An Amateur In A World Of Pros

I’m no pro golfer, but I do tear it up at putt-putt. Growing up, there was only one place to play putt-putt in my city. One side of the complex had abnormally large animals that didn’t pose much of a threat to the game. However, there was one part that always taunted me; one stop on the road of fun that I hated, dreaded even, because it was a challenge and because I had never beaten it.

At the end of the putt-putt course is a lighthouse. On this obstacle the ball must travel up a hill and under a metal grate, which hangs above. Just after the hill is a drop-off that has been known to be the death of many brightly colored golf balls. If the ball is hit just right, however, it sails over the ravine and into one of three holes. The two on the sides of course lead to eminent doom. If the ball goes in one of those holes, it is lost, and the game is over. However, if by some stroke of luck, the gods of putt-putt are shining down and the ball manages to glide into the center hole, it‘s like the celebration of all celebrations. The siren and light at the top of the lighthouse go crazy, and everyone knows just how great the putter is at that moment. Then, as a bonus when I was younger, the hole-in-one would merit a free game coupon.

Last year my husband and some friends of ours went back to play putt-putt. We had not been to the course in years, and it was everything I remembered from my childhood. I drove my ball through the igloo, under the kangaroo and past the perilous bobbing head of the ostrich. I was having the game of my life, making hole-in-one after hole-in-one; I was unstoppable. As we neared the end of the course, anxiety crept in about the un-defeated lighthouse. It stared at me, laughing.

Everything about the game had been near perfect, and I wanted so badly to conquer the difficulty in front of me. It was my turn. The vicious monster had already taken the life of three balls before mine. I placed my ball on the indention in the soft blue pad to putt. I looked back and forth from the hole to the ball maybe a million times and slowly raised my putter backward. Swiftly I connected with the ball and watched in slow motion as my ball climbed the hill, flew over the ravine and landed right in the center hole. Oh joy of all joys! It was everything I dreamed it would be. My body floated upward in the air, spinning slowly as everyone marveled at my accomplishment. I had done it; I had made a hole-in-one on the last hole; I had beaten the invincible.

In all my excitement I forgot about the free coupon that awaited me inside. Ecstatic, I ran in and told the woman behind the counter that I had made a hole-in-one. Nonchalantly she handed me a sheet of paper with a few coupons on it. Lucky day! I had multiple coupons! As I started to look at the coupons more closely, my heart began to sink. Much had changed since my childhood. What I got in coupons amounted to only a few dollars in savings, total. No more free games. I truly felt dejected.

A similar thing happened this past May when I graduated from college. After five years, graduation had become this daunting thing that I thought would never happen. I felt as if I would be in school forever. During those five years of college I was climbing that hill in the lighthouse, only to be met by the gaping abyss at the top. Nearing the end of this last semester, I started to feel the anxiety. Everyone was asking where I was going, what I was going to do. Did I know? No. I had no idea what I was supposed to do, and graduation only meant I had to make a decision and start doing something real with my life. I had to face the uncertainty and jump into one of the holes in front of me.

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Graduation was a very exciting ceremony. I walked down the huge hill at the University of Kansas with my friends, and we felt so much joy. I was conquering the seemingly unattainable and living in my dreams. When it was announced that I had officially graduated and I realized I’d never have to go to a single class or take another stupid test, I experienced the same joy I felt when I made the golf ball in the center hole in the lighthouse. The world was mine for the taking. Sirens blew, and lights flashed. Everyone knew my accomplishments that day.

The next day reality hit me. I went to receive my free coupons, and there was no free game. All the excitement of graduation was over, and I was nonchalantly handed a piece of paper that said, “Now go get a job.” Other people were getting jobs, and I fully expected that one would open up for me and life would be perfect. I have been out of school for more than a month now, and I still don’t have a job. Graduating wasn’t all I dreamed it would be. I had completed this impossible course, and to my dismay I found a whole new one in front of me, maybe even a harder one. This one is filled with more responsibilities and pressure just to live day-to-day, barely getting bills paid. Even after all my schooling and all my experience, I’m stepping into this world as an amateur with so much left to learn. It is difficult to accept, but I suppose it is the next logical step in my life. I’ve heard there is nothing harder than trying to break into an industry like mine. As good as I was at the course I just finished, I’m still just a beginner in this new course. After all, while I may tear it up at putt-putt, I’m still no pro.

[Erin Shipps is a graduate of the University of Kansas’ School of Journalism and one day hopes to start her own magazine (once she’s reached professional status).]

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