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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Final-Year University: Academic Catastrophes

Study? Yes, I must have studied during those dreadful weeks and months before and after my marriage ended; but here again, nothing was normal. In fact, my Classical Greek Final Exam was on the very day I needed to be in court. So out of touch was I as to the emotional effect the court appearance would have on me, that I re-scheduled my exam for the hour following court. My professor would be in his office then and said I could just drop by and take the exam there, since I’d not be able to join the class at the regular time.

Riding in my roommate’s car, loaned to her by her out-of-town parents for just this occasion, we left the courthouse and headed for the university campus. All the way there, I silently conjugated Greek verbs and reminded myself of declensions that should be on the exam. It was my single focus. Cathy dropped me off and probably met up with her fiancĂ© somewhere. The memory of the courtroom was not about to stay in that far away compartment to which I had shoved it, though.

Hearing the “Ave” following my knock, I entered the Greek (and Latin) professor’s office. The usual pleasantries exchanged, he pointed to a student desk in the corner of his large room. I took the exam he held out to me and walked over to the desk. I no sooner had scribbled my name on the top page, when the tears began. Desperately, I fought to keep them off my exam paper. Finally, I stopped and blew my nose. I didn’t dare look up as, most certainly, Prof H was looking at me. “I’m okay,” I said and picked up my pen.

Again, the tears blurred my vision as I struggled to write down the conjugation I needed. When the sobs worsened and my shoulders shook, I gave out a deep sigh, laying down my pen.

“Sojourner? Is there anything I can do? Are you ill? Should I call somebody?” The poor man spit out his questions so rapidly that it was clear he had moved from the mildly concerned to the flustered mode. Like many men when a woman starts crying and they have not a clue as to why, he just wanted to fix it and make those tears stop.

“No, I’m not really sick. Well, not like I had the flu or appendicitis or something. It’s my heart; it’s breaking to bits. I couldn’t take the final with everyone else because I was in court ending my marriage. I thought I was okay and I really don’t know where all these waterworks are coming from. I mean, I didn’t even cry when I left the courtroom. I’m so sorry. I’ve probably ruined my exam. Look; the ink’s smudging the places I tried to write my answers.”

Professor H just nodded. “Well, I don’t think you could get through it if you did the exam orally either. I think that would be pretty hard on both of us.” He let go of a deep sigh and pocketed his pen. “Let me just double-check my grade book.” I watched him thumb through a narrow ledger, stopping at a point near the middle. “Give me your paper.” I did and heard words I had never expected. “Well, you’ve kept an A average for the course, so I’ll just take your paper and give you the mid-term grade. Be sure your name’s on the paper, though, so I can count it in with the total number of exams turned in to me.”

I handed Professor H my soggy exam paper and left the room. The tears had never stopped from the moment they had started, so I could only choke out a “Thank you,” as I left his office.

I finished the course with an A in Greek, but such was not the case with my final chemistry class. I had completed so many required chemistry courses in my four years there that I don’t really remember which specific one this might have been. What I do remember was approaching the Health Sciences building to take the final exam. It was early morning and I hadn’t really felt ill when I left home. However, as I reached the sidewalk to the front steps, my stomach took a major turn for the worst. Knowing I’d never make it to the restroom inside the building, I upchucked in the hedge just outside the building!

Limping into the classroom, my seriously pale face caught the professor’s attention.

“Sojourner?” I only nodded at him and shot my hand up to my mouth before retreating. “Come see me in my office later; go home now!” echoed behind me in the hallway as I sprinted through the restroom entrance.

During the meeting in the professor’s office, I pleaded with him to not insist that I take the exam the next day but to just pass me. If I didn’t pass this course, I couldn’t graduate. He reminded me that to skip the major exam was an automatic F, which would mean failure for the entire course, so great was the value of this one exam. I didn’t plead or beg; I knew he was right. I must have looked pretty pathetic to this learned man of science, because the next words I heard him say were, “Okay, I’ll give you a D but I can’t do better than that. I’m already going against what I should be doing. Obviously, you have something going on in your life right now that’s more important than chemistry. Go on, congratulations on graduating. Have a good life.” He also invited me back into his class for the next spring, should I decide to remove this blot on my academic record the following year. Not a chance I’d be doing that; I just wanted out. All I could think of was that the med school applications had already gone out and this chemistry grade would not be seen by anyone on the admissions committee.

Was God working on my behalf? Well, neither of these men were Christians; the chemistry prof a pretty firm opponent of things not scientific. Remember, I’m writing this blog to look back to see where God was present in my life. I have no scientific proof, of course, but I know, for certain, that God was in my life during this long crisis. It is my belief that God moved the hearts of these men to have compassion on me. I believe, with all of my heart that God understood what I was going through and did not hold it against me that I was not looking to Him to solve the sack full of problems resulting from my poor decisions. He was watching and waiting for me to turn to Him, but protecting me in the process. You’ll see in the next post how literally He protected me from harm. I know that God loves us and wants the very best for us. God understands young people can sometimes do some really dumb things, but he is not turned off by their growing pains. I do think God was with me, influencing my life during this terrible time.

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****Final-Year University: Life-Threatening Roommate…Next Post

1 comment:

  1. Reading between the lines, I sense, the emotions that flooded back while penning the piece, were as fresh as if it all happened yesterday. It is amazing that you were able to function as well as you did.

    Wing His Words,
    Pam

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