Editor’s Note: Today’s posts examine the college experience from two different perspectives — the male story is an exercise in learning and the female story is an examination of the best parts of college. Please join me in welcoming contributing blogger GeoffersonSpin!
GeoffersonSpin is the creator and author of the blog LongSpin.wordpress.com where he writes about his experiences raising money and completing a 100-mile bicycle ride with Team In Training (The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s primary fundraiser). He now writes about fitness, nutrition, cancer research and his foray into cycling, running and swimming. Disclaimer: The following post is not at all relevant to any of the previously mentioned subjects.
Let me tell you a funny story. Once upon a time, in a little college town a few miles south of Oklahoma City, I got arrested. Before I go any further, let’s make this our little secret since I still have family members who don’t know this story. Fortunately, I don’t think they use the internet. So, how did I get arrested you ask? It was actually pretty easy. All it took was a handful of beers and a guy in my fraternity saying, “Hey, I’ve an idea!” Everybody has that friend, don’t they? The friend that always has “great ideas” that end up being ideas that should get you dead or in jail. Well, I made the mistake of listening to that friend. (Mistake 1: Drinking enough to think I’m a ninja.)
I was a freshman in college, no more than two months into my first semester. I decided to pledge a fraternity, and when you are a young, impressionable, drunk 18-year-old you will sometimes make bad decisions. Apparently, it has always been a stupid tradition among “frat guys” to steal stuff from other fraternities. Every now and then someone would come to our weekly chapter meeting and show off some trophy they poached from another fraternity. Flags, pictures, volleyball nets, dinner plates and silverware (I’m not joking). Conversely, we might wake up on a Saturday morning, undoubtedly hungover, wondering where a certain award, picture or living room couch wandered off to. It was the way of the fraternity world, and we lived in this chaotic harmony for quite some time… until I got involved.
Back to my buddy. “I’ve got a great idea,” says he. “Let’s go steal something from another fraternity house!” My reply, “You’re a genius!” (Mistake 2: Listening to stupid friend.) Off we go, drunk, on foot, wearing flip-flops, casing the other fraternity houses. Finally, halfway across campus, we reach our target. We started early that night so it was about 10:30pm. Our target fraternity is in the middle of having a house party. That’s right, we chose to steal from a fraternity in the middle of a house party. This means that there are about 350 people inside the house, awake, drinking… and we decided to go steal something from them. (Mistake 3: Do I really need to explain this one?)
We slipped into a side door that was open. He grabbed a picture, I grabbed a composite. Let me break real quick and explain a composite for the uninitiated. You know those giant picture boards that have the individual photo of every person in the club? It’s about 5 feet long and 4 feet tall. I decided to take that… in the middle of a party. I told you, I was channeling my inner ninja. We slipped out the same side door we entered through, snaked our way through the parking lot, and bolted down the street. We actually made it in and out with our loot! About that time one of their members drives by in his car and notices what is going on. (Mistake 4: Now would have been a good time to drop the pilfered goods and RUN!)
About 30 seconds later we are run down by a few of their members. We were actually blessed by a small miracle at this point considering they didn’t immediately beat our asses. We simply gave the stuff back, they said it was no big deal, and we went on our way feeling lucky to survive the incident. Ten minutes later our luck ran out. Two cop cars stop us in the street and ask where we were coming from. Little did we know, target fraternity broke the first rule of fraternity gamesmanship and called the freaking cops! We played right into their hands (more like handcuffs) and next thing I know I’m sitting in a cell in the Cleveland County jail. Yikes.
Here’s the point: There are consequences and repercussions for everything you do. My parents have been telling me that since before I could pronounce consequences or repercussions. Did I listen? Apparently not. I’ll cut myself some slack though. We all do stupid stuff; it’s just to what degree. In reality, I got lucky because it could have been much worse. I ended up with a couple of misdemeanor charges: petty larceny and public intoxication. The judge was merciful and dismissed the petty larceny charge and I had a deferred sentence on the public intoxication (sort of like probation). No felonies, no convictions for anything, I’m not dead or maimed, I didn’t get kicked out of school or my fraternity, and technically a background check doesn’t even pick up the charges. I’m not totally off though. This event still follows me to this day.
When I decided to go to law school I had to disclose this on my application. When I finished law school and had to apply to the Oklahoma Bar Association I had to disclose this. When I filled out my application for an apartment I had to disclose this. I made a stupid decision when I was 18, just starting college and it still follows me. Granted, I consider this event to be the biggest learning experience of my life. Sure, at the time I thought my world was collapsing, but I don’t regret what happened and I wouldn’t take it back. If I didn’t get in trouble at that point it just would have happened later and possibly with greater consequence. I’m glad I got my big screw up out of the way early because I have spent the rest of my life trying to think before I act since I have first hand experience of the consequences that come from your actions. By no means am I perfect though. Believe me, I have screwed up countless times since and I will likely screw up today and tomorrow, but at least I have a little better perspective. I messed up, I learned from it, and I emerged relatively unscathed. Some people aren’t so lucky.
Have you made any really stupid decisions that still follow you? Did you learn from that? Have you forgotten those lessons?
Thanks for reading and thanks to Quarter Life Confused for giving me the opportunity to make a guest appearance! Feel free to check out more of my stuff at LongSpin.wordpress.com and be on the lookout for appearances by QuarterLifeConfused on my blog.