I’ve made a few questionable life choices in regards to my secondary education. If you’ve been following me for long, you’ve read about a few of them. But I’m going back to school, and I’m aiming high; I’m going to try and earn my Master’s degree before I turn forty. That gives me six years, which I’m sure sounds like an amply span of time, but I’ve got a career and a family and countless other distractions which siphon off my time like a gas thief in the parking lot. However, I’ve taken the first step, and The University of Colorado has accepted my application into their undergraduate program. And as luck would have it, the essay portion of the application process carried with it a good deal of weight. Here’s what I submitted:
I went to college right out of high school because that’s what I was supposed to do. My friends were doing it; my parents insisted that I do it. If I agreed, I could maintain the status quo. I could carry on with the four year party that had been my life up to that point. And besides, the solidarity of an independent life scared me, as did the prospect of working for a living. My grades had been on a steady decline because I had other… interests, and one last hurrah sounded awesome. So I filled out my applications and waited. College wasn’t something I needed, but the experience was something I wanted. My acceptance letter to the University of Oregon arrived and the excitement began to boil. I had heard great things about Eugene (at the time, Playboy rated it in the top five party towns nationwide) and fall couldn’t come soon enough.
My dad dropped me off at the airport. I was seventeen and carried with me everything I thought I’d need for my freshman year. I had clothes and a credit card and a pocket full of cash. The flight from Alaska to Oregon is a blur. So is the taxi ride to campus. But I remember getting out of that taxi and standing in front of my dorm. The lawns were lush and the trees were green. It was a verdant paradise. My nose, accustomed to the sterile smells of an arctic desert, was assaulted by the floral smells of the “lower forty-eight.” There were teens everywhere, running, playing, laughing; it looked like the opening credits in a “coming of age” college movie. I dropped my bags and smiled. A smorgasbord of sin stretched out in front of me like that scene in Pinocchio before all the bad kids turned into jackasses. I laughed. I was in heaven.
It took me less than an hour to find my dorm and move in. I needed to buy books and memorize my schedule, but that could wait. I hadn’t enrolled in college to attend college. I ran out on to the quad looking for a good time. I needed a stimulus; I needed new friends. And I’ll be damned if that old adage isn’t one hundred percent true: birds of a feather flock together. I had a click of three or four other freshmen by day’s end who were looking for the same thing, and that thing had nothing to do with academics.
That’s pretty much how my freshman year went. I bounced from stimulus to stimulus like a drug addled pinball and did the bare minimum needed to keep my parents from sending in a rescue team to pull me out. When I left in the spring, I didn’t have much of an education, but I had a few stories that were almost too crazy to believe. I hadn’t yet declared a major, but I hadn’t gone to jail either. In truth, I came closer to the latter.
I came home, my parents saw my freshman transcript, and they pulled the plug; my brief foray into schooling out of state was slapped with a “do not resuscitate order.” I enrolled at the University of Alaska where I managed to extend the party of my adolescence by two years. But nothing changed. And eventually, reality teamed up with necessity, and it all came crashing down. I met the woman who’s now my wife, and our first child snuck up on us. I grew up. It was time. I got a job and a car and a mortgage all within three months. I started working like a slave to chase that dollar, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. We have two daughters now, and we’re proud Colorado residents. My wages have been on the incline because my family has been my only interest. But I don’t love what I do. This job has its perks, but that’s all it is; a job. I need a change. I’ve come to the point in my life wherein hindsight sharpens and my regrets start to look fixable.
It took me thirty years to answer the question I’ve been asking my daughters as of late: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Well, I want to be a writer, so, I started writing. I’ve self-published two books, both of which have done better than expected, and a third is on the way. I’ve had short stories published by professional and paying markets, and the local newspaper accepts my submissions regularly. I have a blog with a good deal of international subscribers, and I even have a few readers who describe themselves as “fans.” But I don’t have an education, nor do I have the degree that’ll force editors to take me seriously, and that’s why I’m applying to The University of Colorado at Denver. I plan to earn my four year degree through your school, if you’ll have me, and then apply to the MFA program at the University of Texas. I need to do this online because I have a career and a family and all the other things in life that consume my daylight hours. This is my only avenue.
So I’m getting it together, and applying. I’ve submitted requests for transcripts and test scores, and they should all be into your admissions office by the time you read this essay. It made me feel a bit old to find out that my SAT scores were archived on microfiche, but it’s better late than never, and I’m freakishly excited to finally start my education in earnest. Because now, this isn’t an experience that I want; college, this education, is something that I need.