Part 2 – This is the second writing in a multi-part series in which I describe my hectic experience in learning responsibility, humility, and maturity, all while going to college and learning more about myself along the way. This part consists of my enrolling in college, discovering my passion for debate, and my failure to thrive during my first year and a half of college.
An excerpt from Part 1 to provide continuity:
“We put out a Facebook post asking if anyone knew of any houses for rent. Within 2 days, we had a reply. One of my friend’s relatives needed some roommates, and would help us get jobs where he worked. While we were considering whether or not we should move, that same day we also got a letter saying that we had
been accepted at ICC. The odds were astronomical! We quickly decided that we would move into an apartment in Independence, and start working towards a degree. Once again, I packed my things and headed out towards a new destination. Except this time, I was going to work hard, and really make something better for myself.”
Tyler, my best friend, and I had the tremendous fortune to have a friend who knew of some people looking for roommates. They already lived in the same town as the college we were accepted at, and some of their then-current roommates were moving out. It was the perfect situation, as if somehow the universe wanted this for us. The guy who organized the payment of bills and pretty much ran the household also happened to be our friend’s brother. He was able to get us both a job at Braums, a restaurant where he worked. Within a matter of weeks, we had a home, a job, and a dream of a better future. That dream, however, was only going to come about by passing my classes, and I didn’t want a repeat of high school. So, Tyler and I went to the college to enroll.
“I remember the drive to the college, us talking quickly and excitedly about what degrees we would try for and what classes we were going to take. “
Enrolling in college is something of an ideal moment for the up-and-coming young adult seeking to become a professional. The only access I thought I’d ever have to a college would be through the TV screen, watching others live out that stereotypical “college fantasy” where they party, play football and pass classes easily. Of course, this remains a “fantasy” for most students, as the reality is much more harsh. I really carried no strong idea of what college had in store for me, I just knew I had to go if I wanted to do something more with my life. No one in my family had gone to college, and that meant extra pressure I put on myself hoping to do very well. I remember the drive to the college, us talking quickly and excitedly about what degrees we would try for and what classes we were going to take. The hope and faith we had in our own potential came so easily and naturally that this sense of empowerment took over us.
I had been spending a lot of time listening to Ravvi Zacharias and John Lennox, two apologists I aspire to be like, and asked if there was a debate team or other programs that I could participate in. To my avail, a new professor was coming, with him a new organization: the debate team. I had always wanted to be in one throughout high school but forensics was our only option, so I didn’t take part. At ICC, I was handed contact information for the new professor and told to inquire. That afternoon Tyler and I went to go start our first day at Braums.
“Looking back, it wasn’t very professional of me to meet him dressed in my work uniform, but then again I wasn’t really knowledgeable of what “professional” actually meant back then either.”
Braums is kind of a high-end fast food store (if such a thing really exists) and growing up poor I had only been inside one only a time or two when I was too young to really remember much. I didn’t really know too much about it or what the food was like, I just knew that they served ice cream. Well, when we arrived we were sat at a table in the lobby and brought a stack of papers to fill out. As we sat, we joked about answers we could write on our applications, what kind of people we could end up working with, and what each other would look like in the uniforms. Tyler was done with his paperwork before I did and was taken away to get his uniform. Time passed by as I tried to finish my paperwork, when I heard a, “Psst! Yo, Brad!” I look up to see Tyler wearing a pink hat and burgundy apron, what we apparently all would be wearing, and he says, “You remember that slug lady off of Monsters Inc.?” I stared at him confused, as he had asked me this repeatedly looking to his left. After a while, I finally said, “Roz?” He looked left one last time and ran the other way. A woman who worked there came running after him shaking her fist saying, “Imma whoop your ass!” with a voice that sounded exactly like Roz, the slug lady, from Monsters Inc. Ironically, her name was Roz. I knew from that very moment I was going to enjoy working there.
I contacted the professor, and agreed to meet up at Braums to discuss the debate team. Tyler and I were on our lunch break at the time. Looking back, it wasn’t very professional of me to meet him dressed in my work uniform, but then again I wasn’t really knowledgeable of what “professional” actually meant back then either. A man walked in the room and somehow I knew it was him. Tyler looked at me and said, “Bet you ten bucks that’s him.” The man pulled out his phone and called someone, then my phone started ringing. We made eye contact, smiled, and shook hands. He and I walked to a different table and began talking. He told me he was from Nigeria, recently graduated, and wanted to build a debate team at ICC. I could see he had a vibrancy about him and a passionate drive for success that made me feel excited to work with him. His name was Konye Ori. I told him why I wanted to be on a debate team: to learn how to speak publicly, to learn how to be understandable, and to be able to one day carry on debates like Ravvi Zacharias does. He told me that the debate team was for people like me, and that he was happy to have me aboard. After he left I began thinking about all the things I was hoping to do in college. I was filled with excitement and confidence that I’d never felt so strongly before.
