Sometimes, things don't go as expected. Sometimes, the plan you made your freshman year of college doesn't happen. Read this short story, "The Parabolic Rise and Fall of Joe College", by none other than my talented writer of a brother, Brandon Haenn, and follow the average (college) Joe's story of unpredicted success. Not only is it a quirky, entertaining, quick read filled with personally curated gifs, but it is also embedded with a handful of useful messages for college students--the kinds of messages that we all-too-often forget amidst our meticulously scheduled and planned out lives.
Plus, if you weren't one already, you will definitely be a John Goodman fan after reading this.
Okay, let me start off by saying this--whatever you do, wherever life takes you, just know--you're not alone. Plenty of people, of all shapes and sizes, before you, have come and gone, and done great things, and then, like PacMan (as in, the arcade game), you run out of quarters, and it's "Game Over." But… That's neither here nor there; what I really want to talk about, is the story of a guy, by the name of...
Now, Joe College was your average, 15 minutes late to class type of dude; he wasn't too ambitious, but just ambitious enough to get by and make it to graduation without too much red on his ledger.
Joe College was the kind of guy who, because of his seemingly laid-back personality, struggled to find his 'true calling'. And that's tough, you know? You college kids are young; you're like infants, only if infants menstruated and had facial hair. Point is--it's a privilege to know what you want to do with your life, and Joe College--he wasn't so fortunate, in that sense--not right away, anyway.
At first, Joe College was 'all over the place'; but then, during his freshman year, he began developing an interest in entrepreneurial endeavors. Early on, Joe College literally convinced himself that he could make a career out of doing nothing. In fact, he was so convinced that being a professional nothing-doer was something that could yield a respectable profit. His whole idea behind it was, "okay, I do nothing--and then charge people to watch me--do nothing…"
Yes, to be fair, Joe College was a bit of a weed-head, so… Obviously that explains why he had so many bad ideas, like that one. But this was just in the beginning; as Joe College progressed, so did his ideas…
By his junior year, Joe College was really starting to 'come into his own'; he came up with an idea that would allow people to communicate with one another via the internet. Granted, it was very similar to things like FaceBook, MySpace, Friendster, etc.--but what was different about Joe College's social networking service was the fact that it was… Well, no, to be honest, it was exactly like those other sites, which is why Joe's business model failed--right off the bat.
But that didn't diminish Joe's enthusiasm; on the contrary, that only propelled Joe College to increase the level of his creativity, to the point of complete and utter brilliance--well, "brilliance," in its vaguest form, but still… Give credit where credit's due.
Anyway, Joe College took his failures and turned them into something powerful, something that he chose to learn from, which then made him stronger. And that's when it hit him--and when I say, "hit him," I mean--the proverbial lightbulb switched on, above his head, and then it was 'off to the races', for Joe…
Let's fast-forward--Joe College, now a senior, realized the importance of potential--and let's be real, "potential" is a fragile thing--but Joe College realized that, and the necessity to transform his potential into ultimate success--which was what Joe College was really aiming for: true-blue, new-testament, Jesus-resurrecting-from-the-dead kind of success.
So, he took what he learned in school; he implemented the ideologies he adopted from his many comings-and-goings, and with that, he finally leapt to the next level.
After school, Joe College decided to invest his entire life-savings into ONE BIG IDEA--and that idea, well, let's just say, it changed Joe's life forever.
Joe College delved into 'the real world'--and no, I don't mean that MTV show where seven strangers move into a house together, no--I mean, the real real world, the big wide open; he was ready to go, eager as all hell, like a Justin Bieber fan with backstage passes--yeah, that was Joe College, at this point; he was prepared to roll the dice, and hope for the best. So… "What's this big idea?", you ask… Showbiz, baby.
A year out of college, Mr. College, himself, decided, "you know what, screw it; I'm doing it." And, so, off he went--to the West Coast, to fulfill his potential as a movie-making machine… Or so he thought.
