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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by Brian Sloan on August 8, 2011
"Haven't done this in forever, and I realize that this is a really slap-bang work--not something I'm terribly proud of, and not something I'm terribly comfortable posting. But hey, that's what the prompt is about, right?
If I had taken another minute or two the last paragraph would've been flushed out and the conclusion wouldn't suck, but I cut it at 15 minutes on the dot."


The first flight of a baby bird must be terrifying--pushed out of the nest, into the world, with no safety net below you, and told to swim or drown. Thankfully, when I began college at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, the odds were not quite so dire as "do or die"; it was, however, the first time that I was expected to perform as a completely autonomous individual in an adult setting. I had had experience in professional environments before with a week long trip to D.C. and New York for a conference, but this was the big leagues--nine months of me and me alone. Well, not quite alone.

The college experience isn't complete without a mystery roommate for your freshman year. You never know what to expect, and it's terrifying. I e-mailed my roommate a few times before we met--his name was Trent and he liked football. I gulped. I'm a football fan, but when I read his name, I got a mental picture of a monolithic white linebacker, with a shaved head. He would party all the time and I' d never be able to sleep or study, and he'd have women over all the time.
Turns out I couldn't have been further from the truth. When I arrived to move in, Trent's family was already there, and I was in for a surprise. He was a short, amiable Iranian kid who ran cross country. The two of us hit it off right away, both being sports guys, and a lasting friendship was formed. One down.

The second largest fear that any freshman faces is the classload--how much harder will this be than high school? Teachers would always say "Oh in college things will be such and such. You're lucky we go easy on you!" and to be honest, that frightened me. I was always a good student, but if college was so impossibly hard, what chance did I have? It turns out that college IS harder than high school, and not by any slim margin--it's a workload. At Poly, there are signs up that say "25-35: study each week!" and they mean it. Without the dedication that I worked on throughout High School, college would have been impossible. As it turns out, the classload was another relief. Although I didn't do quite as well as I would've liked to do, I managed to do just fine on my own, giving myself ample time for study and for relaxing. But neither of the two previous concerns were the largest on my mind.

The most terrifying thing is meeting new people. You're thrown into an adult situation where you have to fend for yourself--oh, and you don't know anybody else. As a computer engineering student, I'm not what you'd call the most social person. I'm not a partier, which as it turns out, is a big detriment to socializing in the current college world. I was pretty scared as I started classes, thinking to myself "Oh man, I'm not going to make any friends. This is going to be miserable." The thing you need to realize about nerves is that EVERYONE is as nervous as you are--nobody's terribly confident, especially when you're in a bunch of classes of engineers. Realizing this allowed me to bond with several other students, taking a major load off my mind.

Whenever you're entering a new stage in life, there's always stress. It can be a life-long commitment, like marriage, or moving to a new town, or even going to a new place to eat lunch. There's always a fear of being insufficient, of being disappointing, of being a failure. What you have to realize is that everyone else around you is going through exactly the same thought process. You need to use the common anxiety to break the ice and reach out to others. Once you've mastered your fear, nothing is impossible.

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