Tag Archives: College

My Advice to the College Bound


college or bustAll around the country a great odyssey is in progress. Students are finally getting their wishes and leaving home to head off to colleges and universities everywhere. In some places, classes are already starting and so this advice may be coming entirely too late as it is, but I feel compelled to try anyway. I do not have any children of my own and so will never be in the position to take someone to school, help him or her unpack the car, and get all the luggage and accoutrements into the dorm. Even so, I’m calling on my own experience in a huge public university back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we took notes on a slate instead of an iSlate. Pass it on as you will. It comes from the heart.

Here goes, in no certain order of importance:

1. CHOOSE YOUR ROOMMATE CAREFULLY. Do not, under ANY circumstances, pick your BFF as your roommate as a freshman. No better method for destroying a friendship exists in the annals of civilization than trying to co-habitate the same space as a person you have known and ostensibly loved for a big chunk of your life at a time in both those lives when everything about the two of you is in flux. You are better off taking the luck of the draw than trying to keep the friendship alive by rooming together.

2. BE RESPONSIBLE. You have been screaming at your parents and the rest of the world just how responsible and grown up you are. Well, now is your chance to ACT LIKE IT. Don’t talk about being responsible — do it. Set an alarm and go to class on time, even the 8:00 AM ones you were insane enough to sign up for. Go to bed on time. Study as much as you need to.

3. DO NOT TRUST ANYONE YOU DO NOT KNOW until he or she gives you ample reason to do so. You are in the “real world” now and that world is full of predators. I’m not trying to scare you, but this isn’t a stupid horror movie. If you get in with the wrong person, you could end up in big trouble. You CANNOT tell a book by its cover. Ted Bundy was movie star handsome, brilliant enough to run for office, and executed for murdering at least 30 COLLEGE GIRLS. Watch yourself. Eventually, you will make friends who will go to the wall for you and when you do, look out for each other.

4. REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE. College is a time of challenges — to your beliefs, your ideals, and your character. You’ll be pressured to “change” in some way or another. Ignore the hype. If you love Jesus, don’t become a militant atheist just because a professor says so. Don’t dabble in Wicca just because the cute boy down the hall claims to be a high priest. Don’t change who you are just for the sake of changing. After all, being who you are got you this far, right? Of course, if you’re an asshole, by all means change. No one likes an asshole.

5. GET A PLAN. I’m where I am right now because I am the poster child for goal-less wandering. I wouldn’t trade my years in teaching for anything, but to be honest, I backed into education as a major. I NEVER sat down with myself or anyone else and figured out where I wanted to head in life and what I needed to do to get there. I just floated along and now I’m paying for it. Set goals, do research, decide what needs to be done and go do it. Alternatively, just go with the flow, but if you do, don’t be surprised when you are 43 and wondering, “How in the Hell did I get here?”

6. WATCH YOUR MONEY. Once again, I’m speaking from painful, personal experience. Unless you or your parents are exceptional planners, you’re already looking at student loan debt. Don’t add credit cards and other money suckers to that mountain as well. When I was in college, we didn’t get pre-approval credit card forms. Back then, they sent us a real live credit card and all you had to do was call and activate it and start burning plastic. I never turned one down and that’s why I live in a single-wide trailer instead of having a log cabin on the Bitterroot River in Montana like one of my buddies from high school and college.

7. AVOID STUPIDITY. Don’t make stupid choices, don’t hang out with stupid people, and don’t do stupid things. This is the era of social media. Any stupid move you make will be worldwide before you get back to your dorm room. The night I passed out on the steps of Tillman Hall stumbling back from the Esso Club, I didn’t have to worry about anything but security guards and rain. Try that nowadays and you’ll be on someone’s Facebook page in a skinny minute. Get drunk and strip on a table at a frat party? Hello, viral YouTube; goodbye future promotion opportunity. Ignorance is fine; it can be cured with education, but — to quote Ron White, “You can’t fix stupid.”

8. DON’T BLOW YOUR FUTURE TO HAVE FUN TODAY. You will be faced with a dictionary of choices in your freshman year. You can choose to party or study; go to the game or to the library; drink that one more drink or switch to water; have sex with that person or not. Binary choices. Yes or no; this or that. Choose wrong and you actually could screw up your entire future. Of course, that could never happen to you, but I watched it happen to people I knew and cared about. It only takes one bad decision and you could end up in jail, with a disease, with an unexpected baby, with a ticket out of college, or even with a headstone if it’s bad enough. Trust me on this one and don’t insist on finding out for yourself.

