I am thankful for my bad decisions.
Horrible high school grades and a lack of funds limited my college options. Honestly, it was a battle between Salt Lake Community College or Salt Lake Community College.
Choices have context, and consequences.
I’ve been lucky. Many of my bad decisions have been blessings in the end. Few people in my financial situation, with barely a high school diploma (thanks, extra credit for being on the basketball team one year), end up with a Master’s degree and the career of their choice. I am grateful for my opportunities. I was fortunate.
The community college was a great place for me. After nearly flunking out my first year, I had a crisis of faith and direction. My initial degree plan felt like a pathway to misery, and I took a semester off to figure out what to do. I decided it was more important to be happy with my degree, than be miserable but assured I would make some money. I followed my heart, studied English and Literature, taking every course I could. I finally learned how to study, and was exposed to ideas and ways of thinking I’d never considered. Much of what I believe about the world today went through its infancy on that campus.
The crisis of faith was also a huge factor. Unencumbered by self imposed restraints, I felt free for the first time to chose what I wanted, not what others expected of me. Again, I’ve been fortunate. Even though I no longer believe everything I once did, because of the particular Christian denomination I was part of, I met my wife, who is without doubt the best person I know. She has enriched my life immensely and any goodness I contribute to the world, I owe to her patience and love.
Two of the most influential people in my life also ended up at the community college. We met in a Women’s Studies class. It’s funny to think back and remember that at first, we wanted nothing to do with one another. Amanda was from Ohio and was my age (24). Amy was barely 18, just out of high school.
As the class progressed, we found ourselves working through ideas together during class discussions. Sometimes these conversations continued after class. We realized we shared many things in common, and started to get together outside of class.
We often met on the Quad- The area between the four main buildings on campus. A fountain rested in the intersection of four sidewalks. Steps surrounded the fountain, making it an ideal place for students to sit, soak in some sun, and meet with friends.
The three of us spent way too much time on those steps. We rarely talked about serious things, though we had some intense interactions. Mostly we complained to each other about various things, or laughed at bad jokes and odd experiences. The Quad was the place for the unimportant, which made the relationship even more important to me.
As is the case with all things, our time together was too short. A year later, Amanda moved on and I lost track of her. She does that. It was how she ended up in Salt Lake in the first place. She needs new locations, new challenges from time to time.
Amy and I both went to the University of Utah, but saw each other less. I called her from time to time, saw her on campus when opportunity allowed, but we were both busy with jobs, school, relationships.
Years went by, but I often thought about those two. Amy and I stayed in touch, and through sheer will on both our parts, regained much of our closeness.
Amanda was missing for 15 years. I would look for information about her on the Web, but came up empty. At work one afternoon, I was browsing LinkedIn and found her profile. I was shocked. A moment later, I was sending her a message. She was thrilled to hear from me, and shocker of shockers, was actually moving back to Salt Lake City.
We met for the first time since college at my 40th birthday party. I hugged her and held her close. There wasn’t one awkward second between us.
The three of us met up a few times over the next year, sharing coffee or beer. I became closer to her than during our time at school. Then as she must, Amanda left again. Some souls need to wander. This time though, thanks to the Internet, she isn’t getting away from me again.