A Toast to Tomorrow
“A Toast to Tomorrow” by Zachary Bucholtz
My name is Zachary Taylor Bucholtz. I’m 21 years old and I come from the best family God could ever create: a vast support system of people who love me unconditionally and would do anything for me. I’m a student at the greatest public university in the greatest country in the world, doing what I love at a school I promised my 3-year-old self I would do anything to someday attend. I have found the best friends who have positively impacted my life in ways they aren’t even aware of. And this is the story of the greatest summer of my life.
College, as anyone reading this surely knows, has been an up-and-down experience for me. When it’s up, it’s up: the classy parties, the fireworks, Roy Roundtree in the corner of the endzone. When it’s down, it’s down: failure, heartbreak, and finding out on the second day that someone you love is dying.
But one thing I have always cherished is the opportunity to level it all out, during the magical time known simply as “summer vacation.” It goes back to high school and probably even further. I set goals at the beginning of the summer of things I want to do or ways I’d like to improve myself.
The summer after my sophomore year of high school I had two goals: develop as a football player and cherish one last full baseball season with my dad. I attended the Michigan football camp that July and returned to rejoin my baseball team. It was the first team of mine my dad had coached in a few years, and together we made it to the championship game of the league tournament. Now, even a mention of the famous “White Sox game” brings tears to my eyes.
The summer after my junior year of high school my goal was simple: move home and start over after life had been so cruel to my family that year. I did, and anyone fortunate enough to read my essay on my grandpa knows the ensuing year and a half was possibly the best I’ve ever had. The summer after my senior year my goal was to make the most of what little time I had left with my grandpa. Despite the inevitable ending, a lot of good came from that summer. But we’ll revisit that later.
The summer after my freshman year at Michigan was an especially important one for me. I had drifted into depression, gained a considerable amount of weight, and I was a walking cliché of homesickness. It was also my family’s first summer in South Carolina and the few weeks I spent down there were the most important few weeks in my life. Everything I am was rediscovered there. It was the first time in three years my family was living together, peacefully in a home of our own, and the happiest we had been in six years. It was a time I spent growing close to my parents and siblings and remembering the good ole’ days of my youth, reliving the feelings of safety and happiness, and of innocence, and channeling those feelings into an energy I would carry with me when I went back to school.
That summer I also had another goal. I’ll never forget sitting with my dad’s side of the family at their favorite restaurant, the Mark III, saying that I was going to buy a Mustang. My Uncle Bob scoffed at it and everyone else probably felt the same way, but of course I made it happen and I haven’t regretted that since.
The summer after my sophomore year of college was a little bit different. I split my summer between Ann Arbor and Charleston, taking classes and enjoying a summer with my friends before returning to my family, who I had regrettably neglected amidst my newfound social life. That summer, like all of its predecessors, was also a success. In Ann Arbor, I walked on the field at the Big House, saw the aforementioned fireworks on a whim, and took a couple classes that allowed the schedule for my next two years to line up a lot better. In Charleston, I spent two months apologizing to my family and then working to regain their trust. By the end of summer, things were a lot better and the next year was, in some ways, a very good one. I tried things I never had before. I directed a short play and produced a movie on my own, took dance lessons, made some new friends, and my grades were the best they’d been since I started college.
But, in general, I was not satisfied. I still felt like something was missing. Several of my friends left to study abroad, and I was generally unhappy with my living situation. College had become too dramatic, and I was not exempt from blame for that, although because I was often the only person willing to talk about my feelings I gained an unfair reputation as the “dramatic one” that I deeply resent.
I certainly had some good moments during my junior year, but it wasn’t right; the best way to describe my experience was that it just didn’t feel normal. It felt like I was in a weird dream and couldn’t wake up. On top of that, I was, as always, homesick and wanting my family. I wanted to go back to spending time with them, being a big brother, being a son.
That was my primary goal for the summer after my junior year of college. I have no idea what the future after school has in store for me, and I wanted to make every moment with my family last, knowing it could very well be the last significant time I’d get to be with them. That is one of the reasons I quit Facebook, to focus my energy on being in the moment and appreciating the people who were in the room, and not on the internet.
But quitting Facebook served two other purposes. First, I just wanted to be able to say I did it, that I went an entire summer without it. Mission accomplished. To anyone who doubted me, imagine me laughing in your face right now.
