The Day My Life Stopped


It wasn’t cardiac arrest. I wasn’t the victim of asphyxiation. Physically nothing was wrong. But a four letter word instantly changed my life. The effects are still very real.

I grew up in a small town and cruised through high school. I was never challenged by school work, and, as a result, never learned to study. At the beginning of my senior year I applied to several colleges and universities. Accepted by several, I chose to attend Purdue University.

September 1965. Away I went to begin my freshman year at Purdue. I had no idea what to expect. I was undisciplined, and I would pay the price.

Some college freshmen have a career goal for their life. Some don’t. I didn’t. Unfortunately I did not know I did not have to choose a major when I entered Purdue. I was never told I could begin my college experience just taking core classes. Had I known, would my life have been different? Maybe. Maybe not.

When asked about a major, I chose biology. Why? I have no idea. I didn’t know what a biologist did. I didn’t know all the job opportunities available for a biologist.

I was green. A very bright green.

At the end of the first semester I was on academic probation.

No problem, I thought. I’ll just retake a couple of classes, and things will be fine. I breezed through high school, and this is a bit more challenging, but everything will be OK.

I finished the second semester, and waited on my grades to arrive in the mail. About the middle of June 1966, they came. There it was in the bottom right hand corner, the word that would forever change my life.


I flunked out of Purdue.

That was the day my life stopped.

Wait. Is that being overly dramatic? People do occasionally flunk out of college. That doesn’t mean their life stops. Life goes on. You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

Isn’t that the way it works?

For me, it didn’t work that way.

I played the blame game. My parents didn’t do enough to help me find an occupation. My high school counselor didn’t do enough counselling. My teachers didn’t challenge me.

The final responsibility for my college success or failure rested with me. When I started having trouble, I should have contacted my counsellor for help. I didn’t. I didn’t tell anyone nor did I ask anyone for help or suggestions for getting help.

My failure was my fault.


I know I let my parents down. They were both college graduates. I was embarrassed when I told friends and family what happened. My plan was to enroll in another college in the fall. I found out colleges don’t take students who have just flunked out of another college.

My life was grinding to a halt. I was frozen. I had no idea what to do. This was the summer of 1966. President Lyndon Johnson announced the largest military draft since World War II. Afraid of being drafted and ending up in the infantry, I enlisted for three years in the Army. Away I went.

In September 1969 I was discharged and entered Indiana State University. My major? I didn’t have one. During the three years I spent in the Army I made no plans for my future other than deciding to go back to college. A college degree was supposed to be the ticket to a successful life.


It still haunted me.

Going to college without career counselling is like going to the grocery store without a shopping list. When you checkout you’ve rolled the dice on next week’s meals.

You don’t want to roll the dice on your future.


It was still casting a very long shadow on my life.

I graduated from Indiana State in 1972. I had a double major in Business and Economics. My business major did not focus on a particular area. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

Forty-nine years have passed since “DROP” walked into my life. I should have kicked it out long ago. I didn’t know how.

I gave myself a life sentence of being overly cautious in some areas of my life. Then I would rebel against my cautiousness by making decisions that were not clearly thought out.

So what did I learn from “DROP”?

First, when trouble comes help is usually available. Find it. Ask for it. Accept it. None of us has all the answers.

Second, when life decides to “DROP” you, make up your mind you can start over. Never let “DROP” have permanent control of your life.

Finally, no one ever wins the blame game. Whether it’s your fault, your parents’ fault, your teachers’ fault, your boss’s fault, or anyone else’s fault, rarely is anything gained from pointing fingers. More often than not, time has been wasted.

“DROP” still knocks at my door, and sometimes I let it in. Many times I wonder how my life would have been different if I would have just asked for help during my first year of college. But there’s no point in trying to relive the past. I can only learn from it.

The good news is I’m still learning.

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