Cliff Gardner

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Finding my way

In the fall of 2005 I applied to 18 law schools. 18! Of those, I was accepted by exactly three of them, and received virtually no financial aid from any of those schools...I can't say I blame them since based on my LSAT score(s), I was as smart as Corky from Life Goes On. Still, going from the financial aid offers I got, even the schools that let me in weren't exactly eager to have me on board, presumably because they thought I would start a fire or something.

My point, though, is that had I gone to law school three years ago, I would be graduating next month with, at best, $50,000-$75,000 of additional student loans (on top of my 25K of undergrad debt) and struggling to find a job in one of the worst economic climates for lawyers in history. Side note--as a Peace Corps Volunteer, my student loan debt actually went down 30%. Somewhere up there, JFK is smiling and nodding happily, possibly while hammered.

ANYWAY, flash forward to the fall of 2008, when I applied to six different Communications graduate programs. While in Ukraine, I really missed speech and debate and teaching public speaking, and I realized that I was over-thinking things--I'm happy teaching and coaching, so why not keep doing that? It seemed simple enough--my rationale was/is, there's no reason to reinvent the wheel--if I'm happy doing something, then I should keep doing it. Thankfully those suspicions were confirmed when, based on a pretty good GRE score, solid recommendations from awesome folks, and loads of teaching/coaching experience, I got in to all six of the schools I applied to, receiving great financial aid offers.

In the Fall, I'll be getting my Master's Degree in Communications from California State University-Long Beach (for a shocking little amount of money), and coaching/teaching as a graduate assistant. I'll also be living with an awesome collection of people (my great friends David, Kristen and Megan will hopefully be living in a giant house with Jessica and I). In short, I'll be doing what I love, surrounded by the people I love, and I couldn't be happier. Personally, Professionally, Economically, every measurable way, not going to law school was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ready for War

Two days ago, the Portland Trailblazers clinched their first playoff birth since 2003, when Scottie Pippen was on the team. For a Blazermaniac like me, this is obviously a huge deal, compounded with the fact that this is my first year back from isolation in a land where I didn't own a TV, but it didn't matter anyway because nobody cared about the NBA. However, what I didn't realize until yesterday was the extent to which all of Portland is on the same page on this one.

I'm judging at a speech tournament in downtown Portland, right on the waterfront, and I've had some pretty big holes in my judging schedule which have enabled me to take long walks by the water. It's been unseasonably warm the last few days, high 70's/low 80's (and if that's not a great analogy for this team, I don't know what is--beautifully awesome much earlier than we expected or had any right to ask for), and the stretches by the waterfront were packed with people. Yesterday, it seemed like every other person I saw was sporting some type of Blazer gear, and since I had my Blazer hat on, I exchanged dozens of smiles, compliments on attire, and exactly 8 fist-pumps or high-fives with total strangers (including one homeless man who really liked Brandon Roy).

If there's one thing recent history has taught us, it's that sports can bring people together and help in ways that are both important and difficult to quantify. After 9/11, people saw how the Yankees helped get NYC through the worst parts of their grief, and when the Hornets returned to New Orleans the year after Katrina, people felt like they could start living their lives again--that it was ok to enjoy things. I've always liked the movie "The Legend of Bagger Vance" because it demonstrates this point--at the worst part of the great depression, a local boy does something amazing in golf and it gives everyone hope again.

Right now, Oregon has double-digit unemployment. Our schools are in crisis, our state health plan--once a model for the rest of the country on providing health coverage to the poor and children--is on the verge of collapse, and millions are out of work and scared. But I'll be damned if I didn't see hundreds of people on the waterfront yesterday pumped about the boys in black and red making the playoffs again. Thank you, Rip City.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Too much madness....

You know you've been watching too much college basketball when something like this happens. So, last night I had a very vivid dream in which I was working as a technician in a college computer lab at the University of Connecticut. I know it was UConn because at some point, AJ Price kicked down the door and tried to take half a dozen laptops (which actually happened). I tackled him in my dream, and woke up with a start to find that I was fiercely hugging Jessica in a tackling-like grip. She slept through it, and I was a little freaked out. Needless to say, I'll be really happy when the Final Four finally happens this weekend.

In other news, and I'll write more about this later, I'm now a 49er! I've decided to attend California State University-Long Beach in the Fall, and I couldn't be more excited about it. For more information about CSULB, please consult this informational video.