This is from an essay I wrote when I was attending Atlantic County Community College. At this time in life, I was between different scenarios and not sure what I was doing with my life. I have since found a path, but it is a great reminder to focus.
“Don’t be the boy you once were; be the man you want to be.” – Patrick James Clements. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that quote be directed towards me nor can I tell you how many life lessons I have had from PJC, as we called him. I have always tried to emulate this quote as it has stricken a nerve, yet when I take one step forward; I fall two steps back. I am currently enrolled in Atlantic County Community College, a place where I never intended to continue my education. This time last year, I was sitting in my fraternity house with a sweet girlfriend, fun brothers, and with amazing opportunities ahead of me. If you had told me last year, at my second high school or even at my first high school that I would have ended up in Atlantic County Community College, I would have laughed. I also would have laughed if you told me that history would repeat itself by me attending multiple colleges just like I attended multiple high schools. With all this change in events, I can honestly tell you, I do not know where my life is heading.
My sophomore year of college is all too vivid, yet quite hazy. The year was supposed to be one for the history books. I was finally initiated into my fraternity and my pledge class was no longer the low man on the totem pole. The good times that when retold to others, but ended with “you had to be there” were finally going to happen. All of those memorable times happened for me and more. I finally knew what it was like on the “other side of the fence” during pledging. Unfortunately, living in the fast lane turned out to be a little too fast. I had been warned way too many times to even comprehend. When I finally realized where my college career was actually heading, it was too late. I made the best attempt to eradicate all my issues, but all attempts were futile. I thought I mentally could prepare myself, but you don’t realize what you have until you lose it. I had lost it.
I always thought college would be frightening. Growing up, I’ve heard stories about all the work, stress, and the intensity of the environment. Oddly, even with all my partying and the lifestyle that I lived; it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I was informed that partying occurred in college. When I first heard this information, the three things that immediately popped up in my head were: “I can’t wait to finally get out of this catholic school,” “I can’t wait to party harder than I do in the summer,” and “I can’t wait to join a fraternity like my uncles.” Choosing a college was difficult. Being at Saint Augustine College Preparatory School, the college counselors were firm in making your decision either Villanova University – the tunnel school in which is an automatic in, or any University that has catholic religious affiliation. Being the nonconformist, non-religious individual I am, I refused to apply to any school that had a religious affiliation. Obviously, that made the college guidance counselor very angry, but I didn’t care. I hated that I was in an all-boys, catholic school. I hated that I had to pray regardless of disagreeing with all of their religious beliefs while they didn’t even bother to respect mine. I hated wearing a uniform and blazer each and every day with their crest that symbolized I was a part of that ghastly school. With that, I applied to seventeen different colleges up-and-down the east coast. Due to my procrastination, I was waitlisted to many of these schools as I applied the day before their due dates. That did not matter when I finally got my acceptance to Washington and Jefferson. I was so excited when I visited the school, I didn’t need to take a tour nor get involved with the events for the high school seniors, and instead I immediately signed up like my uncles before me. I decided to celebrate with a fraternity that offered me a bid that very night rather than attend the freshman orientation.
Nothing was more daunting to a fourteen year old boy than being told he is going to one of the most prestigious high schools in the country while being unable to live at home. How do you explain to a fourteen year old that his whole life of no structure or responsibility is about to change? When the suggestion to first apply to Peddie, boarding school, was brought up I thought this would be the best idea. At the time, I couldn’t picture myself in Atlantic City High School, but never intended on actually getting accepted to Peddie either. I was told royalty went there, children of the elite go there, and many others. Who would have thought I would have gotten in? I got accepted and my mom was the most excited out of my whole family. When high school finally started, all I wanted to do was be home. I was teased constantly for not fitting in. I was teased for quitting football in preseason due to completely underestimating the physicality needed for the game and then rejoining in the beginning of the season. I was teased for avoiding everyone and constantly fighting with my roommate. My fourteen year old self thought the best idea was to sabotage my own grades to show my parents that I wasn’t smart enough and had to come home. What I did not expect at the time was that my whole plan was completely transparent and that everyone knew the truth. After many life lessons with Patrick James Clements and finally finding my own, I thoroughly enjoyed Peddie. When I finally realized this fact, I was already deep in a hole and was trying to climb myself out. With that, I was praised by the head of the history department for my amazing presentation and complete transformation of my grades. I was praised by my biology professor as well as the head of the department for teaching myself the whole semester of biology in one night and using the final exam to bring my grade to above par. My teammates and coaches were thrilled that I proved myself out on the field and won most improved sportsman of the year. Unfortunately, I was unable to, even with all my efforts, pass Spanish. With the fact that I would have to repeat Spanish and that I depleted all my chances of saving my grades, my parents did not allow me to continue my education at Peddie.
Despite all the changes in life and my reactions towards them, I try to stay positive. You can always play the what-if game and imagine the perfect life, but you would only be lying to yourself. If it weren’t for my mother overhearing my neighbor talking about Peddie, we would have moved and I would have gone to Mainland Regional High School. If I was able to pass Spanish, I would not have met some of my closest friend. If I had not gone to Saint Augustine and applied to college on time, I know I wouldn’t have gone to Washington and Jefferson and pledged Delta Tau Delta. We can’t choose our fate, but rather direct it towards the path we desire. Yes, I do not like Atlantic County Community College, but I can say that this semester, so far, has allowed me to relocate myself. Now I can say that I was in a spiral of self-inflicted emotional pain which was full of bad decisions and choices. Unlike transferring high schools against my will, I can now control where my life is headed. I know where I’d like it to be and while some may voice their disagreements, only I know what I want and know what is right for me. Instead of regretting the past, I will take what I have learned and apply it to the future. While people may joke about me being attending Atlantic County Community College, I think of the quote Patrick James Clements said, “Nothing is what it seems, but rather the complete opposite.” I feel Mr. Clements would approve of my decisions out of the mistakes I have made while giving me long lectures about how the partying and drinking is completely inappropriate for a gentlemen. He is right. He was always wise beyond his years. With every crucial decision I have made from the moment he stood in my room lecturing on about whatever wrong I did at the time, I will always remember his most famous quote, “Don’t be the boy you once were; be the man you want to be.”