but I seriously could not have done this without her. She always knew when to prod and when to let me relax and which buttons to push and I keep thinking that I’ll run out of ways to say that she’s my everything but I keep inventing new ones because holy shit is she amazing. Also, this is my first post in several weeks. My capstone course was really difficult. Forgive me. I’ll be writing consistently again. Oh yeah, remember that .6 GPA that I referred to earlier? I ended with a 3.482. Am I happy about that? No. I wanted a 3.5.)