The final reason I quit Facebook was to prevent myself from spoiling the surprise when I revealed how I accomplished all the other goals I had set for myself this summer (and there were many). I wanted to be able to reactivate my account, return to school, and have something to talk about.
But how would I do that? Would pictures and videos be enough? Would a series of status updates suffice? What about just telling everyone in person?
I plan on doing all of those things, but it occurred to me that I needed something concrete, something tangible to show it all off. Something big. Something I could do well, and make meaningful. And then I was reminded of Terrance Mann, the character played by James Earl Jones in my all-time favorite movie, Field of Dreams, when asked what he would do after taking a trip to the mysterious and heavenly cornfield beyond the outfield grass.
“Of course,” he said, “I’m going to write about it. It’s what I do.”
With that, I present: how I spent my summer.
Like any great story should, the story of my summer starts with the one thing that is truly most important to me: my baby sister, Bianca. She’s 12 now, and about a week after my classes ended in Ann Arbor her school choir was putting on a performance. She had been preparing all semester for it and I had long known about it but said it would be impossible for me to make it. As is often the case, though, my words and my thoughts were deliberately on separate pages. I had every intention of making it for her show, but I wanted it to be a surprise.
Keeping it a surprise was actually much easier than I expected. I was spending a few days in my hometown of Stevensville, Michigan, finishing up some projects for school. I was to leave the day of Bianca’s concert but I would have to leave by 3 am in order to make it there (I was driving down for the summer so I could have my car). The problem with that, aside from my reluctance to wake up that early, was that I had a project due that day.
The day before I was to leave, Bianca texted me and asked me if I could make it. She wanted me there so badly, which I knew. She’ll say it’s because she was singing three songs she knew I loved (The Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story, and “If I Only Had a Brain” from The Wizard of Oz), but really it’s because she wanted her big brother there to see her. I, of course, lied and told her that I wasn’t going to get up that early to make it to see her.
Meanwhile, in South Carolina, my sister told my mom, “Zach is going to make it home right after my show and miss it.” Up in Michigan, I told my grandma that she wouldn’t see me in the morning because I was leaving at 3 am and not to tell anyone. I figured somebody out there should know where I was.
I was up until midnight finishing my school work, then slept for two hours, got up, showered, and took off. I made the same wrong turn I did the year before (which isn’t a wrong turn but more of a missed turn because the sign is not easy to see) and went about two hours out of my way, landing me in Indianapolis at morning rush hour, putting me back even further. I was calculating the mileage and average speed and knew I needed to really push it to make it to the show on time. I hope no police officer ever reads this, because I was going 90-95 most of the way there, through the Appalachian Mountains. And there was rain, my Achilles heel. But all I could think of was the look on my sister’s face when I strolled in to the show. Around 3 pm, as I crossed the state line, my mom called me and asked where I was.
“Just crossed the state line,” I said.
“So you’re going to make it to her show?” she asked.
“I never had any intention of not making it.”
I made my mom swear not to tell anyone.
I crossed the Ravenel Bridge somewhere around 6:30 pm, a half hour before the concert. I stopped at a gas station to change into some nice clothes, drove a mile or so to the middle school, walked into the cafeteria fifteen minutes ahead of schedule to find an open seat my mom had saved (and that my dad and brother had somehow not figured out was for me, judging by the shocked looks on their faces).
My sister came out with her class at 7 o’clock and on her way to the stage, Bianca saw me in the crowd, smiling and giving her a ‘Ha Ha I tricked you” look. And then it happened. I got the look. The look I had waited all day for and drove like a bat out of hell for. She grinned from ear to hear and blushed until her face was so red I thought it was going to burst and spew tomato juice everywhere.
What a start to my summer.
It’s so easy to be happy in South Carolina. It truly is paradise. In Michigan, we don’t realize how gloomy it is every day. Sunshine there is a gift to be cherished. In South Carolina, it’s the norm. Even on rainy days, the sun comes out to say hello. Palm trees, clean roads, sidewalks and grass. Heat. The locals say you don’t get used to the heat, but give me a bottle of water and some A/C and I’ll learn to like it.
My parents had just moved into a new house when I got there. The night of Bianca’s concert was the first night I slept in the house. It’s a really nice place, if not seriously lacking in terms of storage space. But for a family our size, it’s pretty good. The neighborhood is very pretty, with a pond in the middle where alligators swim and sidewalks that on any given day are crowded with couples pushing strollers, kids on their bikes, and people jogging.
