Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CHALLENGE (08/17/17)
- TITLE: Dare to Succeed
By JC Hummel
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Still wavering before heading to the administration building, she rifles through her purse looking for a tissue or hand sanitizer, something, anything to clean her clammy hands.
Getting lost more than once, she finally finds Bonnie’s glass partitioned office. As Carla enters she spies her reflection in the glass door, double chin, thick waist. “You’ve really let yourself go,” she imagines Joel’s voice say. Not today Joel, she thinks, and greets her counselor with the biggest smile she can muster.
Bonnie, her counselor, exudes friendliness and confidence making Carla feel at ease. “We offer many adult degree programs and you can still register for this coming semester if you’d like.”
It sounds wonderful, but Carla is still apprehensive about returning to college. She remembers Mrs. McCluskey, her fourth grade teacher, droning on about applying herself if she wanted to get good grades. That was the year dad died. The kindest man in the world was gone forever, and figuring out long division didn't matter to Carla anymore.
Dad’s sudden death had devastated her mother, and every night she fell asleep in front of the TV with an empty wine bottle tucked between her and the chair arm. “I just needed something to take the edge off,” she would say. Carla was dutiful. Never angry. Never complained. She would help her mom to bed, remove her shoes and close the door behind her. That all changed when mom found a new man, and didn't need Carla’s help anymore.
In high school she maintained decent grades but often skipped school to spend time at friends’ homes to watch videos and smoke. Desperate for affection, she fell in love and made mistakes. Then at seventeen, a pregnancy and a miscarriage. A few days later she walked out of the hospital, her body aching and her heart shattered.
“Thank goodness your father isn't here to see the mess you’ve made,” her mother said. “You’re lucky you lost the kid, having it would have been the biggest mistake of your life.”
She made few friends in college and would go to Joel’s dorm room when his roommate wasn't around. She was still a sophomore when he graduated and asked her to marry him. She enthusiastically agreed. Finally, she would belong to someone and be loved, and for that she willingly quit college and got a job so Joel could go to graduate school.
For her fortieth birthday Joel handed her an Ann Taylor bag. She was giddy with excitement. It was the dress she had longed for but when she looked at the tag it was a size 4. It felt like a cruel joke, but it was his way of saying, ‘I spent $150.00 on a dress we can’t afford, so I got it three sizes smaller as an incentive for you to lose weight.’ “Just tell me I’m too fat’, she wanted to scream at him, but she would never speak to him in that tone of voice. Instead she smiled a beaming smile and put the dress back in the bag. That was eight years ago and it still hangs in the back of her closet, never worn.
Later that night after her husband went to bed, she locked herself in the bathroom, sobbing, and ate the box of truffles her daughter had bought for her as a birthday gift.
After two kids and twenty-five years of marriage Joel left her. It wasn’t a surprise, but it still hurt her deeply. That was six months ago, and last week he introduced his new girlfriend to their children.
She realizes she has spent the last forty-five years making bad judgments because of her need to appease the people around her.
She looks down at one of the pamphlets Bonnie gave her. ‘Dare to Succeed’ it says in bold letters.
She looks at Bonnie with a genuine smile. “Sign me up, Bonnie. This place sounds perfect.”
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