Unbeknownst to me, my first week in college I discovered that I was a “redneck”, which I’d heard so much about on TV and even joked about as a kid. My overinflated idea of who I thought I was in the tiny hamlet I’d been raised in came crumbling down, the first, second, third…time someone asked me, “where is that you’re from again?”
At the University of Oregon, I was surrounded by sons and daughters of doctors, lawyers and Vice Presidents, not a lot of paper-maker progeny to commiserate with. This was my first real taste of humble pie, and I didn’t much care for the taste of it, though now I thank God for that experience.
Having never really studied in high school, without a thought I chose to take a very robust course load, that I didn’t think would be dampened by my 13,000 yard/day swim team workout schedule. The first term, my old strategy of glancing at my notes or textbook whilst galavanting to class, failed me miserably!
“Umm…perhaps I’m gonna have to change my study habits, and this workout schedule is a bit taxing….”
I looked around and noticed all these smart rich kids kicking my ass, and discovered that I had no real internal confidence. I was only as good as my last test score or victory in the pool, and neither of those was providing me with the “buzz” I had become so accustomed to. All of this thankfully led to my first true existential crisis, or my first hint of a true ego fracture.
I remember hiding under a stairwell and bawling uncontrollably to my mom, while grasping onto a pay-phone receiver that was buckling under the stress of my attempts to turn away from any classmates that might happen by. Though my mom had pushed me quite intensely, to excel in so many endeavors growing up, she saved me that day. I wanted her to tell me it was ok to quit, that I had done the best I could and that it was understandable. She, for whatever reason, was unusually calm and sagacious that day, and didn’t give into my egocentric whinings. My mom would not let me “sleep”!
As I think back on that experience, which at the time I thought was the end for me, though I had been through so many trials before, it was actually just the beginning.