The Cast: Dave (dream-maker), Myself (finally made it).
“Do you wanna job?”
These were the words that I wanted to hear—but wasn’t expecting, and then say—but sort of didn’t. I thought it was just one of those friendly get-togethers, not a job interview. Can’t a person just have a pleasant conversation without being offered a job? (that’s a joke people) Like so many things I have said before, this will require some context.
Today is the first day of classes at the university I occasionally teach at. Wow, after reading that last line, it sounds like it’s just one of multiple universities I teach at. “Oh, look at me. I’m special. I teach. Blah, blah, blah.” (yeah, I’m mocking myself. so?) It’s not. I teach at just one. And I’m not even full time. I’m an adjunct. I’m more like Indiana Jones, “I’m a teacher. Part-time.” But, while he is one of my favorite people (I know what I wrote), he’s still way cooler than me. See, every few semesters, my local university—my alma mater—asks me to teach one class for them. And I always say, “Yes.”
As a kid, it seemed to me that everyone who went to college knew what they wanted to be. Because, when you are a kid, everyone is always asking you that same stupid question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And if you’re lucky they only mock you in that way that you don’t know if they’re actually mocking you. That whole, “Aww, how cute.” response, or some other such tripe. If you’re not lucky, they laugh in your face. That laugh that carries with it the unmistakable subtext of, “Well, you’re a special kind of stupid aren’t you? Yes, you are.” I always hated that. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t like telling people what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Right, so like I was saying, I used to think that people at college all knew what they wanted already. I didn’t realize it could be more complicated than that. If you didn’t know that, yeah, it can. Sadly.
I had spent about 10 years after high school drifting from job to job. I was hoping to just ‘fall into’ a great job, have the employer realize how awesome I am, get a promotion, make a good living, have an easy life. And while that does happen for some, it wasn’t happening for me. In fact, I remember the Father’s Day where I was once again without work. I was at almost rock bottom. My wife suggested I try college. However, I had nothing I wanted to study. I only had one academic interest: Art.
My household growing up was very artistic-encouraging. Creativity was a positive force in my home. Sadly, I was not good enough to make it professionally, and I knew it.
Real quick side note here, sorry, this is not an attempt to make you feel pity for me and build me up. I am stating fact—not lack of ego or self-esteem. I was artistically inclined, just not good enough to make it professionally on my artistic skills.
As we perused the course catalogue, my wife came across something called Graphic Design. What the heck is graphic design? I had never heard of it. Neither had she. But it was in the Art Department. So-o maybe…? Why not give it a try.
So I did. I picked what I thought would be the worst class/topic for graphic design. I figured if I could enjoy the worst, then I would love the rest. I was part right, and part wrong. I was right in that I did enjoy studying graphic design. I was wrong about the ‘worst topic’ thing. The class had been a typography class (that’s the study of type and type systems—basically), and I had really, really enjoyed what I learned.
During my education, the professor over the Graphic Design program changed, and us typographic-nerds got Dave. Dave was awesome. There was a different energy about the new guy. He came at a good time for my education. He took the program into some new directions and challenged us. I say ‘us’ because the size of our school had only a handful of graphic design students at the time. As a result of this, most of us had spent the last 4 years in similar classes, and of those four, the last two had almost all of us in the same classes—we spent almost all day together. Same classes, same classroom, same just about everything We had become a close group. Room 219 was like a second home.
I just lost track of where I was going with this… Um, right, Dave. Yeah, so Dave shows up and blends right in. We accept this guy and enjoy what he offers us. He keeps us driven and challenged. He provided insight and opportunities. And it’s that last one—opportunities—that gave my education a purpose.
It was senior year, and I knew where I was at professionally. I was still not that great at anything artistic. I was however a great team member. I was a support element. I had ideas and could help others with theirs. That was my artistic strength: I could help. Good enough for me. But would it be good enough to earn a living? Not really.
I did get a job right out of college, in graphic design. That was cool—until the company went bankrupt. I’ve never had that since.
Back to senior year and my new found purpose: So, as a senior—about to graduate—Dave is sitting down with each of us and seeing what our plans are. “My plans? Uh… (nervous laugh) I don’t know.” Was pretty much the best I could come up with. So that’s when Dave lays it on me heavy with, “How would you like to teach in the Fall?” In the conversation that followed, Dave made it clear that he had seen something in the way I worked with other students and thought I might do well.
Me, a college professor? Whoa. Deep stuff. This little event took place before the Spring Semester in which I would graduate. The result would foster the direction of my future education and employment goals—all of which have happened. It would also be key in the development of a silly dream that came true one year ago.
See, I lived a few blocks from my university (I still do—different house, same distance). So, I would walk most days. On the days that I drove, I would have to park in a parking lot that did not have reserved parking. As I would leave that parking lot, and head toward the building that had my classes in it, I would pass by a small parking lot—one reserved for faculty and staff. This same parking lot would be one I would pass by when I walked. As a result, I would entertain simple and fun ideas of, “It sure would be nice to park here, close to the building. Few cars. Trees shading the vehicles. But that would mean I’d have to be a professor here. Well, that would put just one step closer to being like Indiana Jones.” (remember Indiana Jones is cool)
Well, when I started teaching at the university, in order to park in that small parking lot I needed to buy a parking permit. My family was barely making ends meet. I couldn’t afford a permit. Especially if it was only for a few months. The cost couldn’t be justified. And so it went for the next several years.
Off and on, for over ten years, I have taught that same course, at the same school. And this because someone saw something in me. But that last little bit, that cherry atop the sundae, the dream I created for myself of parking in the faculty parking still eluded me. Until last year.
Last year, we finally had the money to spring for that little extra bit: The parking permit. And so, after 12 years, I got to park in the staff/faculty parking lot. It isn’t much to some people, sure. And it isn’t to me either. But it still came true. That little, silly dream of parking in the “teacher” parking lot, that parking lot I passed by/through countless times, had finally come true.
Life is about the little things. It’s the little things that make up the big things. That little bit of happiness is one of the best things of last year. And I get to do it again this year. Enjoy life. Enjoy the little things that make you happy. Make your dreams come true—even if it’s just a parking spot.