9. ACT LIKE YOU’VE GOT SOME SENSE. Your generation didn’t invent sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll so don’t act like you’re a rock star. For example, if you are at a party, do not, under any circumstances, drink ANYTHING offered to you unless YOU break the seal or YOU pour the drink. Once you set a drink down, consider it gone. Why waste a good drink? See #3 above. If you are tanking in a class, act like you’ve got some sense, swallow your pride, and go get help. Pride is a piss poor excuse for failing out of college. You will usually know what the right thing is to do whether you want to or not– do it. That is what acting like you’ve got some sense means.

I hope this helps some. Love y’all. Keep those feet clean.

Another One Who Left Us Too Soon, Happy Birthday Bob-mon!


"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain."

Had he not died waaaayyyy too young in 1981, Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley would be 67 years old today. Now, I can’t say anything about Bob Marley and the Wailer’s music that hasn’t already been said by much better wordsmiths than I. Anyone who knows music knows that dreadlocks, reggae, and Rastafarianism would be pretty much unknown outside of Ethiopia and Jamaica if Bob Marley hadn’t started recording.

I don’t know about other college campuses, but when I was at Clemson University in the early 90’s, you couldn’t open a frat boy’s dorm room and not find a well-worn copy of Legend, the 1984 compilation of Marley’s greatest hits, lying around amidst a lighter or two, some Job 1.5 papers, and an empty plastic baggie or twelve.

In the decades since its release, Legend has been Certified Platinum TEN times. In America, that has earned it Diamond certification.  Just to put that into perspective, only 106 albums in the history of the RIAA have been Diamond Certified.

It’s easy to try to pass Marley off as “just a good reggae” singer, but that is damning him with very faint praise. Bob Marley was a good man and the fact that he probably consumed his weight several times over in some of Jamaica’s finest export does not tarnish that fact. He was bright, articulate, and most of all, one of the most peaceful men to ever walk the earth.

I firmly believe that if we really want to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East between the numerous warring factions, we need to stop investing in diplomacy and high tech weaponry. All that’s doing is getting people killed in droves. What we need to invest in are some HUGE SPEAKERS. We need some gigawatts of power to some major league woofers and tweeters and once we’ve got everything in place, put on “Three Little Birds” and — to quote the boys from Spinal Tap — crank it up to eleven. Peace would break out spontaneously as the gentle strains of that ultimately peaceful anthem started to roll across the battlefields and deserts.

If, and this might be taking it too far, the little birds didn’t sufficiently pacify the masses, then we would have to break out the nuclear peace bomb and drop nothing less than “One Love, One Life” on everyone. It is an undisputed fact people CANNOT act violently when Bob Marley music is playing. Even his version of the oft covered standard “I Shot the Sheriff”  isn’t at its core a glorification of violence. Sure, Sheriff John Brown ended up getting shot down, but not that blasted deputy!

I think one of the most telling aspects of Bob Marley’s character is the fact that he was father to 13 children. Notice I didn’t say he “fathered” 13 children. The difference is extremely important. At least two of the children he acknowledged as his own and whom he supported and his estate still supports today were the products of adulterous relationships by his wife. Now regardless of the fact that several other of his progeny were born to other ladies outside the bounds of wedlock, a man who would claim another man’s child as his own instead of killing said man AND cheating wife is a man of peace.

Bob Marley left us too soon. Stolen by melanoma that spread throughout his body. Even as the cancer consumed his life, it could not touch his gentle soul. Though he was a mulitmillionaire at his death, he never forgot his humble beginnings in a ramshackle record shop on a dirt street in the ghetto village of St Anne Parish in Jamaica. His final words were to his son, Ziggy: “Rememba’ Son, money can’t buy life.” Bob Marley made money. Money didn’t make him.

I think a glimpse of his gentleness is best seen from his own perspective. In an interview during the racially charged times of the Sixties and Seventies, Marley was asked about racial superiority and who he supported and what he thought of the prejudices so common then. With the wisdom of a Rastfarian sage he replied:

I don’t have prejudice against meself. My father was a white and my mother was black. Them call me half-caste or whatever. Me don’t dip on nobody’s side. Me don’t dip on the black man’s side nor the white man’s side. Me dip on God’s side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white.

Irie, Irie, Mr. Marley. Irie, Irie Rastaman!