It was March 21st, 2008, a day after my 18th birthday. A handful of my friends were in a hardcore band, and that night they had a show in Rancho Cucamonga. For some reason Trey’s older brother, Brad — who normally transported the drums and amps — had something going on, so it was my black Ford Ranger and I that assumed responsibility.
It was a lovely day. A Friday. I got on the freeway and remember heading down there by myself, trying to keep up with Ben (vocals), Kyle (bass) and Isaiah (guitar), who led in the car ahead of me. This was made more difficult by the rush hour traffic and sun, which blazed unrelenting from the direction I was heading.
But we made it. We made it there just fine. The Nitty Gritty is what they called it, a melting pot of various factions of the hardcore scene. Mostly, it was just a big room for young people to practice posturing at one another. There were “Heavy Hands,” which was basically a bunch of big ass dudes who liked to fight. There were the scene kids wearing their brand new tank-tops and factory-cut half-pants. And there were just your regular people there to watch a hardcore show. I spent about 12 months trying to get into it, but all I got was literate. I was there to support my friends.
Our group stood outside on the asphalt, bullshitting away about who the fuck knows what. Trey and Brad had just showed up. It was probably a half-hour before the show started.
Suddenly, my phone began vibrating in my pocket. My mom was calling. She knew I was with my friends, out in Rancho, and since I was an asshole teenager it would have taken something extraordinary for her to interrupt my precious, important life. Or at least that’s how I interpret it.
But the news was good! It was, arguably, the best news of my life. A letter from Virginia Tech came in the mail, and my mom just couldn’t contain herself. She opened it, and called to tell me I got in. I had the biggest fucking smile on my face in The Nitty Gritty parking lot. As it so happened, I was wearing my white and maroon New Era Virginia Tech hat. I flung it in the air in unconfined excitement, along with all the wonderful hopes and dreams I staked my acceptance on.
She told me how proud she was of me, how happy she was for me, and told me she loved me. We hung up.
Meanwhile, my friends must’ve either thought something awesome had just happened, or that I was pretty strange. I just threw my hat in the air. Who does that?
Then I told them I got in, which wasn’t that exciting to anyone other than me. Trey and Brad were the happiest for me, because they knew going to Virginia Tech was my dream. At the time I took anyone who didn’t appear happy enough for me like they were jealous. It wasn’t necessarily because they gave two fucks about college, or about me accomplishing any goal. It was simpler than that. I had options and they didn’t.
The following Monday, I went into History of the Americas Part II — an I.B. Program course for juniors (Pt. 1) and seniors. In the front corner of the class, to the left when you walk in, our teacher had a huge white piece of paper where students wrote in which colleges they had been accepted to.
The I.B. Program had some strong students. A couple went to the University of Chicago, a couple went to Cal-Berkley and UCLA; the wall was well represented. Under where I wrote my name, all I had were measly California schools: Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Sacramento, Humbolt State, et. al. I was so insecure back then. I thought the schools I got accepted to actually said something about me. Maybe they did. Maybe they do.
So I took out a fat black marker, one of those that smells of straight fumes, and wrote over all my schools with an enormous “VT”.
There, I finally made it.
With my destination in hand, the next month went about as senior year-ish as it could have. I was virtually done trying. I took the girl I had liked to the prom, and had a horrible time. She wound up meeting the guy she would eventually get engaged to, so I spent my evening standing around like a knob and occasionally dancing.
But I was playing with house money. Again, Virginia Tech already accepted me. Why should any petty nonsense get in the middle of the fact that, in a few months, I wouldn’t have to see any of these people ever again. That gave peace to my failures with my prom date.
I was 18 years old. The world was about to open up as senior year was winding down. It was a great time to be alive.