Those who read the last installment in this series will remember that I had a less-than-stellar record as a high school student. It took a while for me to get things going but, as soon as I gathered momentum, I had a hard time slowing down.
My first year as a college professor demanded a lot of hard work. I had to prepare for several classes I hadn’t taught previously. But by plugging away nightly I was able to get through the year with flying colors. I somehow registered the highest teaching evaluations in my department after only one semester.
During my second year as a professor I had to focus on research. I knew that if I spun a couple of articles off my dissertation and wrote or co-wrote a couple of “new” articles I would be a lock to get tenure. Things worked out well. My department voted unanimously to grant me tenure after just four years and two months on the job.
Instead of taking a rest after getting tenure I started to study for the LSAT. The next month I took the test and scored high enough to get into all three of the schools I had been considering seriously. Then, in one of the most foolish moves of my life, I turned down a scholarship offer from The University of Georgia School of Law. I later accepted an offer from UNC School of Law and enrolled in the fall of 1998.
For the first few months I studied diligently – an average of about five hours a night. But, for some reason, I started to have serious attention problems in class by the time November rolled around. The Clinton impeachment scandal was dominating the political shows on both radio and television. But, unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to weigh in on the serious issues that confronted our nation during that time.
As Thanksgiving approached, my problems staying awake in class were getting worse. I was becoming very bored with law school in general. I also found it hard to take UNC Law seriously as the school seemed to offer more seminars dealing with transgendered rights than seminars dealing with serious legal issues. So I decided to take a weekend off and head out of town to catch up on some shopping for cloths, guns, and CDs – in no particular order.
As I was looking through some books at the mall I found one called “Sexual McCarthyism” by Alan Dershowitz. As I was holding the book I had an immediate realization about my life and where it was headed. I knew I did not ever want to practice law. I knew I wanted to teach college and to become an irreverent columnist and author much like Alan Dershowitz. I knew I had taken a wrong turn in my career by pursuing a law degree I would never put to use.
After a conversation with one of the Deans at UNC Law, I decided to go back to teaching. Although I remain indebted to that man to this day I will not mention his name.
He knows who he is and he would rather I kept his name out of this article. If the feminists were to find out the identity of the one who brought me back to academia they might put their distaste for firearms on hold and shoot him in the back of the head (even though he’s an anti-gun liberal, too).
As you can imagine, the months that followed my decision to return to academia were depressing. After all, I had wasted a year’s salary in order to find out what I did not want to do with my life. I had sold an awesome row house built in 1912, which was the coolest place I’d ever lived. And, to make matters worse, I was forced to end a relationship with a girl I was falling in love with over the summer preceding my enrollment in law school.
For months on end, I sat up late at night staring at the ceiling and asking myself why I had not just slowed down after getting tenure so I could just enjoy life for a few years. After falling asleep I would often wake up in a pool of sweat thinking about all that I had lost in the preceding months. Sometimes it was the money. Sometimes it was the house. Sometimes it was the girl.
I didn’t realize just how far I had been set back financially until I went back to Wilmington to look for another house. I could not find anything I liked as much as my old 1912 row house. So I settled for an overpriced, cheap, and utterly boring town home near the beach.
When I moved in during the summer of 1999 I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I was a wannabe pundit with no book deal, no column, and no radio or television show. I simply did not have a platform. I only had debt.
Seven years (to the day) after I moved back to Wilmington I got a very surprising phone call from my agent D.J. Snell. He told me that Penguin U.S.A. was offering me a contract for my book “Feminists Say the Darnedest Things” - the advance and bonuses totaling $10,000 more than the salary I had lost that year I was in law school. So, naturally, after I got off the phone I bought a six-pack of Sierra Nevada and headed to my back deck to do some serious thinking. Naturally, this was done while I watched the bug zapper.
As I was sitting on the back deck I thought about the 1912 row house I had sold in 1998. It had not appreciated that much since I moved away. But the town house I bought to replace it ended up doing quite well. In fact, after someone decided to build the Mayfaire Town Center next door, its value went up enough in just six months to recoup that year’s loss of salary that once had me feeling so depressed.
And the story gets even better. I took the money I made on that town home and rolled it over into a house twice as big. That investment paid off to the tune of an appreciation over the next two years that was three times the salary I lost by taking the year off. Oddly, I ended up making a lot of money I never would have made had I not taken the year off to head to UNC School of Law.
And perhaps the best part of the story is that I met another girl I would later marry. While my new girlfriend was leading me back to church, the old one was living out of wedlock with a man she met while I was in law school – a man she had no intention of marrying.
I guess that unlike my other “Life and How to Live it” articles this one needs no bold letters to highlight the main point. Just read it again the next time you think God has abandoned you. And realize that your best days may be ahead of you still.
For Further Reading: Romans 8:18-28
Louie Zamperini's Son on "Unbroken": "It’s Terrible and Beautiful at the Same Time” | Daniel Doherty