I mentioned that there were many goals I set for the summer, and at one point I actually typed up a list of things to accomplish. Of course, several items on the list were a little too optimistic, and so in publishing the list I’ve taken some creative liberties, but much of what I did was planned out ahead of time.
1. Make some money
Unfortunately, one of my goals for the summer was to get a job and make some money, and that was partly out of necessity. I would have loved to be a bum and live at the beach for four months, but that just wasn’t an option. After a few weeks of trying, I finally found a job being a cashier at a local grocery store called Harris Teeter. The store was nice, and truthfully, I enjoyed my job. The first couple weeks were annoying, if only because my very Asian boss, Adelina, was so clueless when it came to the orientation process despite that being a requirement of her job. That minor flaw aside, I loved working with Adelina. She’s a vey sweet lady and I enjoyed talking for her. The other employees called me “Adelina, Jr.” because I did whatever I was told, and Adelina put me on the schedule every day and paid me more than most everyone else. I also got to wear a headset with a walkie talkie, and I read the store announcements on the PA.
The job itself was very boring, except that I got to talk to people I normally wouldn’t talk to. I actually think that my personal communication skills improved throughout my time there, because I was forced to smile and be polite for eight hours at a time. I met some great people, too. My favorite customer was an older gentleman who, upon hearing that I didn’t drink despite just turning 21, congratulated me and spoke frankly on his own alcoholism as a youth and how he lost several friends over the years to issues with alcohol. There was also a group of young softball players who came in close to the end of the evening shift and pushed around one of the child carts. I blew them up balloons and talked to them for a bit. They seemed genuinely intrigued, if not somewhat fond of me. I know it’s creepy, but it’s one of the few times in my life the opposite sex has shown any interest in me.
I was also very fortunate to work with some amazing people at Harris Teeter. I hope someday they come across this essay and know how honored I was to get to know them. I was the only white male who worked there, besides a middle-aged cashier named Sam who helped train me when I got started. The majority of the crew were kids my own age. There was Marquis, the jack-of-all-trades who probably worked as hard as anyone, and Christine, who despite being a recent high school graduate was actually my supervisor, and a great one. I loved talking to her. Ashley was fun, too. By the end of my stay, I’d built up a good working chemistry with her, mostly from the constant back-and-forth teasing we did. I also worked often with Zanariah and Raven, who found any and every reason to make fun of me, from my singing along to “Domino” by Jessie J to my sometimes quirky way of interacting with customers when I was especially bored.
Did I accomplish my goal of making money? You betcha. But not by bagging groceries. More to come later.
2. Go to the casino with Nonna
This summer was the summer I finally turned 21. I still don’t really drink, but I did have big plans for my big birthday. The first was a plan I had since I was very young: go to the casino with my grandma. She’s a regular gambler and as a child I dreamt of having her show me the ropes. I wasn’t able to fly up for my birthday as originally planned, but she came and spent a few weeks with us instead.
My goal of going to a casino with my grandma was a total success. We decided to do it down south, and found a casino a few hours away in northern Georgia, on an Indian reservation up in the mountains. The drive itself was half the fun of the trip; the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, and on the way back we even pulled over to take pictures of the mountains.
We got to the hotel and checked in, and Nonna upgraded our room. When we got up there, it was amazing. Our view was of the mountains and the room had a flat screen TV, a very nice bathroom, and nice soft robes (I slept in mine, naturally). The rest of the hotel was nice as well. We ate at the buffet and I ordered a drink (a strawberry daiquiri; I’m girly like that) and we ate like pigs.
She gave me 100 dollars to start, and I had 50 I had saved. I kept it all in a thick stack in my back pocket and as we rode the escalator down to the casino floor, the adrenaline kicked in and a new kind of excitement took over. I played it safe, never betting big on anything, but still managed to spend my 150 in less than two hours. By then I caught up with Nonna who had just won big on a machine and wanted to share her luck. She gave me a portion of her winnings and sat me down next to her and told me to play her money. So for another few hours, we played side by side, moving occasionally to a new machine. She’d win, give me a portion, and the cycle repeated itself. Of course, I never won a thing and she lost most of what she won, but we walked out not having lost anything.
Like I said, it was a total success. Literally a dream come true. Even though I secretly dreamt of winning a million dollars, the trip was so worth it. It was everything I’d hoped it be, and most importantly, it was a really great couple of days with my grandma.