“There had been a report that two men were out in the parking lot angry and possibly fighting.”
Our first day of classes came, and right off the bat we had issues. I got out of the shower and realized the time was getting close for our class to start. I hear Tyler downstairs cussing up a storm. I run down and see he’s in his truck, and it won’t start. At this point, we can’t walk because of the distance. We can’t ask anyone to come get us because we don’t know anybody, and the only person we do know, wouldn’t be leaving until later in the day anyways. We were going to miss our first class. Panic and anguish took over us as we realized that things were already going south. Tyler threw a bucket out of his truck against the ground out of anger. Who could blame him? The first day of really trying to do something worthwhile and everything seems to be working against you. On top of all this, the cops showed up. There had been a report that two men were out in the parking lot angry and possibly fighting. Of course, that lasted a while as they questioned us, making sure that we weren’t fighting. They finally left, but we realized that our class was about to start. Too perfectly timed to be coincidence, we had been mistaken about what time our only friend who would be driving through and were fortunate enough to catch a ride, just barely showing up late to our first class.
School was amazing! I got to wake up a whole hour later then when I had to wake up for high school, I had infinite access to coffee, I had classes I loved to be in, and I had the most helpful and encouraging people teaching me. It was an uplifting experience. I remember seeing Tyler walking down the hall. He was so enveloped in his school life. When I’d see him walking down the halls, he was always carrying a stack of papers and books in one hand, and a coffee cup in the other, speedily walking to his next destination. We were busy, but happy.
The story doesn’t end there, sadly. Inevitably, things started falling apart at home. Differences in opinion, lack of money to pay bills, and a spur of strong dislike quickly divided the household. With no other option available at the time, we had to move back to Neodesha. Moving back was a problem in several ways. Of course we were farther, but we also no longer had jobs. This meant, eventually, we also wouldn’t have any gas money, which in turn kept us from being able to make it our classes. Independence was twenty to thirty minutes away from us and we just couldn’t get a ride. Occasionally, someone from the debate team would go out of their way to get me, and I was able to get to class enough to make a presence. It was enough to compete, but because of the ride situation I was never able to stay and use the computers to do my homework or to ask my professors questions outside of class. I passed few classes and failed many others. I began to heavily doubt my capabilities and started feeling depressed again. Enrolling in the next semester, hoping somehow things would change, I learned that taking classes again would replace the old grades.
Alas, the situation hadn’t changed, and I did horribly that semester as well. The summer came and I tried to get a job or find a place but everything was fruitless (as is too often the story for many people who live in small communities.) I was enrolled in classes for the Fall semester, so I needed to do something. Eventually, towards the latter part of summer, I had a small breakthrough. I had gotten a job at the local grocery store.
Have you ever worked at a grocery store? One of the tasks they assign is to “face” the store, or simply put, go around and make sure the place looks like it’s been organized by someone with OCD. If you’ve ever worked at a grocery store, you know what it’s like to walk into any other store and immediately start fixing the produce on the shelves. It becomes a part of your shopping experience, annoyingly.
“A lady in front of me turned around and asked me what was wrong. To this day, I don’t know what compelled me to tell her but I just unloaded.”
So, I’ve got a job and classes are starting, except…I still can’t find a ride. Tyler had moved back home and was driving (the hour long drive) to get to class but his route didn’t pass through where I lived. Depression was running rampant with me. I had been feeling useless (like I couldn’t do anything right) and that maybe I wasn’t supposed to keep trying. Hopelessness affected me so strongly that I began to wear my disappointment like a dirty, ripped up shirt that I didn’t really want to wear but it was the only one I had left. One day, I was at the grocery store I worked at. I was picking up something to drink and as I was standing in line to pay, the thought of not finishing college really got to me. Tears started to fill my eyes as I began to understand that I may never do anything with my life. Tears turned into waterfalls, and I began crying. A lady in front of me turned around and asked me what was wrong. To this day, I don’t know what compelled me to tell her but I just unloaded. I told her how I just wanted to make something out of my life, go to college, and be happy. I told her about the situation that caused me to not be able to ever make it to my classes, and how I didn’t have anyone to help me. She just listened, patiently, and let me unload. After I was finally done, she told me that her name was Amanda Redington and that her son was going to the same college. He was a baseball player. I couldn’t believe what she said next. She told me that she believed in me, what I wanted to do, and that she wanted that opportunity for me. She gave me her contact information, told me she would help me gather my things, and get me moved into the dorms at the college. You can’t imagine the excitement I felt, wiping all my tears away knowing I didn’t need to cry anymore. I mean, we were already a few months into the semester, but getting moved into the dorms on campus would be the first step in making sure I could be in my classes, and start working towards a degree.
True to her word, Amanda came and helped me move into the dorms. She even made sure I got my things into the room and helped me find out how I was going to pay for it all before she left. I still had a few months left of that semester, and I was going to do what I could to make sure I succeeded.