“Getting out” provides reflection

The assignment was simple. Write an essay explaining exactly what you wanted to be when you grew up. As a junior in high school this assignment seemed juvenile, but nonetheless dictated my interest in civil engineering.

When the teacher handed the essays back, on the last page was scrawled my grade and something about applying to Georgia Tech. So on a whim I did, with every intention of attending elsewhere. A couple twists of fate later, graduation is just around the corner.

I have been lucky enough to get out in a reasonable amount of time, so I will spare you the stories of “When I was first-year ….” What I do have to face in a little under three weeks is the dreaded “real world.”

To tell the truth, it is not that scary. I know sleeping to 10 a.m. will not be much of a possibility and my parents will no longer keep me on their insurance, but growing up will come sooner or later. Hopefully, I will still be able to play Solitaire in my downtime. Since I have not commited to a job yet, all these may be a possibility still.

Ever since I’ve been in middle school, the warning of the coming real world was heard constantly, yet it’s never as bad as they make it seem. It does get tiring of hearing about how dangerous and awful the real world will be. Oh no, I have to show up to a job on time and pay taxes. Is that how society works?

While Tech may not have been where I wanted to be originally, it definitely pointed me in the direction I ought to be. Not to say I never cursed the Institute while doing those impossible projects or considered transferring. It was all part of the process and I did not enjoy the hardships, but it was what I had to do.

Along the way advice flooded in from everyone along the way. Former students, current students, and people who had never seen a college campus all gave their poetic counsel. Nine times out of ten their suggestion was wrong or misguided, but taking it all with a big grain of salt was part of the process.

My favorite piece of adivce was from my now 88-year old grandmother. A few weeks before leaving for school, my grandmother began asking me about college and then looked at me with the most serious expression and said, “Don’t you let them get you into smoking that dope.” Yeah, she watches Dr. Phil way too much. So Grandma if you’re reading this (which I doubt due to your lack of internet), I never let them get me into smoking that dope.

The rest of my family did not have such profound advice but got me through it, albeit alternative methods. My older brothers gave me plenty of grief for going to a “nerd school.” All three went to Tennessee and somehow I became the black sheep. If a scientific fact were ever used in a movie, I would usually try to explain it to the family which was always met with jeers of “Code 5 Nerd Alert.” This definitely kept me down to earth.

My parents did not care as long as I kept those student loans cheap. FYI to those students who get HOPE, all us out-of-state students despise you. Not because you get HOPE, but because some of you lose it and still get tuition for half the cost. Tech does not offer much incentive for us out-of-state students, so we get to be bitter.

Now I am at a temporary crossroads in my life, and no it is not the real world coming to haunt me. Do I continue my education or start working? It really is a hard question, but not impossible.

Not that you particularly care about my life, but continuing education is always the best option, so in my usual contradictory self I have chosen to go to work first. I am coming back for grad school though. That way I have “real world” experience.

Actually I am really looking forward to everything post-Tech. Not the kids and wife part , but more along the lines of making money, having the weekends totally free and generally doing everything that students can’t do. I will never miss finals, nights of three hours of sleep and the sometimes odd social interactions.

I will miss all of this. These friends will literally last well beyond 2008, as cliche as that sounds, because even had I not come to college, I still would have met people that I would remember for a lifetime. For those people who think college is the best years of your life, I feel sorry for you and the rest of your life. While it was not the best years of mine (I hope they are yet to come), it definitely was a highlight along the way.

For four years I’ve had all these things to say, but when it came time I was left surprisingly speechless. So thanks for staying with me this long.