As a freshman attending the University of Utah, I had to try out just to get into an expository writing class.
I wanted the class more than any other I had applied for, hoping to get heading toward a career in journalism. When I walked in, the room was packed, but I managed to find an unoccupied chair. The Professor entered, his head, face, and neck fully enveloped in a mass of poorly kept black hair, wearing a pair of tight holy jeans, and a yellow tee shirt with a huge flower on the front. All I could think was, "holy hell, what is this?" With late comers lining the walls, and some sitting on the floor, he began.
"I am..., he introduced himself, "...and I will be teaching this class. As you can see we have way more applicants than this room has capacity, so today will be an audition. Twenty five students will be asked to stay, and the rest of you will have to find another class to fill this slot in your schedules. Take out a pad and pen and write, In all my life I... Now write until this timer sounds." He tapped the start on a small timer sitting in front of him, and it's ticking, along with the sound of pencils and pens busily working their way across a multitude of papers filled the room
"That's it?...I'll destroy this!"
Knowing that I could totally kill that opening line, I set about constructing the perfect thesis, mulling over numerous possibilities but rejecting each one fearing it lacked the bottom necessary to produce the content needed for my perfect paper. One by one, as my ideas fell short, I began noticing that I was the only one that I could see that wasn't writing.
"It's OK," I told myself, "...they're not even taking time to think so their writing will suck for sure."
Twenty five minutes later, with blood pounding in my temples, and sweat trickling down my sides beneath my shirt, I found myself in an acute state of panic. Only the opening words given by the professor appeared on my note pad, and all of the possible ideas that had earlier been floating freely in my mind, were long gone.
I had nothing!
Never in my life, before or since have I experienced a negative emotion of the magnitude of that moment and the fifteen minutes that followed. The longer it lasted, the worse I got until things were happening in my head and to my body that I can't begin to explain.
Then, the ticking timer erupted with a sound that thundered in my ears like an exploding bomb, marking the end of the audition period while at the same time, bellowing out my failure. Inexplicable disappointment rushed over me, bringing me to tears.
"How could this have happened?" I questioned, "...there's just no way!" Staying in my seat, I waited, gradually composing myself as others filed to the front, each leaving their papers in front of the scruffy hippy dude who was to have been my professor. Not willing to accept failure, I waited until only he and I were left before approaching him.
"I don't know what happened Sir, ...but I couldn't write."
"Don't worry man," he said, sounding like he'd just stepped out of a weed fest with his stoner buddies, "...it happens, ...maybe this just isn't for you."
"No," I argued, "...this doesn't happen to me, and I'm not willing to accept that."
"Sorry, ...if you got writers block, that's not my problem, why don't you try again next quarter."
I stared at him with disbelief, and seeing no give in his eyes, quickly scrawled the name and phone number he had written on the board and walked out.
I don't know what I thought I would do with his personal contact info right then, but by the time I reached my house I did. I immediately sat down and began to write, taking care to check the clock and when forty minutes had passed, I stopped and called the number written at the top of my paper.
"Mr "So and So," I began, introducing myself to reminding him who I was, "...I live in Sandy, and I just couldn't take what you said about me not being good enough to be in your class. I started writing the minute I got here, and it's been forty minutes. May I bring you what I wrote right now?"
"The tryout is over man," he returned, his impatience showing in his tone.
"I don't care about the tryout, ...I just have to know that what you said isn't true. Please, ...will you just look at it, and give me your opinion?"
"How long will it take you to get here?"
"Thirty minutes if I stop at the signs and don't speed."
"Do you mind bringing it by my house?" He gave me his address, and I hurried out the door. I'll never forget the look in his eyes as he lifted them from the paper to meet mine, nor will I forget the exit interview I had with him at the end of the quarter, when before handing me my final essay he said.
"I make it a rule not to give an A to anyone, and in my time as a professor I haven't broken that rule. The position you have taken in this essay goes against every fiber of my being, yet it screams that I respect it. It has been a pleasure having you in my class room, I hope you come back."
He handed me my final Essay, and smiled..., I still haven't broken my rule. In red pen was a large circle, and in its center an A+
Don't ever let one, or even many failures define your potential. Our potential is limitless.