What does a ratty 37-year-old Rutgers University Champion sweatshirt have to teach anyone? For me, a lot. Shortly before I headed off to college, my dad explained that I would have to completely fund my own education. I don’t believe I comprehended the gravity of this conversation, but I did accept it as my truth and immediately signed up for student loans and took extra shifts as a waitress to help defray some of the many costs that were coming my way.
Shortly after arriving on campus as a new freshman, I joined everyone heading to the bookstore. I remember when I realized I was going to have to buy my own books—another outlay of cash I had not anticipated. Then I watched as everyone started buying apparel. I told myself, “No, you can’t even afford these books!” But then I saw my roommate grab the most amazing Champion sweatshirt. Not only did it look like the most comfortable piece of clothing I had ever seen, but it also had RUTGERS emblazoned on the front. I knew I wanted that sweatshirt, but I also “needed” it, simply so I could be and feel like everyone else. With a financially guilty heart, I bought the sweatshirt. (It was $42 in 1983)
That sweatshirt has always epitomized my struggle and my success. It is the only piece of Rutgers gear I have ever owned, but that’s ok, because I earned it. I paid for it with my own money, the sweatshirt and the 4-year degree. Going to college full time and working was not easy, but I now know if I want something bad enough, I can make it happen. Hard work pays off. It helps build a strong work ethic. I know my dad wished he could have paid for college, but the truth is, this hardship is arguably one of the things I am most proud. So let’s all let a ratty old sweatshirt and someone named, “Unknown,” teach us a few lessons today:
“Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done.” ~Unknown
“The harder you work for something, the greater you’ll feel when you achieve it.” ~ Unknown.