Smith: Looking forward, looking back

As I contemplate my third (and final?) year at Geneseo quenching my thirst at the well of knowledge, the reflections look back at me. I do wish the chair of the math or physics departments could explain the coefficient present that explains why "time flies" at such speed as one grows older. You've heard of this phenomenon; soon you get to experience it first hand - like a black hole, no one escapes.

It was 30 years from when I quit my first incarnation as a student at Oswego State that I was accepted here at Geneseo. If I am able to complete, online, the final fine arts general education course I need this Spring I will pick up my B.A. at the same time as my niece and nephew do theirs; both 30 years my junior. A more important aspect of how the "threes" are presenting themselves to me of late is that it was 30 years ago this Thanksgiving I embarked on the Kerouac-ian course my life has taken.

After three semesters at Oswego I found the partying-to-knowledge-retention ratio was inordinately on the high side of partying. Who could blame me? It was my first taste of freedom from parent/teacher authority-based decision making. Running amongst an ecosystem unnaturally populated with a like-minded, generational non-diversified herd, like a lemming I happily threw myself off the cliff into the perceived sea of tranquility.

That worked out well, much to the detriment of my wallet. Once out of the haze of stupefying euphoria that was unconstrained, extremely fun, but ultimately bad decision- making, I drove off in a cliché-driven '65 Chevy panel truck to find fortune and infamy out west. Grateful Dead on the cassette, Siddhartha fresh in the cranium, and Bilbo Baggins riding shotgun on the quest, I was off to see the wizard and all things new and shiny.

It was the best decision of my young life. As Mark Twain said, "Don't let schooling interfere with your education." I overuse this quote in my life, but then again I have reason - I've had occasion to meet countless people who epitomize its meaning.

Long story short (find me sometime, buy me a beer and I'll yarn on for hours), these words are more for you freshman, sophomores and maybe fifth semester juniors (but there is hope for uncertain seniors). Don't hesitate to dropkick your college plans and throw yourself into the world if you have doubts about why you find yourself here. Testaments abound to the fact that you can come back almost anytime when you have a better understanding of who you are and what you want to be when you grow up.

I'm not saying school is a waste of time; my second incarnation at 28 led to a two-year degree in construction management that was fulfilling in terms of monetary and travel gains. But even then I dismissed my inner desire to work with words as secondary to following societal edicts of what defines "success."

If measurable doubt exists, exit stage left. You'll gravitate back to the well of knowledge when you realize that which propels your thirst. Live to learn.

And now a disclaimer in the form of another quote from Twain, "The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little."

I was never the former, but am the latter - maybe that's why I came back.