3. Be a vegetarian
Yes, you read that right. Inspired by my brother and a few of my friends who had done it in the past, I spent the entire summer as a vegetarian. It was hard at first; my favorite food was my Nonna’s meat sauce, but by the end of the summer I actually preferred not eating meat. I feel a lot healthier and even though I still eat a limited amount of foods, I did expand my pallet a little bit.
I’m not sure what I’ll do going forward. I might continue, or I might incorporate a few meat items.
4. Fix my teeth
This one, unlike the last one, is not much of a secret. Anyone who talked to me or Skyped with me this summer probably saw me take out my retainer in disgust because I couldn’t understand what I was saying.
My teeth weren’t “broken,” per se, but since I broke my retainer a couple years ago, a few teeth had shifted and it was, at times, pretty painful. So I saw an orthodontist in South Carolina who started me on a process in which I wear four retainers for two weeks each. Each one shifts the teeth a little bit more, and the fifth one (which I’ll wear until Thanksgiving and then every night) is fitted to how my teeth should be and stay. I’ve just started the fifth retainer, and my teeth feel 10 times better than they did when I started.
5. Do and finish Insanity
Last summer, my mom and I started the Insanity workout, but because I was only there for short time, we didn’t finish it. This summer, we started it again and made it to the last week. I was in really great shape, but my mom threw her hip out in the last week (stretching, of all things) and we stopped.
I did start going to the gym after that, though. I had a nice little routine, too. I stored my flip flops in a locker (number 44, naturally), walked, ran, and lifted. It was very relaxing and I was able to have some time think about things while still taking care of myself.
6. Be a better son and brother
This is the big one. This was the primary goal of my summer, and quitting Facebook for awhile really helped with that. I don’t think I was a bad son or brother, but I knew I could do better. So did my family.
My summer can, in a way, be defined by three key events. The first was a conversation I had with my mom, but there’s some backstory to it. She is a student at the College of Charleston, majoring in sociology, and in one of her classes last semester the professor asked the class their thoughts on how people change in different environments. My mom used me as an example. I went off to school, lived on my own for the first time and had a social life for the first time, and as I mentioned, I neglected my family. I was different in the way I behaved.
That’s not to say I am a completely different person. I still think the same way, I still enjoy the same things. My friends know to stock up on parmesan cheese and orange soda when I am coming over and get annoyed at all the same things I do that annoy my family. But my mom was right; I had changed some.
So the conversation in her room started as an argument, with her telling me all of this and me trying to defend myself. But this was a few weeks into my stay with them, and I had been rude and angry much of the time. Finally, I admitted to my mom the problems I had been dealing with during the school year and broke down into tears. I also vowed to work my butt off to be better the rest of the summer.
My dad plays in a great country and southern rock band, The Mason Dixon Band (or as I call them, the Mason Dixon Band Country and Southern Rock Revue). I tried to go and see him play whenever possible. I had trouble staying up late enough and the travel sucked, but I know he likes the support, and the band is honestly very good. They added a couple of new guitar players who brought new life to the band of otherwise old hillbillies. His Father’s Day present was midnight tickets for him and I to see The Dark Knight Rises. As anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I think it might be the best movie I have ever seen.
My mom had hinted for what seemed like forever that she wanted a Keurig, so I made sure that for Mother’s Day she got one. I also made sure that she took care of some issues she was having with school, and with a clumn she wrote for the local newspaper about religion (which, again, featured me as a character). Mostly, though, I took every opportunity I had to give her a hug and remind her how much I love her (even if my approach to doing so was a little odd at times).
My sister was the recipient of a great birthday present. She turned 12, and on her birthday, my brother, Austin, and I surprised her at school by stopping in to eat lunch with her. She was completely shocked to see us, but happy I’m sure. We also joined her for recess and were shocked to see that the little girl who talked about not having friends at school was the center of attention in her group of friends. For all intents and purposes, she was the queen bee. I also picked her up from school, and we spent an hour or so on a pier on the harbor relaxing and talking.
As a gift, I promised to take her to two movies. The first was “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” which was not very good except for a few scattered moments (mainly featuring the always-lovely Anna Kendrick and the hilarious Chris Rock). The second was the Katy Perry documentary, which was awesome. I have always loved Katy Perry, and the movie did a decent job of presenting her life without making her seem like a Goddess or anything like that. There were concert scenes, in 3D, which were stunning and the only good use of 3D I have seen in theaters. Most importantly, Bianca enjoyed it.
