Standard Operating Procedure

Almost every Friday this semester I’ve brought my laptop, ear buds, and a pad of paper to The MT Cup (clever name right?), a little coffee shop in The Village. The Village is a run-down social hub for Ball State students. There’s a few bars here where students can get  cheap, watered-down beer and make bad decisions, there’s a handful of restaurants, and of course, this little coffee shop. The village used to be a  vibrant place for students to go, but the properties have changed hands so many times that there are now as many empty buildings as there are occupied ones.

I’m not one to normally hang out in coffee shops. I don’t even drink coffee. I order tea when I come here. Most of the people that come through the door at The MT Cup, wearing layers of flannel, or clothes and sunglasses that came straight out of the ’80s, make me glad that I didn’t come to college searching for an identity. I had a pretty good idea who I was when I started college at 22, but the prototypical, awkward hipster kid is a dime-a-dozen here at The MT Cup.

I come here because it’s a good routine, and anyone that knows me personally knows that I’m a man of routine. I come here to write and edit because it gets me out of the house, into clothes that aren’t pajamas. I put Peter Tosh on Pandora, stick my ear buds in to drown out the hipster crowd, and I get lost in writing. It’s a routine that I’m going to sadly miss with summer approaching to shake everything up.

In 29 days I’ll be leaving with my girlfriend to spend 18 days in Vietnam.  I’ll come back June 2 and then I have to report to Georgetown University on June 5, before the jet lag even wears off, to participate in The Fund for American Studies’ Institute on Political Journalism. I’ll be taking classes at Georgetown at night and interning at National Defense magazine during the day. No more laid-back Fridays writing at the coffee shop for me.

This year, working on this project, has meant more to me than I can describe in words. It’s given me confidence in my abilities and it’s taught me to seize opportunities like interning in Washington, D.C., rather than taking an internship close to home. It’s made me submit to being a writer.

I’ve spent a lot of time in college dodging writing opportunities. It’s been my routine to pass on invitations to work with student media (e.g. the student newspaper and magazine) even at the behest of professors like Brad King. But, with this book, I found something I really wanted to be a part of and I’ve accomplished something I’ve always wanted to do. With this gang of writers, I made a book before graduating college.

We’re now in the final stages of editing. Stories are getting fixed and sent off to !!!MEGA DESIGNER!!! Kelly. We’re quickly growing tired of reading each story, line by line, and I think we’re ready for this project to come to a close. The daily grind of editing has become a routine that we’ll be glad to leave behind in a few weeks, but one we’ll probably miss down the road.

If I Leave Here Tomorrow: Tales of Risk & Rebirth is taking on a life of its own. Our website has had almost 1,000 hits in six days. People in our lives are eager to get a hard copy of the book. People have been asking me to sign copies and the book isn’t even printed yet. I have realistic expectations, but I won’t lie, the attention the book is getting makes me ecstatic.

Most of all I’m happy to share what we put together with the rest of the world. I don’t think it will change lives, but it will entertain and inspire.

As I sit here at The MT Cup, I realize it will be one of the last few times I sit here, bobbing my head to the reggae music, sipping tea and smiling. Soon I will make a new routine and that feels somewhat bittersweet, but I know that  transitions in life often are.