A decade ago I roamed around the college streets of Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas. Just a young freshman at the time, I could never imagine I’d be back on campus over a decade later with a walk down memory lane.
At 18 one is still invincible, at the age where not only can they never envision their life in 10 years, but simply the notion being 10 years older is so far away it’s almost inconceivable, repulsive.
Like all young guns, I was bold, ambitious, a bit over confident and thought I knew more than I did. The truth is I didn’t know much at 18. I still don’t at 29; the only difference is my awareness of the fact.
The most iconic memories I have of college weren’t the epic frat parties, tailgating at the football games or studying long hours with friends, but rather debating over which home game I was going to round, how I would manage to continue playing my Sit-N-Go after the bell rang in my economics class or mustering the courage to tell my parents that I wasn’t going to last 4 years.
One Tuesday afternoon I was sitting at SMU’s decadent sports facility. They had tanning pools that were half submerged in water so one never got too hot while sunbathing. Just one of the many reasons I rarely studied. I’d ditch economics class, print out a few poker hand histories (I’ve been playing so long that things weren’t digital when I started), and review my mistakes.
It was there, while watching the students pass me by from afar, textbooks in their arms, dreading their next lecture, that it hit me. I remembered a quote from one of my favorite radio talk show hosts, Dennis Prager: ‘if you want to know if you’re headed in the right direction, just look at the people 10 years ahead of you and ask yourself one question: do I want to be like them?’
I glanced around at the students walking to somewhere they didn’t want to be. Today it was a math class. In 10 years it would be a corporate job. I didn’t want to be like most people. Normal. I looked around the empty pool and smiled.
Some say it was a tough choice to drop out and pursue a career playing poker professionally. Not being results oriented, I think I believe I made the correct one. When your worst likely downside is being right back where you started (except one year older and a little wiser), yet your upside is living your dream for the rest of your life, the rewards far outweigh the risk.
I realized there was really no choice at all, just that little voice that was trying to hold me back. It wasn’t my conscious talking. It was fear. So I told him to fuck himself, packed up my bags and never looked back.