Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Final Exam

School does not come naturally to me. You might think that having been enrolled in 5 different colleges for the past 10 years and nearing the end of my 2nd Master's degree that school would come naturally to me, but it doesn't. It never has. I've always struggled. I'm not an A student. This doesn't mean I don't get A's, but I have maintained more of a B average throughout life than an A average. I suppose I've always been afraid that someday someone would find out that I'm not really as smart as I try to be or that I'm not really what I appear. I've always been afraid that someone would find me out and expose me for a fraud.

So, in order to graduate, I had to take a comprehensive final exam. In order to pass the exam, you had to make an 80. Last year's ACNP class only had to make a 70 to pass, the average was a 75. So this year we had to make an 80. It was a 163 questions. We had 3 1/2 hours to take it. Half the class didn't pass, didn't make an 80. So all day we moaned and groaned and wondered what would happen. If we didn't pass, we could take the same test again. If we still didn't pass, then we had to wait 45 days and take it again. The problem with waiting 45 days means you don't graduate. You repeat this class next year, next summer.

So, like I said, 50% of the class didn't pass. The faculty gathered that day for five hours and evaluated the test. They ended up throwing out 11 questions, giving us 7 points back. With the additional points all but 6 out ~80 passed. I was one of the 6, I needed another point.

I came up short. I guess I'm always afraid that I will come up short. I suppose that is my greatest fear. I felt as though I had finally exposed myself to my peers and my faculty as not knowing, as not being where I needed to be, as not being that which I had portrayed. I failed. I did not pass the exam. There is a great deal of shame in failure, a great deal of embarrassment, a great deal of disappointment.

I bare my emotions so very close. So I took not passing in stride. Gathered with a few others and studied. We were taking the same test, so we just needed to research the questions and find their correct answers. But how do you remember 163 questions? I didn't remember them, luckily others did. We studied for days, sent e-mails and texts, and spent a lot of time on the phone coaching and consoling one another. It's funny to think that the fate of two years of hard work and stress and heartache could fall on the results of 163 question test. Yet it did.

So today I retook that test. I was scheduled to take it at 11:00. I woke up this morning and I tried to be calm. The problem with getting up at 4:30 half the time though, makes one wake up very early most days. So, I tried to be calm but 11:00 was never going to get here. I ate a good breakfast. I took a long shower. I studied over my notes twice. And at 8:45 I couldn't wait any long and I left for the 30 minute drive to school. I went up there in hopes of taking it early. All of our tests are on the computer. I feel indifferent about this. Thankfully, the lady, I don't know her name - she wasn't our usual lady, let me take it early. Luckily I was the only one in the computer lab because I had to stand some from anxiety and I kept flailing my arms around about me to let go of some of the fear that was erupting within me.

I passed. I passed the test. I was going to graduate.

Funny, the way I handle my emotions. I often ignore them, bottle them up, and wait until an opportune time to acknowledge them. Some emotions I never acknowledge, other emotions wait until the must acknowledge me. Today my emotions acknowledged me. When I finished the test, realizing that I had passed, that I would graduate, and that essentially the past two years were done, I finally felt the extreme stress that I had been harboring. As the moments passed the stress slowly dissipated from my being, yet even now as I sit here hours later, it is still slowly dissipating from me.

After the test I spoke briefly with my advisor. And as I talked my emotions, after a week and a half, finally acknowledged me and the tears began to roll down my face. My advisor told me that people have different skills. Some are skilled as excellent test takers, other are skilled at the bed side. She said she's seen my skills at the bedside and I have nothing to worry about. I suppose after this year I won't have to take that many more tests, but I will have to be at the bedside everyday.

I feel so very exhausted - emotionally. These past two years have been the hardest, most intersting, most enjoyable, most encouraging and discouraging two years of my life. I grieve their end. I warrant their end. Mostly though I just want to rest, so that I can discover my next great adventure and pursue it.