Thursday, April 9, 2015

Beyond Zilch (Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge)

The "M" still stands for home...
My flash is not fiction this week.

While we still live, we can climb out of any pit. Sometimes it takes a sharp kick in the pants to wake us up, before we realize that that we have surrendered to the problems that plague us. Other times, we come gradually to realize that to get anywhere, you have to put one foot in front of the other, and not stop.

So there I was, a new sophomore at engineering school, battling quantitative chemistry and statistics, when suddenly I began falling asleep in class. I would sit down at my desk, and wake to find the professor tapping impatiently on it. It got worse: I stayed in bed for days on end without enough energy to stir, study, or even eat. 

It was four weeks before they diagnosed my problem and prescribed thyroid supplements. But it was too late. I was hopelessly behind in my classes, and simply did not have enough energy to force myself to catch up. Instead, I gave up. I resigned myself to losing my scholarship, and getting an all-F report card.

I've been in other pits since then. But I knew I could turn myself around and climb out, because I had already done it once. It's never the end of the story as long as you keep trying. You can even give up, as I did, and then change your mind. Nothing's final! 

This week's Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge prompts me to share my experience.

April 8, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a renewal story that proclaims, “This isn’t the end; I will go on.” Think of the mythical phoenix that rises up from the ashes; of Cinderella after midnight on the night of the ball; of a hero that faces certain death; of love after tragedy; of renewing life’s lemonade transitions. Go where the prompt leads and own your story; the ones you’ve lived and the ones you imagine for fiction. Stand in solidarity with others to find the semicolons in life that chooses to nurture and not succumb.

Lots of students at Mines flunked out. It's a tough school. You only need one hand to count the students who flunk out, then come back after that "zilch" report card to try again. While it is hardly a matter for pride, I am one of them.


Beyond Zilch

I was too late to drop out of my classes for the semester, and too sick to attend them. My next report card would be all Fs. My scholarship was revoked. In Mines jargon, I was a Zilch. 

I took a job managing a technical lab, but otherwise, I just drifted. Two years later, I was searching for something new at the local library, and found a set of engineering textbooks. Flipping through them, I realized I was incomplete. I began studying them at night, then petitioned Mines to come back on probation. 

Four years later, I finally graduated.