I don’t think for a second that gifts or services are a way to win back your family, but these events were all significant parts of my summer. After that conversation with my mom, the rest of summer (which she agrees) was much nicer. My family is very fortunate in that we eat together almost every night, and every time we do, we laugh. Laughter is abundant in out house, and I think it’s very healthy.
I also made an effort to be part of the family again. Living so far away can separate even the closest of families, and despite some changes, I have always been very close to my family. This summer was a great “back to basics” experience for me. I yearn for the days when my parents tucked me into bed and the biggest decision we faced was what to order on our pizza. But then we got older and life got in the way and it got harder. But this summer reminded me that the magic is still there, even if it looks a little different.
7. Celebrate my birthday
As I said earlier, I turned 21 this summer, and one of my goals was to go out in Ann Arbor with my friends. I couldn’t, obviously, until we decided to visit family in Michigan mid-summer, and I was able to get to Ann Arbor for a night. It was a great night; I ate dinner at my favorite restaurant there with my friends and then a few of them joined me at a bar for drinks and good conversation.
The casino trip and the Ann Arbor night were amazing, but my actual birthday was relatively low-key. Without Facebook, most of my friends didn’t know or remember, and even some of my relatives didn’t call me to wish me happy birthday. I do have to take a moment to recognize three people, though. First, my friend Bethany, who so thoughtfully sent me a couple of new movies for my collection; and second, another dear friend, Julie, wrote me from her travels in Europe. Lastly, I need to shout out to Monica Cauley, who at times was the only friend who responded to my messages and whose wisdom was very inspiring.
The real star, though, was my brother. Austin took me out to lunch at my favorite restaurant in the south (which we then visited a couple days later as a family, and had a great time). Austin also gave me a card with a bottle of orange soda, after which I decided exactly how I was going to give him his birthday present.
8. Take Austin to see Kelly Clarkson
Two goals ago, I listed a few things I did for my family, but left out my brother. That was no mistake. This goal was a big one for me, and I tried desperately to keep it a secret from my friends and family, but it did leak out to a few people.
While I was still in school, Austin bombarded me with Facebook posts begging me for tickets to see Kelly Clarkson and The Fray in Atlanta this summer for his birthday. Like I did with Bianca and her choir concert, I told him there was no chance even though I planned on getting him tickets. I bought the tickets early in the summer, before I cried in front of my mom, saved the tickets on my computer in a folder called “school” so nobody would find them and changed the password on my computer. Austin’s gift to me, the orange soda, inspired the reveal.
I bought a bottle of purple soda and taped a long note to it. We took Austin to his favorite restaurant for dinner the night before his birthday, and I made him read the note by slowly turning the bottle as I recorded him reading it. You can watch the video here. The gist of the letter was that even though I love him a lot, I was too broke to get him anything (even a card), especially after all he gave me was pop. Then after I signed the letter, there’s a note at the end telling him that I bought the tickets. He read it aloud as he was finding out about it, and to my surprise, he had no idea I had done that. It was perfect.
The concert itself was amazing. We stayed at a hotel for free because we found bugs in it the next morning. The concert was outside. The Fray opened, and they were great except it was still light outside and not all the seats were filled yet. Kelly rocked. I, of course, took some video. It was such a great experience and so worth the time and money spent to go.
Austin and I argue over this next part, but at one point I swear she waved at me. There were several open seats in front of us, so when Kelly walked over to our end of the stage (we had great seats) we waved, and she had an unobstructed view of the two of us. We were the only ones who waved, and she waved back. I’m pretty sure I waved first and she was looking at me, though. There was also this guy in the line to get in who kept interjecting himself into our conversation.
9. Resist the urge to tell all of Austin’s friends about my six proms
Austin went to his junior prom shortly after I got there. His date was a girl and their group took pictures downtown at a park on the tip of the peninsula. He looked good, even though his tuxedo didn’t fit right, and from what I understand, he and his friends had a really nice night. I just wish they knew all my stories. (Side note: everyone should check out videos on my YouTube page (NotoriousSCRUB) of Austin playing with my dad at the Charleston Hippodrome.
10. Watch the first six seasons of One Tree Hill
Done. Leyton for life!
