Key Words: Time of your life
Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 00:07
Well, Bearkats, it looks like we’ve reached the end of the road. After four years and countless columns, this will be my very last. I’m not graduating (I did that 2 years ago) and I’m not dying (at least I hope not), but I am leaving nonetheless.
Like many people I’ve talked to, coming to Sam Houston wasn’t my first choice. In 2008, I had just finished my first Master’s at Stephen F. Austin and was a car salesman at a local dealership. My plan was to go to the University of Houston for law school that Fall. They had accepted my application twice before and I figured the third time would be pro forma. That was until the fateful day in late July when I found out I didn’t get in. It was like the entire world crashed in on me all at once. Far from the bright future I had envisioned, I now saw myself as a car salesman. Sure, the money was good, but at the end of the day, I knew that I wanted to do more with my life than that. Sitting there devastated and pondering my future, I remembered that Sam Houston’s admission deadline was the only one that had not passed yet. “Why not?,” I thought, “It’s better than nothing.”
When I arrived here, my first thought was to see if I could assist with the debate team. I remembered them from my days debating as an undergrad at SFA and figured I could learn how to coach. Come to find out, the debate team had been forcibly disbanded. Not one to be thwarted, I decided to restart the team, despite not having the first clue about how to coach. Dean John de Castro told me once that when I first met with him about restarting the team, he thought it would be a small club that went to maybe 2 or 3 tournaments a year. Fast forward four years later and the team has won 11 national titles, competed at tournaments across the nation and even traveled to Rome. This past April, we played host to the largest championship tournament in the history of the International Public Debate Association, whose coaches voted me into becoming the youngest ever recipient of the Coach of the Year award.
I credit the remarkable success I have had here to the more than 40 young men and women who have been my students in my time here. It takes a special breed of person to pack into an old 15 passenger van and drive 12 hours across the country, argue for sport, get less sleep than you thought imaginable, develop a serious dependency on caffeine, and regularly eat dinner well after midnight. I will never forget the long conversations, the jokes that could never be put into print, and the true camaraderie you experience on these trips. There’s nothing quite like an entire van of college students belting out “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” from The Lion King at 2am on the way to a tournament.
That’s not to say it was easy. I have spent countless hours preparing schedules, booking travel, training students, and dealing with mountains of paperwork. Over the years, I have invested literally thousands of dollars of my own money to help the team make ends meet, especially during our first year when the university didn’t give us a budget. I have been cursed at and called every name in the book by students I bent over backward to help. And the whole time, I have done this without collecting a paycheck, without an office, and without a dedicated place to practice. We have run practices out of my apartment, outside the LSC, and anywhere else we could find space.
Now, here we are four years later. After graduation, I took a job as a full time instructor for Lee College’s Huntsville Center teaching speech classes to prisoners working on their Associate’s degrees. The job enabled me to stay in Huntsville and keep coaching. Unfortunately, due to the Republicans and Democrats failure to pass a budget and the death of a lot of educational funding, most notably the Youthful Offender Grant, the Huntsville Center is now unable to hire any full time instructors for the Fall. While I would love to work for Sam Houston, the university has decided that despite there being no team for years before I restarted it, that they intend on hiring a Ph.D. specializing in debate. As most every university does their Fall hiring in early Spring and I was not informed my contract would not be renewed until June, I will end up as an adjunct instructor and, at least for the time being, moving back home.
So once again, in late July, it feels like my whole world is crashing down. I was tempted to write a scathing farewell column and tear everyone at Sam who has done me wrong over the years a new one, but I decided that isn’t how I want to be remembered. I thought the day I didn’t get into law school was the worst day of my life, but thanks to my debaters, it was one of the best. I can only hope that years from now, I can think the same thing about today.
My friends, I have given you a lot of advice over the years. In the final episode of Boy Meets World, Mr. Feeny gives Corey, Shawn, Topanga, and Eric some lasting advice. I cannot improve on his words, so I will close with them. Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good. And no, I don’t mean do well. Do good. I love you all.
Adam has been a recurring columnist for The Houstonian for the past four years.