You know what I learned this week? I have a really big but.
Hear me out.
Everyone loves to ask where you graduated college, don't they? Think about it. I bet you get asked that by at least every other new person you meet. And in that two seconds, you can catch up on sports rivalries, clubs and sororities, old buddies, the whole nine. Well, I hate that question. Because I haven't graduated college. And, if I ever want my PhD, I won't be graduating college for a looooong time.
The thing is, I've been working and going to school since I was 11 years old, and that's no exaggeration. At 11, I was a middle-schooler holding down two steady, weekly baby-sitting jobs, one of which was actually more of a mother's-helper or nanny position. In my spare time, I helped my brother cut lawns. By 16, I was in high school and working part time. I got my diploma shortly thereafter and was working full time and going to college full time by the time I was 17. So I'm not going to lie: I harbor a lot of resentment for that lucky bunch who had only "summer jobs" until they walked away from Some University with a Four Year Degree. Whose parents paid for them to go to college, all four years, straight out of high school. Or those who could afford, even through savings and loans, to put themselves through all four years of undergrad school, straight out of high school, without having to work for serious, pay-the-rent-and-car-payment-money. Because I didn't get that option, and it means I missed out on the parties, the clubs, and - most of all - the experience of having only ONE obligation in my life.
For me, it's always been a juggling act. This bill, that bill, this job, that job, this class, that club, this volunteer project, that party. And after over 20 years of it, I'm getting pretty tired. Especially because I decided to move out at 18, and my parents would never have been able to send us both on an all-expenses-paid trip to college anyway.
And there's the key phrase: I decided.
So, when people ask The College Question - and they always do - the answer usually goes something like, "Well, I'm still going to Rollins, but I had to put myself through school." Or, "I didn't graduate, but it's because I've had a hard time balancing a full workload with school." Or, "Not yet, but I'm really close."
But, but, but, but . . .
While everyone else was going to college and not much else, I was in Las Vegas as the youngest National Trainer House of Blues had ever employed. I was offered a recording contract and a shot at the public speaking team in college. I owned a brand-new car, that I paid for, which I've done since I turned 17. I traveled around the country and parts of the world, some of it for work and some for play. I learned to speak 3 languages (2 of them poorly). And, while everyone was gaining work experience and deciding if they wanted to go back for their Master's because they'd been out of school a long time, I was being promoted, demoted, earning straight A's, getting engaged, married and divorced, learning how to take prescription medications and deal with 5 different medical specialists, buying my own house and competing in a bunch of triathlons - one won me an award and one was a Half Ironman. I've eaten at some of New York's most amazing restaurants and had the chance to own tons of designer gear, some really hot cars and two motorcycles. I have worked at places that made others green with envy and places that made people ask, "What the fuck do you do again?"
And I did every single bit of all of these things, not IN SPITE of my lack of graduation, but BECAUSE of it. I decided to move out. I could have stayed at home for four years. I still would have had to pay bills and work, but I wouldn't have had to work for rent or food or electricity - just for gas and fun money.
Different. Not better, just different.
You see, last night I finally gained some persepctive on my 70.3 experience, and, as usual, triathlon brought into light a new perspective on my entire life. I came to the realization that I may not actually want or need to do a full Ironman OR get my PhD. I know I COULD do both. But I don't really know if I WANT or NEED to. The truth is, I like to do a LOT of things. And I am not, nor will I ever be, one of those people who can do a LOT of things REALLY well. So I'd rather do a few things quite well, or a lot of things as well as I can. Which means I really don't mind that I didn't "finish" the race. I didn't drop out. I didn't NOT train. I just didn't get as far as I should have in the allotted time, or train as much as I could have given my conditions. While training for short- to mid-distance footraces, I once agreed with myself that this was my CHOICE. My DECISION. Not something that was being forced upon me.
I don't want my life to be one giant obsession, be it triathlon or golf or yoga or partying or organic foods or animals or school or my house or work. I want to enjoy a little bit of all of it. And that attitude is not terribly conducive to Ironman training, for which one must give over nearly every spare minute of one's time. But, if I trained just slightly more seriously for Olympic-distance races than I did for FL 70.3, I could kick enough ass to move from the back of the pack to the middle, as I did with short-distance footraces, and then complete all of an annual Half Ironman.
And I'd be able to handle that all while I went to school, worked, hung out with my pals, watched my budget and diet and managed my medicines and pets and home.
So I made myself a promise today while I was picking up my new shoes and looking at my schedule for the rest of the year. Two promises, actually. First of all, I'm going to keep eating this elephant, one bite at a time. (If not, it will eat me, anyway.) And second, I'm never going to let my but get in my way again.