Upon the release of the fall term grades and my teams success in cross country I am able to label this first quarter at university as positive. Though I knew weeks ago that it was pretty good, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about the experience until I came home for this break and reflected on the last three months I spent in Oregon. As my furlough comes to an end and the new year is about to begin, I’ve decided to speculate on how the last year of my life has changed. My time in Ashland was great and I will summarize my documentation of it sometime soon, but I think it’s important to not to overlook what happened earlier this year, leading up to my move north.
Like 96% (approx.) of students enrolled at Butte Community College I, at one point or another, felt trapped in lackluster purgatory that had been fabricated by myself. One part of me desperately missed the simplicity of high school. Friends in every class, low-key track meets and weekends spent selling popcorn to the town of Paradise. It was an uncomplicated schedule that allowed me care-free living…perhaps too carefree. The part of me that looked ahead while at Butte was mostly frightened, though I wouldn’t admit it, I had once again fallen into a pattern of work, school, running.
Don’t get me wrong, I love patterns and think they are necessary in order to balance multiple facets of one’s life; but the idea of changing my comforting schedule and moving away from beautiful Butte County scared me quite a bit.
It wasn’t until my last few weeks of community college that I realized how much of a god damn home I had made out of Butte Campus Drive. Former teachers waved when I passed and I still shot the shit with a kid whom I had only known through a group project in 2012. The nice girl who served me coffee daily could probably identify all 6 of my different hats and I had named each of the Koi fish in the pond. I was OK with all of this. These familiarities showed me that I had fit into the place I had once dreaded and feared.
Sure, a lot of people that go there don’t take their education seriously and almost everyone bitched about something, but I had promised my 18 year old self that I would not become one of the masses and get discouraged. I had once thought enrolling at the campus only fifteen minutes from my home meant I had failed but I would soon realize it was a powerful springboard into my life. (aka life after BC)
Due to uncertainty of which university I wanted to attend, I remained at Butte for a third year. At the time I would dread it but these next terms actually worked in my favor because I had spring eligibility in track and would have the creative spark in writing grow inside of me.
My final season of racing in black and gold was somewhat a let down…on paper. I was able to get my first individual conference title which totaled four (XC included) all GVC selections in my career, but it was also the first time my team failed to win overall. Though I am still foolishly bitter about not completing this undefeated streak, which lasted for 7 years, I would like to point out that our girls team took their second consecutive title. That is the first time in school history that this has happened and it did not come easily to them.
One week after the conference meet of very mixed feelings, I ran my last race ever as a Roadrunner. It was either my lack of mental preparedness or the four races I had run at conference the previous week (1500,800,5000 on Saturday with the 10k four days before) that, for the first time 7 years of racing, brought me across the finish line in dead last place.
I didn’t drop out from my last race and I didn’t cry afterwards but I when I walked over to my teams tent and grabbed my trainers I didn’t talk to any of them. As I cooled down, I expected tears to come but instead was hit with a whirlwind of emotions. Here I was, newly 21, and finally realizing how integral this part of my life had been for the last three years.
Instantly, I flashed back to my first day of cross country and how scared I was to meet all these new fast people. It contrasted steeply with the person I had grown into that day. Though, I now wore smaller shorts and was not much bigger physically, I felt I had grown emotionally and in spirit as one the older runners on the team. The next gust of emotions that I received while jogging around Cupertino that day were from pondering my future as a runner. I had recently solidified my decision to attend Southern Oregon University where I have been blessed with the ability to compete on their distance running teams.
While looking down at my old Butte singlet I nodded and accepted that the next time I would race, I would be with all new faces and wearing red. Although, I had a few weeks left of classes, this was the mental closure that I had been looking for.
The remainder of that weekend, I don’t really remember due to perplexed feelings of racing as well as finally utilizing my new superpower of age to obtain as many whiskey sours as possible. That following Monday, I was greeted at class by all of my final projects and a lingering headache.
I was enrolled in four classes that semester but the two that I really enjoyed were creative writing fiction as well American literature. Interestingly enough, these classes met consecutively after one another and in the same room. It was a little difficult for me to switch gears, within minutes, from the serious discussions about the life of Ernest Hemingway to debating which series portrayed better characters: Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.
These diverse forms of education showed me how broad and beautiful the art of writing really is. It was incredibly beneficial for me to learn about both of these at the same time and I plan on doing more dual literature enrollment in sessions to come.
Out of my four classes, I had no multiple choice finals but instead 6 total papers to write (This included redoing a story I had written about a month previous). The finals week at Butte was not too stressful since I was able to knock out essays and was only distracted by work and some athletic banquets. Also, I had finally learned that procrastinated essays typed out early in the morning are mostly not quality.
My final day at Butte Community College resulted in watching the new Great Gatsby in American literature and feasting on junk food in creative writing after our final assignments had been turned in.
I don’t know what I expected as I drove off of College Campus Drive for the final time but it felt surreal. Maybe a band playing some triumphant music? Or possibly to see a projected mental image of my younger self crossing the road to run on one of the trails covered in cow shat as I had numerous times in years before?
From what I recall about leaving campus for the last time, my situation strikingly resembled the final scene of Breaking Bad where Aaron Paul speeds off yelling like a maniac. Though I wasn’t leaving a meth lab, I felt an astounding sense closure which grew into pride as I ascended higher in elevation towards the town of Paradise.
Though Butte College is sometimes put down as an institution of higher education, I learned that you really get out of it what you put in. Three years after graduating from Paradise High School, I left Butte with better habits on the track and in the classroom as well as a strong sense of motivation and individuality that I might not have obtained at any other school.
Until my next existential breakdown, Peace.