Before the end of the school year, we were all called into the assembly hall to hear about a new type of high school that was going to open the following year named S.E.L.F. (Secondary Educational Learning Facilitator). We were told that they were experimenting with a new style of education called an alternative school that would give students an opportunity to learn from nontraditional teaching methods and the resources to excel at their own rate, but we all knew that the real push to open this new school was to have a place to stash all those kids that had gotten caught up in the big drug bust. This new school sounded interesting, but that sort of thing wasn’t for me. My plan was to become the next track and field star at University high school.
That fall, I tried out and made the track team. As a high school freshman, I was studying hard and practicing even harder. I was getting excellent times in the short sprints and the attention of my coaches. One day between classes, I noticed a couple of my junior high buddies hanging out in the parking lot. Everyone knew that the parking lot was where kids went to smoke cigarettes between classes, but I didn’t smoke and I figured I’d just give these guys a hard time about how stupid it was to smoke cigarettes. As I approached my friends, I noticed that the vice principal was headed in our direction. I figured this was going to get a little nasty and I didn’t want any part of that, so I turned and headed in the opposite direction. Just then I heard the vice principal yell my name. “Sanford, get back over here.” He started pointing at kids and screaming “You, you, you” and then pointed to me and said, “Report to my office for smoking”. I calmly approached him and said, “Sir, I’m on the track team and I don’t smoke.” He looked me dead in the eyes and said “Don’t lie to me son, I saw you smoking”. I then emphatically repeated my earlier statement. At that point, he just turned and headed towards his office. I then snatched the pack of cigarettes from one of my friend’s flannel shirt pocket, pulled one out, lit it up, raised my middle finger high in the air and exclaimed “F@&# You Fish Face” (which was weird because that was the nickname we used for our junior high school vice principal). Before that day was over, I had quit the track team, enrolled at S.E.L.F. high school and taken up smoking, a habit that would plague me for the next 25 years.
Somebody once said that our lives are the sum total of the choices we have made. Who knows? Maybe if I had reported to the vice principal’s office that day and just accepted whatever punishment he handed out, I would have gone on to medal in the Olympics, but what I do know is that I wouldn’t have experienced all the amazing things that this life has put on my table or met all the wonderful people who have helped to shape the person I am proud to be today.
The one thing I know for sure is that regret is just a pointless waste of energy and ain’t no dude got time for that.