The 80s group Styx was never one of my favorites. Yeah, I liked some of their songs. Like, “The Best of Times.” But can I really take a band seriously that saddled us with “Mr Roboto?” Nevertheless, like many people, songs take me back to certain periods in my life.
But this time it wasn’t a song that took me back in time. Instead it was a question that took my back in time, and reminded me of a song from that time.
There are certain places you don’t necessarily expect to field a serious question: while watching football (unless it’s a question about football), lounging on the beach, or at the movies.
But that’s where my son and I had decided to go. It was a Friday night last summer, and like the free-wheeling bachelor that I am, I didn’t have any plans. So my son and decided to check out Antman.
While I was buying a much-needed nutritious snack (translation: popcorn with extra butter and some chocolate balanced with a Coke Zero), I ran into a former student, Cole, who I had gotten to pretty well over the course of the previous semester. I say former because not only was he no longer in any of my classes, he was planning to go to another school in the fall. A bigger school. With the image of being a funner school.
In the theatre, my son and I found a seat, and Cole and his friend sat next to us. We talked some – I say some because my mouth was already pretty busy with the popcorn and all. But I asked Cole if he was excited about starting at a new college in the fall.
No doubt! He was looking forward to the campus and the classes. The football and the fall. The dorms. And a whole new life that awaited him. He was raring to go.
But then, with a big smile on his face, he asked me, “Don’t you think college is the best time in your life.”
You know, I never knew how hard it was to be serious when my fingers were slick with butter.
And I also didn’t know how fast the human mind could work. Because within a second of his question, the images of my time in college (why just go four years when you can go longer) came flooding over me. Great times. Hard times. Late night studying. Late nights not studying . . . followed by tests the next day that I wasn’t ready for. There were good friends and good times. Evenings talking at the campus radio station, hanging around the front porch of the frat house.
There were great frat parties. And study parties.There was the night on the roof of the frat house that ended too soon, and there were night classes that I thought would never end.
And that great feeling of having your life in front of you, and that you can go in any direction that you want. That feeling of total freedom. To go where you want, when you want, and do what you want.
Yeah, I thought, Cole was right. I glanced to my left at him and he was still smiling, waiting for my answer. I was just about to agree with him, when I remembered my son on my right.
What am I doing, I thought. Sure, those are good times. But the best of times? Then I thought about how much fun I had had with my son over the short course of his life. And I thought about so many other great events in my life. And some not so great times, as well.
The birth of my daughter. And later my son. The good times we had together as a family when my wife was still with us. And the good times we’ve had as a family. Spelling bees and baseball games. Watching my son get better and better at soccer and basketball. Seeing my daughter excel at so many things.
Going new places, and meeting new people. The challenges and successes (and sometimes disappointments) that work can bring. And life can bring.
Finding a new burger joint that we love to go to, and finding the my son loves going with me to broadcasts football games. The students that I’ve gotten to know, and I hope helped along the way. There are so many good times that make up our lives.
And that’s what I started to tell Cole. But it’s hard to condense a lifetime of great memories into a short answer. I mean, Twitter only gives you 140 characters, and I’m not sure how many Cole would give me, especially with the movie about to begin.
But my answer was yes, college is a great time in our lives. But don’t let that be the peak. Because every chapter of your life should be good too. Sure, some chapters are better than others. But each one makes up who we are.
It was probably more of an answer than he wanted to hear. But he kept smiling anyway – maybe because he liked my response. Or maybe because the movie was beginning and he wouldn’t have to listen to the ramblings of an old man.
But if he doesn’t believe me, all he has to do is turn on an 80s station and listen to Styx. Because it doesn’t matter when you hear the song, anytime you hear the words come on, it should in fact be “The Best of Times.”