Last Saturday night I got a college education.
You see, 26 years ago my parents loaded me and my things up in my aunt’s pickup truck and drove me to the University of Montevallo to start college.
We hauled my suitcases into the dorm, and Mama helped me put sheets on the bed. As they were leaving me, their oldest child and only daughter, to start her life away from home, to commence her education, to seize the very day and every little opportunity it held, Mama took me by the shoulders, looked me squarely in the eye and said, “Study hard and make us proud.”
Daddy said, “Never stay in a motel that charges by the hour.”
With that they were gone and I was on my own for the first time ever. Now I might not have been the world’s greatest student, but I lived me some carpe diem. Four years later, the University of Montevallo gave me a sheet of paper, and I was again sent out into the world.
But what had I learned? What could I do? After all, I was supposed to be educated. Or so I thought.
Twenty-six years later, just this past weekend, I went to a reunion in Montevallo – a reunion we have had every year for the last seven. This year, one of our classmates, a film student back then, compiled a DVD from videos he had taken throughout college. We’ll call him Dan.
Dan made his videos when a video camera was three times the size of your head. Dan made his videos when it was a feat of strength and endurance to record your drunken friends at a party. Dan made his videos on (gasp!) VHS tapes.
Dan mined no telling how many hours of this tape for choice bits and compiled for our viewing pleasure a 25-minute trip down memory lane. Most of the segments revolved around him asking his subjects two questions: What are your words of wisdom? What did you learn during your time at the esteemed University of Montevallo?
I stared at the screen and into the faces of children, and one of the very first children was me. Lord have mercy we were cocky. We spouted literary quotes and life lessons and sage advice. We were hopeful and blasé all in the same breath. We flat knew it all.
Or so we thought.
Driving home late that same night, as I watched the yellow lines dashing by on the road, I was still thinking about Dan’s DVD – what had happened to various folks, who had changed, who hadn’t, what I thought would happen to certain ones, where I thought we would all be by now.
Then KABLAM!!!! Just like that it hit me. The 20-year-old Audrey, while full of book learning, was as dumb as a sack of hammers. But seeing myself then as compared to now, I know that I did learn something in college, but these lessons weren’t all learned in the classroom and some of them were only realized the other night.
I learned the difference between bravado and true confidence. I learned to listen more than I talk. I learned that things don’t always turn out like you think they will and that’s ok and sometimes better. I learned that things will never be the same as they are right this very minute and that you can’t mourn the passage of time. I learned to accept people who are different than me and that sometimes these very people will be your truest friends. I learned that you never quit learning.
I have finally grown into my education from the University of Montevallo. Or so I think.
We’ll see what I have to say 26 years from now.