Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Defining Moments

There are some things that stay with you forever. Be it a life lesson, something someone said when you were actually open to hearing it, or even something you can't make sense of until years later after life changed your perspective. Its not quite a burden nor a chip on your shoulder, but more like a impression. Its one of the few defining moments in your life that made all the difference in who you are, and where you are today.

For myself, one of those moments happened in the spring of my junior year of high school. I had just transferred to Western High and was playing JV baseball -- so my Friday nights were spent sitting in the stands of the varsity games. I remember being at Brookhurst Park, and my assistant principal stopped by to watch the game for a bit. We started talking about sports and how he played basketball at Chapman University. He was telling what his recruiting process was like and what happened when the coach that recruited him left -- we had just lost our varsity and JV coaches, and he wanted to make sure I was going to be in my teammates ears about staying on the team so the program wouldn't end while they were finding a replacement.

I remember Chris Jackson was at the plate when we started the conversation, and I think he popped out to left for the 3rd out when Mr. Brennan asked me, "whats your plan after high school?"

I really didn't know. At the time the only thing I really wanted to do was play baseball and with as much time as I spent on the bench I didn't think I was good enough to play at the next level. College, I could take it or leave it; it was so expensive and I was scared to commit myself to something I couldn't see myself being able to afford paying back. I was always taught to live within my means, and college wasn't affordable unless I went the community college route but even then I would need to find a job to pay for tuition. 

Statistically, the odds were against me either way. I was a first generation college student, as well as part of an under represented minority group which at the time I had no idea how those factors could ultimately inhibit my potential for success. But that's all hindsight.

He interrupted my train of though by clarifying his question.
"Have you picked which universities you're going to apply to?" 
Thats a huge question when your school attracted more military recruiters than admissions counselors from universities. That's when I told him I wasn't sure about going to a university, and basically spilled my guts about everything that factored into that perspective. As I was rambling on trying to explain my reasoning, Mr. Brennan interrupted me with two simple questions.
"Do you plan to have a house, and a mortgage payment?"
"Do you plan to have a car, and a car payment?"
"Then why not make the best investment you can make in yourself, and have an education payment, too?"
I remember watching Matt Ward make a sliding catch behind first base to end the game. More importantly I remember feeling a sense of empowerment. It was almost a feeling of entitlement; an opportunity I owed myself after what I had accomplished in high school. That was the first time I truly felt that I deserved to be amongst the brightest students in the state in pursuit of a degree from a prestigious university. I had a bad habit of down playing my academic achievements because that path didn't seem financially feasible to me -- I'm just glad I was smart enough to know I was wrong. Thank you Mr. Brennan.

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