Monday, December 22, 2008

back on the grift

lately, like many out there, i find time to worry and wring my hands over the dark clouds in life. the times are tough as nails, so who wouldn't sweat it really? at the same time, there's this side of me, something i'm still getting to know, that seems to enjoy the unknown, the giant gray area lurking around the corner. i realize that anyone in his right mind wants to control or have a finger on the pulse of things. of course the counterpoint is that philosophy sucks the unpredictability and chance of adventure from life and lends a contrived vibe to the whole thing. regardless of how i romanticize it in what's becoming a lame opening, we have clearly lost control and better get in rhythm with chaos.

sometimes this all takes me back to part of my life where i managed similar circumstances, and suddenly i know i'm going to be just fine. that part of my life was college.

each class of every semester began the same way - the teacher, matter-of-fact tone, calling me and few other deadbeats out for having a star next to our names in the class roster. in grammar school a star next to your name meant something swell, worthy of praise. suddenly a star means the bursar wants to see your ass about the unpaid tab and figures humiliating you before your classmates with this implication will get your attention. my parents had shit for money then, so i plunged deep, up to my neck, in loans and grants and had to come up with a few grand per semester to cover what financial aid didn't - no small feat for a college kid. to come up with that kind of coin i suppose i could have taken a job on campus, worked and saved obsessively over the summers, or both. instead i became something of a grifter.

i don't say that boastfully or necessarily with a swell of pride. it's not like i wanted to spend my college years with a pit in my stomach pertaining to tuition and rent on top of grades. naturally my preference would have been for my parents to cover me, which seemed to be the standard around me, so i could focus on school. alas, the dealer dealt me a different hand, so i learned to play the game with a chip on my shoulder and a series of bluffs to boot.

since i'm out on a virtual limb here and need to protect my name professionally and parentally, i can't go into tremendous detail about how i pulled off college life on the grift. maybe in 20 years when i retire, when the coast is clear, i will dispense the duplicitous tales. to do so now would be career suicide. not to mention, it would draw some real dirty looks from friends and family at imminent holiday parties.

i guess can share a few maneuvers. for example, to eliminate the classroom shame factor, i wised up by checking in with my professors before the bell to report that i was "working it out" with the bursar. this generally satisfied them and kept my name from being orally disgraced. and it was true - i was working out a plan with the bursar. looking back i wonder if that bursar considered it strange when each month i'd stand in line and make tuition payments with cash money. i certainly felt shady doing so.

in the end, i managed to pay for college, graduate, and grow up. i do feel compelled to acknowledge that i burned some bridges and made some enemies along the way. i am not proud of that either. still, as i've said so many times in my adult life, to change that path is to change who i am right now, so i can't say with any shred of honesty that i wish it all transpired differently.

back to the present and what looks to be modernized version of month-to-month existence - this time with kids, careers, and other such heavy commitments at stake. i think i still have it in me to make it through. this time around the grift will be rated PG-13 and result in zero burned bridges, i hope. and to the probable chagrin of my shrink, i'll fish that old chip from a junk drawer and re-apply it to my shoulder.

don't get me wrong - i'm not mad at the world or rocking a vendetta attitude, but i think some grit and raw energy will be in order if i'm going to make it through the rough sledding ahead. like i said, i've done it before on another stage, so i have no reason to think i can't do it again. hell, i didn't think i had half of what it takes to be a father, but somehow when a challenging occasion emerges on that front, i dig deep and rise to it. so i guess this is all by way of saying, i'm not afraid of what's coming. wow - typing that made me feel light.

No comments: