Are the best things in life really free?

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

As impossible as it may seem, my junior year of college is rapidly approaching.

This, along with the retail job I've held for more than a year, is scaring the bejesus out of me. What happened to the wonder years? Come back high school! Come back prom! Come back Trigonometry! Wait -- scratch that one.

To make matters more intimidating, my 22-year-old stepcousin just got a job as a computer analyst in Kansas City, Mo. And, as we all know, any job title with the word "computer" in it means you ain't gonna be livin' on bread and water. We were all quite happy for him, although my dinner rolls tasted a tad bitter at the celebratory meal.

But there's no need for me to worry. A reporter's starting salary will surely put a Rolex on my wrist and a Benz in the garage. In fact, Callie and Bob Miller's modesty are just a cover-up for the butlers and vacation homes that truly inhabit their lives. They suggested I put a nice down payment on a private jet with my first paycheck because, as they put it, "it's the only way to travel."

So that image you all have of a starving, stressed out body of creativity living from paycheck to paycheck is all wrong. The life of a journalist is pure glitz and glamor.

This idea of a worry-free future was once shared by many of my friends, who insisted that a few vocational classes will have them making $50,000 a year. Or some millionaire was going to come pluck them out of this town and take them under their wing. Planning our future was nothing more than a fun hobby.

When we hit our 20s, it soon became clear that money, surprisingly enough, doesn't grow on trees. Neither do rich spouses. The only things we saw growing on trees were leaves, some of which were poisonous. And lots of sharp sticks with a few wasp nests occasionally thrown in.

So we continued planning, this time with a little less enthusiasm. The idea of being the 20-something creep who still cruised with all the high schoolers was enough motivation to keep our goals on track, however.

I guess we're all supposed to have unrealistic hopes and dreams when we're young. Not to would almost be unpatriotic. Then as we grow older, these same hopes and dreams dwindle to steady and satisfactory middle class lives.

Priorities change. Mowing the lawn becomes a little more important than becoming a rock star or saving the world. It just sort of happens.

And when it does -- when I'm paying the bills and driving my children to McDonald's -- I'll look back at these years of my life and laugh my head off.

Because I think that's what being a 20-year-old is for: To serve as a fun reminder when things aren't going exactly according to plan. I believe making memories is everything one should hope and dream for in a life.

Heck, I think I could settle for that.

Sam DeReign is a student at Southeast Missouri State University. See his sorry excuse for a blog at sdereign.blogspot.com or contact him at sdereign@semissourian.com.

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