“LEFT LANE CLOSED AHEAD” the orange sign with black letters read.
Upon reaching the one-lane construction zone, my car was seemingly moving at a snail’s pace.
It was about that time I started experiencing the flashbacks. No, they weren’t flashbacks to Iraq or the last two Iron Bowls; they were flashbacks to my college days.
The construction was taking place on I-85 between Auburn and Montgomery. I’d probably made this trip a thousand times in my life but the bulk of those took place from 2000 to 2001 while in school at Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM).
Before transferring to AUM, I was a career student at Southern Union State Community College. In fact, one of the wings is named after me. Well, not really, but it should be.
I crept through Southern Union like a car going through a one-lane construction zone.
I actually attended Southern Union after high school but that only last one pathetic, measly, miserable quarter.
As many of you may know, I am a fan of professional wrestling. Don’t blame me; blame my grandparents. They loved it. At least I don’t dip snuff, but I digress.
I took three classes that first quarter, and when the quarter had come to a close, I’d withdrawn from the first two and failed the other, resulting in the grades of WWF.
Hulkamania might have been running wild but my education was not.
(My photo ID from the WWF days.)
This was my lone attempt at college prior to joining the Army.
Within a year of the WWF, I raised my right hand, stated an oath, and my life changed forever.
After four years in the Army, I returned home and reenrolled at Southern Union. I was highly motivated and was dedicated to completing my degree.
I’d earned the Montgomery GI Bill and was going to use it.
Fortunately, I had a boss that allowed me to work full time and then some. I had bills to pay but the extra work didn’t jive with my education.
The grind was wearing on me.
I was burnt out, so I put my application in at the local tire plant, but, by the grace of God, my services apparently weren’t needed. The plant has since closed its doors.
I could’ve stayed at Southern Union and taken a few more classes but a change of scenery was necessary.
Although the main campus at Auburn was my first choice, I settled on AUM because it was more conducive to the non-traditional student. Besides, my money still went to and my grades came from Samford Hall. I was still an Auburn man.
Early on, I was reinvigorated, but it didn’t take long for the grind to catch up with me.
There is nothing fun about driving 100 miles round trip to school in a Jeep with a busted window held up with duct tape, allowing in cold air, making it difficult to hear the radio, much less stay warm. Some quarters, later semesters, saw me doing this four days a week. I’d often leave at 7 AM and not get home until 10 at night.
I was still working full-time, too.
The grind had caught me, and I was ready to quit.
That is until the blistering hot day I saw an orange sign with black letters that read, “LEFT LANE CLOSED AHEAD.”
As I crept through the construction zone at a snail’s pace, I couldn’t help but feel for the road crew as they worked in the sweltering heat. I know they work hard and some make good money. I have great respect for what they do, but I knew that’s not where I wanted to be.
I had no idea where life would take me, but I certainly hoped it would include air conditioning.
That was it. That’s all it took. After that, I never looked back. I was a man on a mission.
My Jeep Wrangler died on me, but, thanks to my brother, it was quickly replaced by a Jeep Cherokee, making the drive and midday naps much more bearable.
I was so motivated to complete my degree, that I took seven classes, the equivalent of 35 hours, that final summer mini-semester.
I graduated on August 3, 2001.
(The fellas supporting me at graduatuon…from L to R…Adrian, Eloy, me, Dr. Curry, Brad, Shea.)
I hate to think where I’d be had I not completed my degree. Education can often be a grind, but in the end, there are very few things as valuable.
Whether you’re entering first grade, high school, trade school or college, don’t ever give up, because education is essential.
If you never quite completed that degree, the time get your grind on is now, because with an education, life’s possibilities are endless.
It took me to Iraq three times, and most of the time, I had air conditioning.