June 12, 2024

During our May 22nd meeting, my writers’ club decided to have a homework assignment based on the following:

  • Write 1500 words or less
  • Set story in or around a college campus
  • Focus on the dynamics of the students and professors
  • Include support characters

Here’s the short story I composed and shared during our last night’s meeting:


The Chicago accounting firm where I worked allowed us time off after the tax season ended. I had accumulated so many hours, I decided to finally return to school. So at age 43, I enrolled in Indiana University Northwest, and I was able to transfer two accounting courses taken at Valparaiso when I was younger.

One of my initial courses was Algebra. The professor gave a test on the first day. The next class as he returned these, he said, “If you failed, you don’t belong in this class.” Not using this kind of math in 20 years, I had miserably flunked. But I was determined to remain and not transfer to a remedial one. I went home and spent the entire weekend with my nose in that textbook. Lucky for me, it contained solutions to every homework problem. A lot of the formula computations came back to me. I also spent time in the Math Lab with tutors. These young students were friendly and helpful. I managed an A- for this course, and made the Dean’s List for my summer and fall classes.

The firm changed its time-off policy the following year. My partner approved my working earlier in the day and leaving early so I could continue school in summer and fall.

I enjoyed my classes and continued making the Dean’s List. Summer ones were grueling because of the shortened timeframe. Housework also suffered as I spent hours studying or writing term papers. My teenage daughter often cleaned and did laundry.

The following year, I switched my major from business to computer science because the CPA certification now required a 6-year degree. Here I was struggling to get a 4-year one! My new advisor was very encouraging. The courses I’d already taken would meet the requirements, but I needed to take Calculus. I signed up for it that fall semester.

Oh Lord, what did I set myself up for? I spent hour upon hour in the lab again. I knew I was failing, but it just didn’t make any sense. One of the textbook solutions was wrong and when I questioned this elderly professor he got angry. “The answer is right. No need to look at how it got solved!”

When I mentioned this to one of the lab tutors, he said, “He’s an old school teacher, and grades on a heavy curve.” The student was correct. My D- turning into a B+ was indeed a huge curveball!

I enjoyed my interactions with other students and my professors, several of whom offered to give me recommendations. I did think a few were too absorbed in their campus life and failed to understand every day reality.

I didn’t have any problem with coursework, except for one class. World History was my downfall. This slim, bookish looking man focused his entire course on war. He would strut back and forth as he lectured on winning strategies. I thought it unlikely he had ever served in the military. Probably was 4F and never in service. Four books were assigned as required reading. One of which was Machiavelli’s The Prince. I tried but just couldn’t read it. Nothing was discussed in class except one battle after another. Considering this was the fall of 2001 and our country was seeking Osama’s whereabouts after the disaster, I skipped quite a few classes. My grade for this one was an appalling D.

It took me 7 years to obtain my degree. My children, parents, and older brother came to watch me receive my Bachelor of Science with honors in December 2002. I was surprised at the honors because I thought I’d lost this distinction because of that one awful course.

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