Four years at a university and they expect you to walk out with a life plan. Obviously they don’t realize I’m 23.
Two months before my anticipated graduation from Texas Christian University, I had finished my requirements for my History major and was wrapping up some interesting classes for my Business minor: accounting, finance, and management. Looking back, I should have sucked it up and gotten my degree in Business.
My favorite business course was an Entrepreneurial class and the final project was to create a business proposal. We were split into teams and naturally I, the lone male, get assigned to the group that wants to open a flower shop with embroidery services and I don’t know… some other stupid stuff.
Really? How many fricken’ flower shops do you think this tenured professor has seen in the last ten years?
So, I was talking to my mom about the project and she suggested a craft butcher shop, an idea she and a friend had tossed about some years before. I had grown up on a ranch with working cattle and the more I thought about it, the more appealing it began to sound. I presented the idea to my group and with a little push – no, a shove, I persuaded them that this was the direction we needed to go. I appeased them by negotiating flowers on the meat counter, but the embroidery machine was a “no go”.
I am procrastinator by heart. If I have an exam on Monday, I don’t start studying until sometime late Sunday. By the next group meeting, I had used up every ounce of over achiever gene I possessed and completed the first two sections of the business proposal. Just like Greg Jennings, “I putz tha team on ma baack.” (HEADS UP: foul language in the link)
Don’t worry. I didn’t let it get to my head.
In fact, the only thought I had in my head at that point was what in the world was I going to do after I walked across that graduation stage and received my diploma?
My mom’s company was celebrating their 25th anniversary that month. It should have been a celebration and a slight hint that following your dreams can really pan out… (but who’s paying attention to their parents…) We were coming up on the end of the entrepreneurial project and my impending walk into the future. I was grouchy. And stressed.
I was in the last leg of interviews with the corporate office of a highly respected grocery chain and I had also been offered a lucrative job that included a new whip in automotive sales. The choice was between grocery carts and engines.
Dear God, just stab my eyeballs out.
All of my friends were accepting their “perfect” corporate jobs and investing in new Brooks Bros. wardrobes. Life was already starting to become a competition of keeping up with Jones’. I didn’t want to let my parents down. They had spent a small fortune on a private, college education. The idea of their son being a car salesman just didn’t add up.
Our ultimate goal as young 20 something’s is to become financially independent. We want to make the big bucks and bring home the bacon. I decided that the automotive industry would be the best way to stack some cash and one day follow my dreams (whatever the hell that might be). Here’s the kicker, gotta convince the matriarch that the dealership was the way to go. So I set up a tour with the GM (or super salesman) and invited mom up so he could give her the full sales pitch.
In the end, she gave me her blessing. But, like all mothers do, she attached a warning,
"Yes, you will make lots of money, but this job will suck the life out of you."
She was right. I knew from my previous experience in the industry (that’s right, I had slung whips before) I would be working so much I wouldn’t even have time to spend the dough-ray-me I was making.
We headed back to campus because I had class that afternoon. As I remember, the car ride back was bitchy and argumentative. I was trying to convince Mom that this is what I wanted, but deep down, I was really trying to convince myself of a job that my gut told me was a bad fit. I’d never admit it to her, but I knew it would suck the life out of me.
It was about the money.
That’s it. Just money.
I told mom I couldn’t talk about it anymore so she brought up the only safe topic she could think of.
"How’s your class project going?
I started telling her about it and before you knew it we’re bouncing ideas off of each other like it was a real shop and I’m a butcher. The conversation was easy and I’m just rattling off ideas. Suddenly she says,
“Stop. 15 minutes ago you wanted to bite my head off, now you’re cracking a smile for the first time in 24 hours.
You know that moment when you realize your mom is right… This wasn’t the first time. But it may have been one of the most important.
It got me thinking, my happiest college moments were on those nights I would round up all my fraternity brothers. They would come to my apartment bringing beer, wine, a side dish, or a girlfriend. I would man the kitchen and serve up some of my standard wheelhouse favorites (recipes to come). I don’t want this to sound like a fricken’ diary entry, but being with those guys, entertaining and cooking and laughing, were some of my best college memories.
I had class that afternoon so I dropped mom off at my apartment and dragged my confused and grumpy ass to campus. That particular day the professor was lecturing about founders of small businesses. Here’s what was said:
"Founders who come from small communities or minorities usually end up being the most successful because they have the strongest support system. The founder of a business is the one that makes the difference. They have this desire to be independent and do it their own way. To begin is to break the mold. To succeed is a challenge. Money is never the priority; it’s the passion that is the driving force.
If you’ve never had an epiphany, I would like you to take part in mine. It went a little something like this:
What if the money doesn’t matter?
What if I don’t have to follow the path that I assume is laid out for me?
What if passion is all that truly matters?
What if I became a butcher?
As strange as this sounds, I think I skipped to my car that day. The second I turned it on, Pat Green came on the radio singing “Feels Just Like It Should.”
Yeah it does.
It feels just like it should.
I couldn’t wait to tell mom what I had decided, but she was back at my apartment taking a nap.
I was dying, like a kid on Christmas morning when your parents won’t get up and all you want to do is rip some wrapping paper. I took some initiative (thank you, TCU) and started sending resumes to upscale, craft butcher shops around the world.
After what seemed like an eternity, mom got up and I asked if I could run something past her. The short version?
"Hey, Mom… can I just follow my dream? I want to be a butcher.
She looked at me.
Shifted her bi-focals and said,
“Why the hell not?"