The assignment was simple: write two pages about an activity you enjoy. I sat near the back of the class next to my best friend’s girlfriend.
My friend was in Portugal for two years, and I was supposed to keep an eye on his girl. I failed miserably, but that’s another story.
As I left class and walked across Harrison Blvd to my home, I thought about topics I could write about. I’d written very few papers in high school, and didn’t enjoy the process at all. I didn’t feel as though I had any talent as a writer. Writing skills belonged to the students taking AP English.
I knew I’d have to improve now that I was taking college courses at Weber State College.
I considered writing about sports. Maybe the Utah Jazz. But I felt it would take too much research. And what could I say that had any feeling or personality?
I searched for a topic on which I could tell a story: one I felt passionate about. Finally, I decided to write about music. I probably spent three hours writing two pages. In a simple vocabulary, I wrote how I enjoy listening to music in the car.
A friend had recently introduced me to Pink Floyd. I immediately fell in love with Dark Side of the Moon so much that I wore out two cassettes in less than a year. I captured how I listened to this album as I drove up curvy Ogden canyon to see the leaves change colors. It was nothing special, but it was personal.
I asked my mother to proofread it, and she gave me a few suggestions which improved the paper’s clarity. She enjoyed what I’d written. But aren’t all mothers supposed to like what their children create? I wasn’t convinced it was any good and was nervous to hand it in that Friday.
That next Monday I showed up for class and sat in the last row. The professor walked through the door and plopped a stack of papers on his desk. He stared at us for a while. His expression told us he wasn’t in a good mood.
When he finally spoke, he explained how disappointed he was with the effort we’d given the assignment. He felt we could do better. He didn’t mince words. I was glad I’d decided to sit in the back. He explained that we had two days to rewrite our papers before he began returning them.
I waited for my name to be called.
There were maybe 35 students in the class.
I was worried my paper was lost. Why wasn’t he calling my name?
The professor finished handing back the papers until he had one in his hand. He said, “I’m going to read to you the only paper I will accept.”
He began reading my paper. I was stunned. This can’t be happening. My friend nudged me, “Is that yours?”
The reason I decided to write about this experience is because this is the only instance I recall where a professor complimented my writing. I still had nearly four years of college ahead of me at the time.
But that didn’t matter.
All it took was this one professor. He saw potential in me and was willing to share it. That gave me confidence at an early stage of my college experience that carried through the next four years.
I still have that paper. Probably packed away in the garage under junk I don’t need.
I’ll bet the B+ grade written in red ink is still visible in the upper right corner too.