I wish I knew (in college) what I know now


A knock on the door. Mute button. Silent giggles.

The knocker was Terry our RA. We called him worse things. He was treated like a substitute teacher. His endless threats were powerless to stop the amount of hallway urination, dorm room pot smoking, and an actual kegger in my neighbor’s room complete with Bon Jovi karaoke.

Poor Terry.

As he knocked he should’ve known that we were going to be trouble. A good part of the hallway residents were jammed in my room playing Madden. It was the first week of college and we were mutinous already. It was Terry’s job to bring us all to hear the author of My Own Country our freshman common reader program book by Abraham Verghese.

Verghese, born in Ethiopia to Indian parents, was working in Johnson City, TN, when AIDS hit. Library Journal said that My Own Country “provides a heartfelt perspective on the American response to the spread of AIDS.”

I didn’t read it. I was too busy running for 300+ yards per game with Barry Sanders on Madden football. While Veghese shared his story with our classmates who should’ve read the book, we were locked in a heated tournament surrounding our PlayStation.

Actually, I don’t remember how many yards I ran for with what player on what team. Over the years I’ve had some heart-pumping moments that ended with last second heroics or heartbreak courtesy of Madden, but I can’t recall a single one. Yet I still remember that twinge of guilt as we hid in my room waiting for Terry to leave so we could get back to the game.

I worry about my karmic balance. This year I was the author of the freshman common reader at several schools. I talked about Where Am I Wearing and how the experience has made me a more active global and local citizen. I encouraged students to get the most out of school, to be a local and pitch-in to help folks in their own community, and to travel.

I was talking to myself. Not that the audience wasn’t engaged, but I was trying to reach the eighteen-year-old me. I enjoyed college. I wasn’t a big partier but I liked the free time. I spent some of it playing Madden but I also played tennis and basketball, lifted weights, and became a reader. But I didn’t embrace the experience like I should have. I should have studied abroad. I should have worked with more programs in the Oxford (Ohio not the UK; I’m not that smart) community. I was very selfish with my time in college. Now that I have less time to share, I deeply regret that I didn’t give more of myself in college.

Over the past two weeks I’ve met some amazing, engaged college students who are fully embracing the college experience. I’m so jealous.

For the past two Tuesdays I haven’t reported where my $10 went. The first Tuesday I gave it to Elmhurst College’s Global Poverty Club. And the second Tuesday I gave my $10 to UCAN at Wingate University which focuses on community service and social awareness. It’s groups like this that I should have taken advantage of when I was in school because a weekend volunteering is more memorable than a weekend playing Madden on Playstation.

This week I’m doing something a little different with my $10. I’m buying Abraham Veghese’s My Own Country. I’ll read it, and then pass it on to a college student.

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