By Steve Hofstetter
I found myself, a 15-year-old self-proclaimed sports-writer, sitting on the steps of Low Library during the Columbia Scholastic Press Association orientation.
I looked out at the lawns of Butler Library, and watched a few people playing hackeysack on the grass. I peered up at the blue sky, conceivably bluer than any other New York sky Iâ€™d ever seen, and realized why Columbia must have chosen it for a school color. And I leaned back on alma matter, knowing that one day, Iâ€™d belong there - and for more than just a few hours on a Tuesday afternoon.
I had the distinct feeling that someday, Iâ€™d call this place home. I knew that I had some time before it happened, and that Iâ€™d have to work before I got there. But I knew it would eventually happen. It had to.
I found myself, a 17-year-old freshman, sitting on the steps of Low Library during new student orientation.
I had been accepted to Columbia, and after a semester of distraction, I embarked on my journey of becoming me. I immersed myself in two things - my quest to be a professional sports-writer, and my search for a solid group of friends. The two meshed when a fellow journalist brought me into his fraternity. And the two collided when one of my fraternity brothers brought me back into journalism.
I found myself, a 20-year-old junior, sitting in my room over December break, when I received a phone call from one of my brothers.
Heâ€™d met a gentleman who was looking for someone with a background in writing, baseball, and computers to fill a full-time position, and my friend thought that Iâ€™d fit the bill. Normally, Iâ€™d have said my friend was crazy for suggesting that I leave school for a job. But this job happened to be with the New York Yankees.
I found myself, a 20-year-old rookie, sitting in my office in Yankee Stadium.
In under five years, I had reached both my dreams - I attended Columbia, and I had taken the â€œself-proclaimedâ€ out of sportswriter.
My exact title was â€œContent Coordinator,â€ but what it meant was that I was the head writer for the Yankeesâ€™ new website. If my friends thought I watched a lot of baseball before, they should have seen me , and began going to every game. I still kept in touch with most of my friends, but I packed up and moved out of my fraternity house and into a place of my own. For the first time, I was paying my very own electric bill, buying my own dishes, and relying solely on myself; I was having a great time.
The past tense in that last paragraph is very important. My leave of absence began turning into a complete withdrawal - from more than just classes.
I found myself, a 20-year-old beat writer, sitting in my hotel room in Anaheim.
I was toward the end of a stretch that would see me work 24 days in a row, and 38 of 40. And the only thing that kept my 70-hour workweeks from turning into 80-hour marathons was the time spent on an airplane couldnâ€™t officially be considered work. I began thinking about where I was going. Or better yet, if I should have began the journey to get there as early as I did.
I was in a unique situation. When my friends asked me if Roger Clemens meant to hit Mike Piazza, I told them that he didnâ€™t, because I could see it in his eyes. When my friends asked me if I thought Glenallen Hill was a good acquisition, I told them sure, and he has impeccable taste in music. When my friends asked me what I thought of Randy Choateâ€™s chances to make the post-season roster, I told them that Choate was a pretty sure bet, because Allen Watson had been throwing hurt all season without telling his coaches, and heâ€™d probably go on the disabled list soon. But I could tell them only over e-mail.
Iâ€™d spent the last six months so wrapped up in fitting in to my new world, I was no longer the right size and shape for my old one.
I found myself, a 20-year-old college dropout, sitting on the steps of Low Library, watching the campus half an hour before it would be filled with new students pouring in.
I looked out at the lawns of Butler Library, and watched a few people playing soccer on the grass. I peered up at the blue sky, conceivably bluer than any other New York sky Iâ€™d ever seen, and remembered why Columbia must have chosen it for a school color. And I leaned back on alma matter, knowing that one day, Iâ€™d be back there- and for more than just a few hours on a Tuesday afternoon.
And I realized then that in my zeal to capture one dream, I never finished dreaming the first - and it couldnâ€™t have helped that I hadnâ€™t slept much since I took the job. I knew that Iâ€™d be giving up a lot to return to Columbia. But as everything in the last five years flooded back to me, I realized that Iâ€™d be gaining so much more in return. I found what Iâ€™d been missing for the last six months. I found my strength, my conviction, my non-superficial happiness, and my utter sense of belonging.
But most importantly, I found myself, a 20-year-old kid, filling out a college application. Most importantly, I found myself.