It all started with a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy. The three-hour car ride with my parents from our house in the western suburbs of Illinois to our lake house in northern Indiana began as it always did. I must have been around seven years old at the time, caring solely about music and playing games with my friends. My parents were convinced I was going to be a quick learner at an early age, and therefore enjoyed watching my pain by quizzing me on any random factoid which they could think of.
On this particular drive, my father was testing me on the multiplication table. Two times two, two times three, two times four and so on. I let him quiz me right up until we stopped at a McDonald’s for a late meal.
I ordered my chicken McNugget Happy Meal, because I was still at an age where I liked to collect the toys. I had just unwrapped the toy when my parents thought it was time to continue the multiplication game.
I responded by putting as much agitation in my voice as I could. Nine times three became, “27, come on, stop!” They persevered, enjoying my struggle. I ceased answering and ignored them completely. Instead I focused on my fries and chicken nuggets. Every now and then I would snap a rude comment to them about how math would not be important later in life as they continued the exercises.
According to the story my parents tell, my disrespect escalated, and my father took the toy and threw it out the window. To this day I don’t remember what the toy was. That’s not what matters. What’s important is that we kept driving, and I was deprived of the toy that was dropped somewhere on a road near South Bend, Ind.
Perhaps I should have cared about math back then. I often wonder if my frustration with these education exercises were a symbol of my rebellion. I stopped asking my parents for help on homework, even though they pressed me most nights, asking if I needed their expertise for anything.
During future car rides, my mother would look to the back seat where I was sitting to read me parts of The Chicago Tribune or talk to me about financial planning. I knew when these brief encounters were about to happen and would prepare by putting my headphones on at opportune times. Nirvana and Aerosmith were there from an early age to replace what I considered painful questions about things I was learning in school.
My early independence from my parents led me to make decisions on my own, straying away from others’ advice and relying on my own judgment.
There are some things you learn the hard way, and this was one of them. Being indecisive proves quite a task when you want to choose a place to eat dinner uptown (although Oxford does not have a wide selection) or choosing what to write this perspective on. My ill attempts to find a major that was best for me in my early years at Miami has me here an extra semester, proving that my indecisiveness also translated into having too many interests.
With graduation just around the corner, I can tell you my search for future plans is comparable to trying to find the best brand of toothpaste in a grocery store. I have no idea which one is going to make my teeth the whitest. I know that eventually I will find the right fit for me, but I’m just as confident that it will take a while.
Even at 22, I feel that my time is running out. Being indecisive certainly doesn’t make me any more youthful. I have future ambitions to travel to places I’ve never been, hold a variety of jobs and possibly attend graduate school. My goal is just to be happy at the end of the day, even if that means making little money or living in a small apartment.
I’ve always felt that I’ve found the things I was looking for a little bit slower than everyone else. Had I graduated a semester before, I don’t believe I would have been as mature or prepared for what lies ahead. Call me a late bloomer if you must, but I’m blaming it all on a Happy Meal toy.