By now, Joe College was like the king of his own castle - both metaphorically-speaking and literally--seeing how the producer, of his supposed magnum-opus film, set him up in one of the dude's many mansions--yeah, Joe College was "living the dream"… His confidence was at an all-time high; he had just invested everything he had in something he believed was going to be the next "Forrest Gump"; it's said that he was even seen scouting high-end tuxedoes, getting ready for the Golden Globes, as if there wasn't a doubt in his mind that this movie was--"it", the end-all-be-all of flicks. So, Joe College was ecstatic; he was a man in the City of Angels, walking around like he owned the place, without a care in the world--blissful as a child, free from worry, free from fear. In his mind, Joe College was on his way to the top of the mountain. And then, before Joe could even get fitted for his tuxedo, all hell broke loose.
Joe's Hollywood connection--a Ferrari-driving d-bag, by the name of Hope Lesser--was a man who made a name for himself in the early nineties, but since then has just become nothing more than a well-known, used-to-be respectable face with a more-current tendency toward deception.
Needless to say, Joe College wasn't too pleased to hear that Mr. Hope Lesser gambled away Joe's life savings, and, as a result, killed the production of what was supposed to be Joe's induction into success' hall of fame. Hope Lesser didn't even destroy the project amidst its embryo stage--he full-on deceived Joe College, from the get-go. I mean, in his defense, he didn't even really have to sell it; there was no speech, no exceptionally vivid attempt to convince J.C.; It played out pretty much like this: Hope Lesser walked up to Joe College, and was like, "I have an idea--nothing special, mind you - but… still, you interested?" And that's how it started - that was the birth of a good old-fashioned con.
So, 3 or 4 years go by… Joe College is officially bankrupt, living in a box -- seriously, he was homeless, at this point, and living in a cardboard box, a box that resided in an abandoned warehouse, down the street from John Goodman's house. And if you're too young to know who John Goodman is, well, first of all, shame on you, second of all, he's that dude from The Big Lebowski, not "the" Dude, but "a" dude; (Donny, you're out of your element!), or, uh... Oh, yeah--a little show called Roseanne… wait, some of you youngsters might not even understand that reference… uh, he's that guy from… Monsters Inc.; yeah, he's the big blue guy… Sully.
Anyway, back to the story… Joe College, Hope Lesser, and the evils of life. So, Joe's living in a cardboard box near Goodman's house--and keep in mind, this is like 4 years after the fact. So, one night, Joe College is just sitting there, in his box, when out of nowhere, a taxi cab pulls up, right along the side of the curb, where Joe College was munching on a cold, half-eaten piece of mushroom-pizza--with yogurt lined up for dessert too. And, of course, it's raining; basically, all signs point to "not good", not good at all; it's possibly the most unexpectedly devastating thing ever--and that's probably understating it. Joe's just completely hit rock-bottom, and, when he thinks about that, and where he is today--or, then, rather--since technically, I shouldn't be talking in present-tense, but--I think you know what I mean; but really, he thinks about that: living in a cardboard box in a sketchy neighborhood, eating weird meals, on a daily basis… That lifestyle could eat a person alive, like a flesh-eating zombie, just tearing you to shreds… Not to be graphic, or anything.
So, on this night, the taxi pulls up, and the cabbie gets out; he says, "You Joe College?" Joe shoots him a dirty look, and then ditches his pizza; he then says, "I paid for that, just so you know… just wasn't hungry anymore; that's why I threw it."
The cabbie strangely stares back at Joe College, not quite sure of how to respond to that statement, but--regardless, after a little back-and-forth banter, and skepticism, on Joe's behalf--Joe enters the cab, and off they go…
"I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8, and I yelled to the cabbie, 'Yo, home - smell ya' later'…"
So, the taxi dispatched of Joe, and then sped off, into the night, leaving Mr. College standing in front of a rather luxurious, Tony Montana-looking estate. ("Scarface" ref.) Joe, who's dressed like he's getting ready to attend the National Homeless Convention, overwhelmingly stares at the gaudy house, until finally, he starts making his way toward the front door.
The owner of this rambunctiously envious house, who's there to greet "Homeless" Joe College… was none other than Hope Lesser, himself--the same d-bag who stole everything from Joe College, and pretty much ruined his life.
Despite his efforts to emphatically bail, Joe stuck around… Seeing how he hasn't had a quality home-cooked meal in a few months, it was kind of necessary; by now, anything's better than cat food and old, half-eaten pizzas.
After dinner, Hope Lesser got down to business… Joe, still blaming Lesser for his downfall, was willing to listen to his proposition--mostly out of desperation, though. Anyway, Hope Lesser's proposal was completely psychotic. Long story short, Hope offered most of what he took from Joe for a "very small price,' as he so demonically phrased it.
"I want you to kill my mistress." After Hope Lesser blurted that out, Joe went from already being uncomfortable to becoming extremely mortified. Hope did guarantee to reimburse Joe, and to pay half up-front, but… Joe had to mull this over.
Yes, he knew it was morally irresponsible--he knew it was wrong; I mean, hell, it's murder--that's big. And Joe knew this; Joe College may have resided in a cardboard box, but he knows right from--way wrong, like, yeah--murder, that's not cool. And Joe College knew that.
Then again… If he went through with it, that would change everything. He could get his life back; Joe College could actually become "the" Joe College again, like a phoenix, rising from the ashes, and so on, and so forth. This was his ticket back in to the gala, the type of gala that only accepts people of importance, who wear Armani jackets, and seersuckers, and stuff like that--this was it… But, at the same time, he would have to kill someone to get back there--to that place, that gala, that paradise.
Joe thought about it for a few days… And he struggled with it. Joe College was--in his prime, a legend. And he missed those days--the days when he would walk into a room, a bar, a restaurant, and the second his presence was noticed, people actually stopped what they were doing, stood up from their chairs, just to shake his hand. So, after days of contemplating it, and reminiscing about the 'good old days', Joe College thought to himself, "who's to say that murdering someone I don't even know isn't worth getting back what was previously taken from me?"
He wanted it back. He wanted to move out of his current residence, and into a nice home, with a TV, and a shower, maybe a hot tub; Joe College wanted it all. He felt he was entitled to it, and, in a way, thanks to the scheming of Hope Lesser, he's right--he does deserve it; he did everything he was supposed to, except trust Mr. Hope Lesser. And now that same schemer, who conned Joe College, and took his entire life savings--is asking him to commit murder.
Finally, Joe College came to his senses, and told Hope Lesser to go--you know what. It took him a minute to realize it, but there was no way Joe College was going to commit murder just to be reimbursed and get back what was originally his.
So, Joe College, now back in his cardboard box, thinking about what could have been--reminiscing, thinking about his fifteen minutes of glory, when his future still looked bright and promising--but, as Frank Sinatra would say, "That's life."
So, one day, Joe College was walking down the street in a nearby neighborhood doing some people-watching, when, all of a sudden, a bigwig, pot-bellied fellow approached him… It was his neighbor, good, old John Goodman--you know, Sully, from Monsters Inc., yeah, John Goodman… He walked over to Joe College, offered him some assistance, which, by the way, it looked like Joe could have definitely used some--assistance, that is--seeing how he was drenched in dog excrement; he must've slept on it, or something, whatever… Either way, here comes John Goodman to save the day.
Joe College and John Goodman had since become really good friends. Joe told him about the whole "Hope Lesser" incident; they shared some laughs, etc.
Finally, John Goodman offered Joe College a job, a place to stay, the whole nine… So, now Joe College was working for John Goodman, making his way back into showbiz, and there you have it… The up-and-down, somewhat grotesque story of Joe College.
(For the record--in case I need to be so "on the nose" about it, the moral of the story is this: when life is good, and things are looking up (as they say), sometimes it doesn't always pan out the way it was meant to, or how you anticipated it would, but… Then John Goodman comes along, or the John Goodman-type, and… Life can go from good to bad to great, just like that, so… Yeah, don't count the eggs before your chickens hatch--or something like that; and just know that greatness can still be achieved, even after failures consume you and your entire being; failing is a part of life. But you're never down for the count, never out of commission - no matter how bad things may seem… there's still hope, and there always will be…)
Brandon "Kid"/"Kid Evil" Haenn