Keep your head down. Go to classes and go home. Play trivia every once in a while.
That was my plan when I moved to Gainesville in summer 2016. I’d started college at Auburn University eight years prior and didn’t follow that formula. I dropped out four years later.
Stick to the plan. The plan is salvation.
For my first semester at UF, it worked. I aced my summer classes. I felt like I was succeeding at something for the first time in my life.
Then I grabbed a copy of The Alligator. I figured it’d do well to be informed of local politics, campus news and, of course, sports.
I flipped the paper open to the sports section. I can’t remember which article I read. All I remember thinking is, “Yeah, I can write better than that.”
You arrogant S.O.B. You aren’t here to one-up anybody. Focus on the plan. The plan is salvation.
I applied for a spot on the sports staff. Ethan Bauer and Matt Brannon offered me a position as the women’s golf beat writer. I was kinda dejected. Where in my application did it say I wanted to waste my time and effort on something nobody seems to care about?
Last chance, my dude. You can still revert to the plan. The plan is salvation.
I accepted. I’m not sure if it was out of a misplaced sense of “I’ll show you,” or eager naivety. Either way, when it came time to report on my first assignment (the team’s opening tournament in Lecanto, Florida), I had a couple of options.
Option 1: Stay in Gainesville, hit refresh every five minutes on the scoring website and do a quick write-up.
Option 2: Ignore the plan.
You don’t have the time. It’s nearly a two-hour drive there and back. Stick to the plan. The plan is salva-
I had no idea what to do when I arrived at the Black Diamond Ranch golf course. I raced up to the first tee around 8 a.m. and chatted with the assistant coach. That’s how I wanted it to appear, at least. I may have been shivering too much in the frigid January weather to let out any comprehensible thoughts.
I followed the team through the first 18 holes. I took a nap in my car between rounds. I mapped out the article in my head on the way back to Gainesville and turned it in late. The lede Matt, Ethan and I came up with hardly mentioned golf.
“Obscenities and a folding chair with a smiley face on it tossed to the ground pierced the otherwise serene mood of the 17th hole at the Florida Challenge on Monday.”
Seeing that sentence makes me cringe now. It’s too long. It’s clunky. It has too much information and too many clauses.
But it’s enticing. It wouldn’t have been if I’d stuck to the plan.
Nearly two years have passed since that frostbitten morning in suburban purgatory. Since then, I’ve covered men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, soccer and football. I’ve been the online sports editor, editor-in-chief and sports editor. Through tearful, sleepless nights, missed classwork and postponed deadlines, I found the original plan was silly all along.
This is a call to action. This is a plea to others. This is a manifesto.
Don’t listen to this voice. This is the siren song of smug satisfaction. This is the compelling contract of complacency.
The real world operates on an hour-by-hour basis. Adapt to it or be at its mercy. Ignore the plan. The plan is not salvation.
Morgan McMullen was the sports editor at The Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin