Oklahoma decided to have a few tornadoes today. As usual, they kick-flipped over the main OU campus. However, this doesn’t change the fact that the university community was still in a state of panic. Rushing to get cars into parking garages before the hail started, completely devoid of any semblance of traffic law knowledge.
Long story short, I ended up having to spend a lot of time in the student union. My house isn’t exactly tornado friendly. So I, along with dogs, undergrads, faculty, staff, and a group of high school students in the middle of a speech & debate competition, hunkered down, fusing like a make-shift family. After I completely gave up on getting anywhere on my Civil Procedure outline, I decided I would risk the weather, leave the safety of the air-conditionerless union basement, and head back to my house.
On my way back, I noticed I was sharing the sidewalk with someone. A skinny, tall for his age, thirteen-year-old kid in a tie. He was out taking a walk to clear his head before his competition round. I didn’t catch his name, so let’s just call him “Kid.” This was our conversation…
Dylan: “So are you here for this big debate competition?”
Kid: “Yeah. I’m a Freshman, so this is my first year I’ve been able to do it.”
Dylan: “That’s pretty cool. You know, when I was your age I took speech and debate. Don’t you love it?”
Kid: “Yeah, it’s pretty fun.”
Dylan: “I’m from Lawton, do you all have any teams here from that area?”
Kid: “You mean over by Ft. Sill?”
Kid: “No, I don’t think so.”
Dylan: “Eh, I didn’t think so. Lawton isn’t really known for its awesome speech and debate teams. We’re more of a sports town.”
Kid: “Yeah, I tried sports a bit. Baseball, tennis… it turns out it wasn’t really my style. I’m not really the athletic type. I’m a lot better at stuff like this.”
Dylan: “Same here. I tried sports, too. Seventh grade, eighth grade. Not really my style either. You know what though?”
Dylan: “When all is said and done, you’re going to have a good head on your shoulders. It won’t matter if you letter in any varsity sports in high school or not. People are going to value you because you’re the guy who knows what to say, and when to say it. You’ll be the witty one. “
Kid: “Plus I get to walk around in a tie.”
Dylan: “Exactly. You know you’re going to have to go to law school now.”
Kid: “Are you in law school?”
Dylan: “I just started. Let me tell you, for guys like us, who like stuff like we like, law school is pretty fun. It’s right up your alley.”
Kid: “I’ve thought about it a few times. But, well, I have about 7 years left, so I’m not in any hurry.”
Dylan: “More power to you. Enjoy those seven years, though. They feel like they last forever, but then you wake up one day, and everything’s different. It’s not your mom driving you to school, it’s you driving yourself to a job interview. Time runs away from you like that.”
Kid: “I will. Well, hey, I’ve got to get back and start preparing for my round. Thanks for talking to me. Good luck with everything.”
Dylan: “No problem man. Sorry about this weather. Good luck tonight, you’re going to rock it.”
Kid: “Thanks. See you around.”
Dylan: “Oh, and hey… hang in there. You’re going to be fine.”
It was almost as if, in the wake of the tornado, a hole had ripped in time, and I was given the opportunity to talk to myself at thirteen; a kid that managed to sidestep bullies by telling them jokes, who always wanted to sit at the adult table because they had better conversations, who never truly mastered the art of throwing a spiral, or hitting a home run. I got to see how far I’ve come, and what a little faith and perseverance can do. Most importantly, I realized that, through everything, I have always remained true to myself.
So, to Dylan, that skinny, tall for his age, thirteen-year-old kid roaming the caverns of my past…
Thank you for hanging in there.
Thank you for never giving up.
Things didn’t turn out half bad, did they?
I hate to say I told you so.