11. Get asked to be in Justin’s wedding
For the third straight year, members of my mom’s family came to spend a week with us in South Carolina. And for a couple days, we were fortunate enough to host my mom’s friend Katie and her husband Chris. Katie is a 26-year-old model-turned-personal-trainer who is just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She worked with my mom in Chicago, and we went to her wedding last year to Chris, who is about nine feet tall. They were a blast to have and it was great seeing them.
Having my Aunt Santina, Uncle Scott, cousins Justin and Andrea, and Nonna around for awhile was one of the highlights of the summer. We hung out at the beach, went out for drinks, and I learned never to say no when Uncle Scott offers to buy lunch. Nonna stayed with us a couple extra weeks, and we ate like royalty. But the highlight of it all was Justin asking Austin and I to be groomsmen in his wedding. I visited him and Katie, his fiancée, this spring in Minnesota and Katie and my Aunt Santina asked me to videotape the wedding. I didn’t say anything at first, and Justin got angry with them. Finally they realized why he was mad, that I couldn’t be in the wedding if I taped it. I told my Aunt Santina I would be honored just to be considered; Justin was the older brother I never had and if anything happens to Austin, he’d be the best man at my wedding. So it was very special, and I’m honored and thrilled to be a part of his special day.
12. Make some money, Part 2
So just how did I make money this summer if it wasn’t at Harris Teeter? Again, it started with a conversation with my mom, and it was the second key event of the summer. I was at work one day, and she texted me that she missed me because I was working too much and wanted to spend time with me before I left for school. I quit my job early, and made was it by far the best financial decision of my life to date. I’ll remain vague on the details, but it allowed me to take care of all my needs, buy a few nice things for school, help my parents and siblings switch to iPhones, and have the time I needed to spend with my family. And to accomplish the biggest and most difficult goal of my summer.
13. Write “The Family” and get into the UM Screenwriting Program
First, if you ever get to read this, Jim Burnstein, from the bottom of my heart I thank you for your faith in me and the opportunity you have given me.
In March, as I was scheduling classes for the fall, I sent several emails to my department asking if I could audit the intro-level screenwriting class, having already taken it, just to have another chance to submit a script to get into the program. The program would give me not only a great education on the art and craft of screenwriting, but recognition on my diploma and potential job opportunities after I graduate. My emails resulted in me being told that the head of the program, Mr. Burnstein, was going to let me spend the summer writing a new script and submit it to him by the start of August for him to decide my fate.
Leaving the grocery store was a necessary step, because I had two weeks left before the deadline and was less than a quarter of the way through my script. The next two weeks were very stressful, and I drove my family crazy with my anxiety. I put so much pressure on myself to make the most of the opportunity.
The script was based on the essay I wrote about my grandpa, which I alluded to earlier. The moral of the story is that a young man, who lives with his grandpa in the months leading up to his death, learns valuable lessons about life and what it takes to die a happy man. Obviously, it’s very personal. My mom actually helped with the finishing touches, reminding me of some moments from that experience and telling me about how his yard was flourishing this summer, which I incorporated into a scene.
Almost two weeks later, I received a personal phone call from Mr. Burnstein, offering me placement into Screenwriting II for the winter semester, telling me my script had “heart” but needed a lot of work and that he wanted to work with me personally on making it a script worthy to sell. I was at a Barnes and Noble, where I wrote most of the script, when he called. I told my mom, then went into the bathroom and cried more than I had since my grandpa died.
14. Go out not with a bang, but with a hoot and a blow
I’d be lying if I said I planed all summer long to score cheap tickets to see Hootie and the Blowfish, but a story of my summer has to include this story.
The third major event of the summer came when I decided to finally do something I had long been putting off. Those really close to me know what I’m talking about, and they know that for a few days, I was so depressed I considered therapy.
In the two weeks following that low point, the following happened:
-One of my best friends, Loui, decided to move home from San Francisco for senior year. I was worried about it.
-Austin and I decided to record an album of covers and original music, even though his busy schedule has delayed that.
-I saw Kelly Clarkson and The Fray.
-I got the aforementioned phone call from Jim Burnstein.
-My new landlord officially welcomed me and my new roommates. I have a lot of exciting things planned for the house and for my senior year.
-I started writing a short play with my friend Grace.
