The class had just begun and Riley was already struggling with the content of the professor's words. Rat – a – tat a – tat – rat – tat. The professor turned around and started writing on the black board. The chalk's clicking sounded in a curious counter-point to the cadence of his voice. The words meant nothing to Riley.
Riley kept forcing his attention back to the words and their meaning. He hurriedly tried to catch up with his notes. What would Dad think? He frantically scratched the writing on the black board into his legal pad. The other students in the classroom all sat with their backs erect and their gaze hooked on the professor at the podium and the board behind him. Every time Riley's body drifted into a slouch, he lost the words' meaning again. Although he kept correcting this over and over trying to get into the material, Riley's knowledge was gapped.
He only needed a few more years of business school until he could finally join a big New York firm, wear a business suit and be a man. He just needed to persevere through this tedium until he could finally become something. He knew it was just around the corner.
But Riley couldn't keep his focus on the lecture. His mind kept drifting away from the meaning and towards their sounds. Da – da – do Rat – ti – ti – te
The lecture ended. Riley was slumped back in his chair and was the last student to begin packing up his belongings.
“Riley, can I speak to you for a few minutes?” the professor asked. Riley put his notebook and pen into his bag and met the instructor at his desk in the corner of the room.
“Your midterm results are in,” the professor began, “and it will take your greatest effort just to pass my class. I've spoken with your other professors too and you aren't doing well with them either.” While the professor was talking, Riley stood still and made eye contact. His father had always demonstrated respect and confident communication during every business deal Riley ever saw him make.
“You may want to consider withdrawing from my class or even from school this term. I understand the tragedy that has befallen your family recently. You may want to take some time to allow those feelings their place. Otherwise, your GPA will likely suffer and hurt your chances in the future.”
“Thank you for understanding,” Riley said, “but professor I can't give up. It would let my dad down.”
“It isn't necessarily giving up Riley to take some time for important things in life. You can resume your studies in a few months which in the long term doesn't amount to much time lost.”