It was my last semester of college, and I was in my “thesis” course: Advanced Creative Writing.
The instructor had a strict policy: for every absence over two, no matter the cause, your grade was lowered by half a letter. He told us he didn’t care if our grandma had died.
Background: college had gotten harder for me to handle with each semester. I was living in a new city away from everyone I knew. I lost my faith in the religion I had been raised with, which alienated me from my family. Worst of all, I found myself unable to connect with my wealthier classmates. By my senior year, depression was kicking my ass.
But the real problem was that I couldn’t make myself get out of bed. My doctor had adjusted my Prozac prescription, and suddenly I felt like a zombie. My jaw hurt from how often I yawned. Keeping my eyes open at all was a struggle. I slept straight through two alarms. Two other times, I opened my eyes but couldn’t find the energy to move.
I got to the end of the semester and I had a B average. But if the instructor deducted me for those days I missed, it was over. My GPA was going to tank.
This was my worst nightmare. I had been a total nerd in high school. I was involved in a Quiz Bowl, passed several AP tests, and was in the top ten. I was terrible at math but had just managed to squeeze into the advanced track. I worked for hours and hours every night finishing my math homework just to stay afloat.
So I wasn’t going out like this without a fight. To help make up for the time I missed, provided pages and pages of feedback for other students in the class. I rewrote my short story thesis from scratch after it was critiqued. I somehow made it to class for the rest of the semester.
It wasn’t enough. On the last day, I met with the instructor after class in the TA lounge. There were other grad students there, sitting in rows, quietly grading papers. I sat in a chair and told my teacher I was depressed. I explained the new drug situation and tears poured down my face and the other TAs looked over in alarm.
The instructor told me rules were rules.