GROVER: Good night and good luck

My dad keeps on saying, “Just wait until after you graduate.”

It’s a grass-is-always-greener thing, I guess. You thought college was freedom? Wait until you get a job and can actually afford to do things you want. Watch out, Potowatomi, this diploma-winner is bumping up to the $3/$6 table now. This is all assuming I get hired somewhere, of course.

To bestow upon a freshman such privileges and luxuries would be irresponsible, like when Lance Briggs drives his Lamborghini at night. It takes time. Sure, classes are important, but at its most basic level, college is just adult training. It’s about being out on your own, growing the hell up, and learning lessons. And I have done that at Marquette University, the Catholic, Jesuit university in Milwaukee (That one’s for you, MU Wireless, with your smoking jacket and brandy snifter).

I have learned how to eat for next-to-nothing and how to fit 30 cans into a backpack behind a convenience store. I can weasel out of overdrafts at the bank and write essays at 3 a.m. like a champ. I have made countless friends, lost just as many, and found out the good ones are what really matters. I duck-dodge sidewalk pamphleteers like the 24th-and-a-half century, and with nowhere else to turn, I know sleeping in the back of a car in a well-lit parking garage is a safe, viable option.

Over the past two years, I’ve been truly privileged to have the opportunity to work for the Tribune, meet new and interesting people, and have these stupid ramblings printed every week. I have learned so much. But rest assured, they call it student journalism for a reason.

Like when earlier this year, I talked to Wesley Matthews just days after he got signed to NBA training camp. Desperately trying to be casual, and confusing Utah with Denver in my nervousness, I opened with, “So, how’s the air up there?”

Wesley: “Huh?” Me: “Yeah, out in Utah…um, anyway…” That one hurt.

I jinxed everything I touched, from the tennis and soccer teams to volleyball and basketball. Oh yeah, and when fighting legend Butterbean thought I didn’t understand the difference between MMA and UFC (I did, by the way), he threatened to hurt me, which was pretty high up on the all-time adrenaline rush/panic attack list. Even though he was joking (probably), I’m confident I would’ve beaten him to the door.

And in the coup de grace, I am essentially responsible for the death of Uga VII, the Georgia Bulldog. Ready? After talking with Uga’s handler/owner (referring to him in the present tense) all the way down in Savannah, this 4-year-old dog with no prior medical issues, who was running around, completely healthy that morning, dropped dead of heart failure not two hours later. What a mind-job. It’s not like anyone else was running animal mascot stories that week. Hang on while I say another quick prayer to avoid burning for eternity.

But, dog-murdering and all, I made it. Seniors: Congratulations. Underclassmen: let me grab your fat, rosy faces for a second: STAY HERE. STAY HERE AS LONG AS YOU CAN. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CHERISH IT. YOU’VE GOTTA CHERISH IT! YOU DO!

Journalism is all about the exchange of information, ideas and emotions, and while newspapers are drying up faster than Lindsay Lohan’s penicillin reserves, intelligent conversation will never die, and I am thankful for that. If you have laughed, contemplated an opinion, or dismissed me as a complete idiot even once reading any of these stories, then this year has been a complete success. Thank you for reading.

In the end, this isn’t the most original column ever, but I don’t really care. I am just a 23-year-old slacker who still gets carded at the mall, bounced around majors, was finally forced to drop out or grow up and fell into something he is passionate about. And that happened here, on these frosty, promising Milwaukee streets. Thanks, Marquette, for all the lessons.

My dad keeps saying, “Just wait until after you graduate.” Well, look out, Exorbitant Loan Payments, No Health Insurance and My Parents’ Basement. Here I come.