Life 101: Learning to start over

Vito Cole

I started my college adventure a little later than most. I was 42 in 2015. I married the lovely Sharon Carr, who teaches an editing and publishing class here at Wayne State. She encouraged me to go back to school. I had attempted college right out of high school, back in 1991. Discovered tequila. Dropped out and joined a rock ‘n’ roll band. I didn’t even finish a semester. At 42, in 2015, Sharon believed in me, so I enrolled in a couple of classes. I finished my first two semesters with 12 credit hours. I had not failed. I had not dropped out. It seemed I could handle it. I am all in. I signed up as a full-time student in the fall of 2016. Sharon and I had baby Stevie three weeks before classes started that fall, and I was a wreck. Sharon was awesome, as always, and encouraged me. The Cubs won the World Series on Stevie’s three-month birthday. I made it through the school year.

Now It’s 2020.

I have finally reached my senior year. I made it before I became a senior citizen, which is nice. I think a lot about what I would tell my daughter about college. I see the bill that I will be stuck paying for the rest of my life. At 46 now, I hesitate to buy green bananas. Will I live long enough for banana bread? It’s a legitimate question. Hell, I outlived Kobe. I never would have guessed that.

Would I tell my daughter to take her time? College will be there for her when she’s ready, or do I tell her that I wasted 28 years of my life driving forklifts, flipping burgers, slinging tacos, digging holes and singing in a bar band. When I know the world needs good forklift drivers, burger flippers, taco slingers, hole diggers and singers in bar bands. There is honor in all these things. It’s my senior year in college. These are the things that I want to know. I have a big bill staring me down, and I am afraid there may not be an institute of learning equipped to provide the answers I am searching for. What have I learned? How can I put a value on that?

I try my best to keep my life simple. Fewer moving parts equates to less stress on those moving parts. I’ve tried for a long time to keep everything very simple. Few friends. Few headaches. I decided I would start out 2020 with a change. It wasn’t something I planned for. Something to make things even simpler. For 28 years you could find me with a beer in my hand. For better or for worse, that’s who I was. At times, it was social. Mostly it wasn’t. I was angry at myself for my weakness. I didn’t want to say it out loud. I didn’t want to own it. I didn’t think I was worthy of change. I got drunk early on New Year’s Eve. I had my last beer at a friend’s house. I got up and left his house. I got into my car. I drove the car home to my wife and daughter. I told them I was done. I haven’t had a drink in 28 days.

I didn’t learn that in college. I am learning that in life. Now. It’s a class I haven’t attended in a while. Life. It’s the one where I will remember the look on my daughter’s face when she tells me she loves me. Life. It’s the one where I will remember the feeling of home I find in Sharon. Life. It’s the one where I choose to be the best version of myself.

I think I will just tell Stevie to do what feels right. No one has the answer. Not the right one for you. You must find it. You must dream it. You must fall. You must get back up. You get to love. You get to live. Be curious. Be courageous. Be kind. Be genuine. Be sincere. But mostly, be authentic and true to what feels right.