Texas was a long way from northern New Jersey, but there I was hugging my mom and dad goodbye at Newark International Airport. They bought me a ticket and gave me some money and off I went on a flight to Texas. When I arrived, I took the Super Shuttle to the Hilton Hotel on the corner of Central Expressway and Mockingbird Lane and walked the rest of the way to the SMU campus, lugging my two suitcases. It was the summer of 1980, the hottest on record. The entire way, I questioned my decision, thinking, “I have died and gone to hell, it’s so hot.” When I arrived at my dorm I was dripping in sweat and about to begin a new adventure a long way from home.
I often tell this story tongue-in-cheek, that I got a plane ticket and a quarter, and my parents said, “Call us when you get there.” That wasn’t far from the truth. I remember not thinking anything about it as I was going off to school and becoming independent. People ask me about my independence and where that comes from but for me, I think there are three primary influencers. The first is genetics. I think we are just born a certain way. The second is sibling dynamic. I was the youngest and my folks were tired, so I largely went unsupervised. The last is the influences you encounter throughout life that either reinforce independence or squelches it. I would encourage everyone to seek it. I find it very interesting where people find security, I’ve just always found it in faith and independence.
The contrast to my trip to college with what families do these days is remarkable. Nowadays, for most high school grads arriving at college, it is a two-car process plus a U-Haul attached to one vehicle. Back then, not so much. Still, I knew my family loved me and would always be there for me. This was my real first test of independence, and I was ready.
I was not the only member of my family who had walked alone into a new adventure. I remember hearing stories about how my father walked to Grand Central Station as a young teenager, by himself, to board a train for boarding school. I guess that was just how my family rolled. “You’re on your own kid, good luck! Call if you need anything!” I don’t lament that process because in many ways that process prepared me to get back up after being knocked down. We all have to avoid looking at people in their current circumstance and making up a reason why their life looks perfect. Nobody’s life is perfect. Most of us are just trying to get through the day. Whether it was business failure, betrayal of a friend, a horrific car accident, unfaithful partner, or whatever your story is, have faith. The relationships in your life will sustain you into new opportunities, a move to Texas, or save you from despair, a hand up and a hug.
If you think Connect for Life is about taking, you would be completely wrong. It’s like you have an emotional bank account with the universe and you make deposits, and you make withdrawals. If your withdrawals become too large and too often, your connections will help you less. If your deposits become large such that others can benefit from your deposits, life will be completely fulfilling. Go step out there into the unknown and enjoy what I like to call “scary fun!”