Seize opportunity and find yourself

My freshman and sophomore years here in Chadron, I did little more than attend my classes and bunker down in my room because that was easier than being sociable and far less frightening than meeting new people.

Up until recently, I’ve always been one to cower in the sanctity of my comfort zone. In certain aspects, I still do. Familiarity may breed contempt, but for me, familiarity means a guarantee. I can’t be disappointed if I go with a sure thing. It’s the same reason that any time I go to a restaurant I get a burger and fries; it’s always a safe bet. What potential for disaster is there in a burger and fries?

Recently, there has been a bit of a paradigm shift in my life, and thus, a similar shift in my outlook. For the uninitiated, my gimmick around these parts has been one of a sarcastic, anti-social heavy metal guy who frequents in scowling and slinging offensive words. For the most part, all of that is still true.

However, I’ve made it my mission to step out from the shadow of my dorm room and discover the fabled college experience for myself. So far, I would say I haven’t done too poorly. I’ve frequented open mic nights, drank with strangers, gone days without sleep, and, more recently, traveled to “far away” lands.

With the help of one Dr. Sandy Schaefer and some very close friends of mine, I went to Anaheim, Calif., to attend the annual winter NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show, the be-all-end-all of showcases for those looking to make it in the music business industry. Having been in the same band for six years and recently starting to pursue a minor in music, I figured the trip would make an excellent opportunity to see if I had any real stake in music as a money-maker.

Leaving all pre-conceived notions behind at the airport, I made it my goal not to be the slack-jawed new guy with the bag full of free stickers. If I was going to be bumping shoulders with some of the industry’s biggest names, I was going to take advantage of the opportunity. More than four football fields worth of the hottest gear, biggest names and newest faces eagerly awaited me.

One week, a dozen business cards and some very sore feet later, we returned from sunny beaches to subzero temperatures and snow. Home sweet home. The two biggest lessons I brought home from California are ones that my younger self would scoff at.

Number one: know how to carry on a conversation. This seems obvious, but for the misanthropes and anti-socialites out there, I know how hard this can be. Both your working life and your day-to-day drudgery will be made a million times easier if you know how to smile, crack a joke, and acknowledge other human beings.

Lesson number two, and this is the important one, is to take an opportunity when it presents itself. There will always be thousands of reasons not to do something; money is never quite right, it’s just a little too far from home, or your friends aren’t quite sure it’s best for you. If you wait for the stars to align before you do something, you will never do anything. It’s much better to look back and learn from an experience, be it a mistake or not, rather than wonder what could have been.

In the end, I’m still that sarcastic, not-quite-as anti-social metal guy. I still enjoy scowling and I still enjoy offensive words. The only real difference between freshman me and me now is that now, I’m trying to establish an identity. I’m trying to take chances and live a little for the sake of experience. I’m trying not to let the notions of others influence me. I’m trying to make it known to those around me that I’m not an extension of my friends or my family, I am my own entity. I might not know exactly who I am, but I know that I won’t find myself by hiding away from the world.

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