Open Mouth, Insert Football: Time to go

And just like that, it’s time to graduate. Time to finish up and move on to what is next.

It’s time to go.

Time for the next guy to take my place while I exit stage left. As I glance back and survey my experience here at my alma mater, the melodic tones of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong replay in my mind:

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road,

Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go.

I’ll be making my way to Bowling Green, Ky., to see what the next phase of my life holds.

I’ve got that dazed look that only the graduating senior has that says “I’m totally pumped, yet totally drained.”

The Murray State experience has been at times a grueling marathon, but the degree at the end is a milestone for me.

It was a pursuit I saw through to the end.

It was a challenge set in front of me that I accepted and conquered.

There was a time not too long ago when I was working 40 hours a week, third shift, while going to school full-time as well. While that’ll be something to brag about to my kids one day, I don’t recommend that experience to anyone.

There were classes and assignments that I endured while wondering how they could possibly apply to my degree, or to any part of my life for that matter (about some, I still wonder).

There were days when I legitimately thought I wouldn’t make it.

I’ve found, though, that being pushed to the limits is one of the most necessary parts of the collegiate experience.

It’s a rite of passage that teaches patience and resilience. And it makes the reward that much sweeter.

So make the best of this test and don’t ask why.

It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time.

I’ve been challenged to the core – from my personal belief system, to my limits as a student, to balancing family, work, school and all the other responsibilities – and I came out stronger on the other side.

I’ve learned to work hard and to not take myself so seriously. I’ve learned that life is about more than being comfortable and who I am as a person is about more than a title or profession.

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right.

I hope you had the time of your life.

I didn’t know how much I was taking on when I made the decision to return to school and finish what I started too many years ago. Looking back, there was no other decision to make. This was just right.

And whether or not I end up with that perfect job or make that certain salary down the road, I was able to retain the college experience I once thought I wouldn’t obtain. More than that, I finished what I started and regained my footing.

So take the photographs and still frames in your mind.

Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time.

What will I remember years from now? I’ll remember my five-year-old son yelling “Ivan Aska!” while playing ball in his room, or hearing my three-year-old shouting “Donte Pool! Three point shot!” I’ll remember screaming like a little girl when we dismantled St. Mary’s and forgot Dickie V. was even in the building.

I’ll remember the look on our rookie coach’s face when he lifted the OVC Championship trophy, or the one on my little boy’s face when he got his picture with Ed Daniel.

I’ll remember how Racer Fever infected the whole region during our implausible push toward perfection.

Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial,

For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while.

I’ll remember the professors. Specifically Valentine, Mulligan, Thomas, Strieter, Qualls, Belue – teachers who taught their subjects well and often made mildly interesting topics fascinating.

They pushed me, believed in me, and at times went to bat for me.

I’ll remember writing for The News, and having a fantastic sports editor who gave me free reign to write whatever I wanted.

I’ll remember my conversations with track athlete (and the fastest person I’ve ever met) Alexis Love and coach Jenny Severns. What a great beat that turned out to be.

I’ll remember the difficult articles, too. The first one I ever wrote ticked off a University dean.

I was proud, though, to see how the history department listened to the concerns of its students and committed to offering the best courses possible in the widest variety it could under a restricted budget.

Then there was the exclusive interview with then candidate Rand Paul when I asked him if he wanted marijuana legalized like his father does. (You should have seen his face!)

Or when I asked Coach Hatcher how many times his defensive line would give up 200 yards to an opposing running back. (You should have seen his face!)

I’ll remember the beautiful campus. I’ll remember the lovely town. I’ll remember the friends I made.

I’ll remember the many thought-provoking discussions. I’ll remember the people who visited campus who we would never otherwise get to see in western Kentucky – people like James Carville and Mary Matalin, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Ben Stein.

There’s nothing quite like the college experience. When I settle into the ordinary schedule of the real world, it won’t be hard to remember that.

But, for now, it’s time to go. Time to see what other unforeseen adventures await.

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right.

I hope you had the time of your life.