Reflections of My Early College Days
By Richard Mabey Jr.
Recently, President Obama spoke of the ideal of providing two years of college for free, for those students attending community colleges. It’s not my purpose to criticize the President of the United States. Still, there is something to be said for working hard for what we want in life and not having it handed to us on a silver platter. I know this may sound harsh, but the struggle itself can build character and contribute to the growth of a person’s inner strength.
For my first two years of college, I attended a local community college in northeast New Jersey. My beloved father told me that he would pay for the tuition and help me with the cost of books, notebooks, and pens and pencils. But Dad also told me that he expected me to earn the money to pay for gasoline, the upkeep of my dear old 1961 Ford Falcon, clothes, and to help pay for my college text books. It was a fair deal. I think my dad knew, in his heart, that he would be doing me a great disservice if he robbed me of the chance to help pay my own way.
The college that I attended was relatively close to home. I remember that I took my studies very serious. College didn’t come easy to me. I think that I had to study twice as hard as a lot of my friends did. I was so earnest in my desire to become further educated.
I remember that this was an era, in my life, wherein time was precious, very precious. For I worked 28 hours a week at a local grocery store while going to college. I worked in the frozen food department. At home and between classes at college, I would rewrite my notes in little 3 by 5 inch notebooks. While I worked at the grocery store, I would go over my class notes, in my head. I had the benefit of having my little notebooks in my pocket to refer to.
I also wrote for my college newspaper. I was blessed in that my editor liked my writing style and would give me one or two reporting assignments for each weekly edition. When I first started college, I had my doubts as to whether or not I was good enough to write for my college newspaper. My old girlfriend, Penny, convinced me to join my college newspaper. It wasn’t so much that she convinced me, rather she would punch me in my arm every time I told her that I wasn’t sure if I was competent enough at writing, to write for my college newspaper. For all her support and belief in me, I am dearly grateful to her.
In light of all this, I served as an Assistant Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 170. My dad was Scoutmaster of Troop 170. I am proud to say that my dad served as the scout troop’s Scoutmaster for nearly 30 years.
I have to confess that I found college difficult. I remember, when I had an afternoon free from work or classes, I would walk through the forest, down to the banks of the old Morris Canal just to get away from everything. I would walk my collie, Sunday, down the forest path. I’d bring my notebook. We would reach the old foundation of the old icehouse that my great-grandfather owned and operated. Sitting on that old foundation, my collie by my side, looking out to the still waters of the old canal, I would earnestly study my notes.
Another very important outlet for me, to escape the pressures of work and college, was to play my drums. For an hour or so, I could lose myself in the sound of the old snare drum, the tom-tom, the high hat cymbal, and the other cymbals in my drum set. After playing the drums for about an hour or so, I could return to studying with a fresh new outlook.
Each and every one of us travels our own separate and distinct journey to truth. For me, during those days of my late teens, I knew many people in college, at work, in the scouts, and at church. Still, a certain loneliness loomed in my heart.
It’s important to set goals and look ahead in life. Still, I believe it is important to look back, to see where you came from. To understand the circumstances and events in your past, that shaped who you are today. While my days of my first two years of college, were filled with hard work, overcoming self doubts, and earnestly studying; if it had come easy, I may not have grown and developed the qualities of good character.
Peace and harmony,