We all have them, those things that we refuse to think about, that make us shudder and panic at the mere mention. The involuntary tightness rising in our chests as the heart rate quickens. I have one of those things, it’s called a standardized test. I thought I left them behind after STAR testing (anybody?) and the SATs, but now they are back to haunt me in the form of the GRE. I had this freak out in 2009, when I wanted to apply to graduate school but I refused to even look at a GRE book, talk about it, study, and I even postponed the first date I set for myself, forfeiting $50 so I could avoid the dreaded day longer. In a self fulfilling prophecy, my avoidance translated into a terrible score, one which I refused to tell anyone, so traumatized was I by those two little numbers, that I nearly forgot them myself. This irrational hatred was a little hard to explain, most people saw the test as a necessary evil on the way to ambition. But for me it dated way back to high school, when peer pressure and insecurities abounded and everyone in my class did better than me, shattering my self confidence and laying the foundations for another decade of self-confidence issues, warranted or not. I always felt alone, isolated and strange.
Now I’m in that position again, with the test date finally here and my nerves threatening to snap. But this time I did what I had avoided all those other times: I studied. In college I developed a study strategy, and I tried to best to turn that back on just for the occasion, even if there really were other things I wanted to do with my weekend. I would study the better part of the day, Nate making sure I still eat, still relax a bit in between ranting and raving and banging my head against the wall. Each weekend since mid-May I studied for this mid June date, reassuring myself that if I did poorly, I could jet off to France to quell my sorrows. But this time feels different…I’m not marching to the gallows like it felt before. This time I’m me, doing what I do best, studying to hell and gone and stepping in there to pull it out. Even if I can’t I know I tried my damnedest, and one little hiccup is not going to slow down this ambitious career train. No one is perfect in every aspect of their resume or application, but they WANT it, and they know they can do it, and that’s the kind of confidence I’m channeling today.
No has zero faults, and maybe some people can just walk into that room and get a perfect score. I thought I should be able to do that, if I really had the smarts and was cut out for graduate school. But I can’t do that, and it’s not because I’m stupid, like I had previously assumed. “What’s wrong with me?” I would ask. Well, what do people do when they don’t have one particular skill? They look at the skills they do have, and use something in their toolbox to get it done: their way. I’m not a genius and I don’t work my best under pressure, but I do work hard, and I know how to prepare. I’m organized, and this time instead of wallowing in fear and avoidance, I’ve gotten out my big guns and I’m going to get the job done: my way.
Okay, flash forward 7 hours and the test is over. I can’t stop taking those big sighs of relief and wondering if it was really real, but I’m so happy it is over. Amazingly my studying did pay off and I scored a whopping 80 points better on both the verbal and the math sections, independently. I don’t think I ever have to sit in front of that nasty computer again! My bank account isn’t so happy, however, since directly after the test (the testing center is next to a gigantic mall) I walked straight over and celebrated with my friends Anthropologie and Banana Republic. But now I’m up to my neck in vacation worthy clothes and I’m ready to hit the streets of Paris!