-I was asked by a local musician/photographer/writer to help him with a screenplay he’s working on. I’ll leave out the details, except to say that the guy, J.R. Getches, is a very talented man. His script is really cool, and his band is phenomenal. I got to see them play twice. Once at a benefit my dad and J.R. helped organize for the drummer in their band, Paul, who just lost his young son and couldn’t afford the funeral. The next time was a bar with my dad, in which Paul came over and talked to me for forever about how I need to keep playing the drums. Their band, the Louie D Project, plays a lot of music I love (their version of “Purple Rain” by Prince absolutely rocks).
-My family spent one last night together, at a baseball game. The Yankees’ high-class A affiliate is based in Charleston, the Riverdogs. We all went to a game, in cheap bleacher seats, picked up some pizza and pop and watched the game. It was a nice bonding experience, but a little boring, until Austin won a Twitter contest for two leather recliners behind home plate. He and I sat together for two innings and were featured on the video scoreboard, waving to the crowd a la Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries and hamming it up. I gave up my seat for Bianca, and later both of my parents, and by the end of the game (with postgame fireworks) we were all sitting around the leather recliners together.
-I got three tickets to see Hootie and the Blowfish and Collective Soul for $22 each. Floor seats, row 19. The band, since Darius Rucker became a solo artist, does only a handful of charity gigs each year, including two in Rucker’s hometown of Charleston. Tickets were selling online for 100 dollars or more. I wanted to go, but couldn’t afford that. I set an alert on StubHub to tell me if any tickets became available for 40 or less. A few days before the show, the alert went off. I snatched up four general admission tickets for 30 apiece, plus fees. Then, just minutes before Mr. Burnstein called, StubHub called me to tell me whoever listed those tickets made a mistake, that they were for a different event, and that as a courtesy they were moving me to the floor for no extra charge. Since my dad and Austin both worked that night, I sold the fourth thicket for a huge profit and the total came out to $22 per ticket. It was a great, great show and I loved that I got to do something nice with my mom just as I was about to say goodbye again.
I truly believe that I am blessed, that my summer ended with such a bang; I believe someone was watching out for me and helped make all my dreams come true. But what does all this mean? I accomplished all of these goals and did all these amazing things, but how does the summer of 2012 look in hindsight?
My issues going in were loneliness, homesickness, and anxiety. I was extremely lonely with my friends traveling the world, homesick from not seeing my family, and anxious about the future. And all of these great memories have made me realize that I have a great life and nothing to worry about.
A few months ago, my mom shared with me a column in the Yale University newspaper by a young writer named Marina Keegan, and after several, sometimes heated discussions about doing what you want versus doing what you need, my mom thought it was quite appropriate for me and my life. I’d now like to share a few excerpts from that column.
We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found (in college), and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place. It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt.
We won’t have (this) next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.
This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse – I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.
But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should haves…” “if I’d…” “wish I’d…”
Of course, there are things we wished we did. We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.
We’re so young. We’re so young. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.
When we came (here), there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.
For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it.
What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.
We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that.
We’re in this together. Let’s make something happen to this world.
Marina Keegan graduated from Yale the week that was published. She was offered a position on the New Yorker, but on her way home to see her family, the person driving her lost control and crashed. This column would be the last she ever wrote. Marina Keegan lost her life that day, but her wisdom should not die with her. I find her words to be not only inspiring but true, as she talks about two things. Two things that resonate with me and I hope resonate with all of you.
One, is the sense of youth and the sense of possibility she had. Every last one of us is destined for greatness and should not for one second think that at any point in our lives we will not reach our greatness. That’s a lesson I learned from my mom, who in her late 40s is back in school trying to change careers. It’s something Marina Keegan unfortunately will never experience.
The second is this indefinable “opposite of loneliness.” I thought about this for awhile and realized that for me, the opposite of loneliness is what I discovered this summer. Family. Love. Friendship. Positive influences, comfort and peace and knowing that somebody always has your back. I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but I do know that whatever happens I will always be loved, and I’ll always have my family there to pick me up when I fall.
My name is Zachary Taylor Bucholtz. I’m 21 years old and I come from the best family God could ever create. I’m a student at the greatest public university in the greatest country in the world where I have the best friends. And with all due respect to the late, great Lou Gehrig: today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.
That’s what my summer was all about. I hope anyone who read this enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed living it. Now, without taking up too much more of your time, I would like to propose a toast.
Here’s to tomorrow. To chasing your dreams. To waking up knowing that you are destined for greatness.
Here’s to my family. To love. To the opposite of loneliness.
Here’s to you, future. Hit me with your best shot, because I’m ready.