I finally did it.
For the first time in my life, I finished something. I got my college degree. At 42. Better late than never, right?
Funny thing, though. I don't feel any smarter.
I don't feel any wiser.
What the last five years did do for me, besides get me a degree, is give me an appreciation for the wisdom I didn't know I possessed.
Think about it.
I'm 42, sitting in history class, dumbfounded as a child fresh out of high school raises a hand to ask "what does JFK stand for?" I'm 42, sitting in the language lab, listening to french tutoring sessions that have had to regress to english, because the kid can't pick the verb out of a sentence IN ENGLISH.
It gave me a great appreciation for the life I've lived.
Was it the life I could have lived, should have lived? Was it the life that realized all the potential I had as a kid?
In a word, no.
And yet, I still stand by my statement to my mom some years ago, when asked if I had any regrets.
No. I do not.
While I may have missed out on a lot of stuff, I did some pretty interesting things.
I've been photographed in the winner's circle at Retama. I've watched Olympic baseball, and not on TV--from the stands at the very field where the game was being played. I've given away closets full of Armani clothes. I've owned and ridden my very own Harley-Davidson motorcycle. I've scared the holy hell out of myself with fast cars and rocketed through DFW rush hour traffic doing 125 between lanes on a BMW touring bike. I've met broadway stars and movie stars, I've worked the stages of music legends, I've stood 10 feet from the stage (or sometimes ON THE STAGE) and watched some amazing performances.
These are some of the cool things I have done that might not have happened had I chosen a different path in life; these are some of the lesser reasons I say I have no regrets.
The bigger reasons? They may not sound as exciting, yet they're more real and more meaningful than chatting with Kevin Costner about why he seemed so nervous during sound check.
See, I've also been through some shit, tried by fire, if you will. I've survived so much horror. The loss of a parent at a very young age. Rape. Domestic violence. Addiction. Horrific car crashes that left me with permanent (though minor) disabilities. I've known some genuine pain, too.
That genuine pain, it makes me appreciate how good life is now. And that is wisdom, in my not so humble opinion.
Those horrific experiences have connected me to a couple of extraordinary communities, Narcotics Anonymous and The Band Back Together Project. And these are the people that I love. These are people who have wisdom. These are people who have been tried by fire, who survived, who have come out the other side of hell and are stronger and more beautiful for it.
Who needs a college degree when we've already got all that experience? All that collective wisdom? You see, it took what it took to bring me to this point. All of the things I have lived through? They have shaped me into the human being that I am now. This is true for all of us.
We are survivors. We live very full lives. We sometimes laugh too loud, we sometimes love too hard, we sometimes eat/drink/shop too much. We do these things because we know that this moment will never happen again, so we damn well better enjoy it while it is here.
We cry too much; sometimes in pain, sometimes in joy.
We just don't cry alone. As my dear Aunt Becky loves to tell her Pranksters over at The Band Back Together Project, "we are none of us alone. We are all connected."
Being connected is beautiful. Having real-world, real-life experience is beautiful. These things breed wisdom, and having wisdom is beautiful. These are why I have no regrets.
It took what it took to bring me to the point I am at right now. All of these things have shaped the human being I have become. This is true for all of us.
We have beeen weighed, we have been measured, and we have NOT been found wanting. We have survived, and we are stronger, more beautiful, for it.
I have a college degree. Now what?