When I was in college, my goal was to have so much success outside of academics that I could drop out.
It worked for Brad Pitt, Steve Jobs and Oprah…I thought it could work for me too.
I had a two part plan.
Part one: Find something you’re passionate about and work really hard for it.
Part two: Forsake nearly all other distractions to achieve your goal. Distractions include but are not limited to late night partying, recreational drug use and of course class.
The first part was fairly easy. I made art and was an actor. I painted constantly and went to auditions on the regular.
The second part proved a bit more difficult. While I couldn’t completely cut out my social life, I did manage to skip class quite often.
To be clear I didn’t want to flunk out of college, I wanted to be so wildly successful that I had no other choice but to leave it.
So I still had to study.
Even with two majors this was very manageable.
As an Art major, I just had to keep making the work I was already doing and show up occasionally.
My Interpersonal Communications major mostly required me to know very complex words to very common sense ideas and occasionally write about my feelings with them.
In either case, the syllabus, reading materials and anything else you could need was online or in a textbook. Really the only reason to show up to class was if you were an auditory learner or for the midterm and final.
This made skipping class not only easy, but from a time management perspective, prudent.
I was able to make my life’s work and still receive high marks.
But after 5 years and two majors, for the sake of tradition, I decided to go to my last week of instruction.
I’d made it this far and I figured I’d give it a go.
I even woke up early for the last class I’d ever take at UCLA.
Communication Studies 116: Counseling Intimate Relationships
Ceremoniously, I put on the outfit I’d wore to my very first day 5 years before, brought an untouched messenger bag and headed off to class.
I showed up about 10 minutes late, which was early for me.
The room was unusually packed.
There wasn’t an empty seat in the house.
Hundreds of students hunched over their desks intensely focused on their…scantrons?!?!?!?!
It couldn’t be.
But it was.
Everything began to blur.
To confirm the nightmare that was unfolding in front of me I conferred with one of the T.A.‘s.
He assured me that had I looked at the syllabus it stated very clearly that the final would happen a week early.
I promptly went outside and vomited in a bush.
There’s something that happens to reality when blood is pumping so fast to your heart that your brain can’t keep up.
I marched back inside directly to the professor.
‘I’m so sorry, I had no idea the final was today. My Grandmother just passed and I just lost track of everything.’
A side note here. Yes. That is the worst, most cliched excuse in the history of excuses…but my heart goes out to those of you who have actually lost a grandparent at a time when you had to take a final and nobody would believe you.
Not me though.
I was a bold faced, panicked liar that smelled of barf.
And he wasn’t buying it. ‘I’m sorry to hear about your Grandmother Mr. Deutsch, why don’t you grab a scantron and we can talk about this later.’
I borrowed a #2 pencil and laid down in the middle of the lecture hall on my empty stomach.
At least it was multiple choice.
And everybody was fond of making fun of Communications as a ‘common sense’ course anyway.
Based on the B+ I got, it turns out they were right.
But the moral of that story has always stuck with me. Had I simply read the supplementary materials closely I would’ve seen exactly when the final was.
Case in point: ALWAYS read the fine print.
If Jacob had learned this lesson, maybe he wouldn’t have had to work an extra 7 years.