No. 22 – Testing…Testing

The day of my test was finally here. I felt like my future, my sanity, my well-being in general were all riding on one test. I had spent four long, hard years in college learning the skills necessary to be an effective teacher. But none of that mattered unless I passed this test. No pressure. Even though the likeliness of me finding a job at this point in the summer was nearly microscopic, I hoped that by passing I would be qualified to accept a position if something were to come available mid-year. Or maybe by filling in as a substitute who was certified, a principal would be more likely to offer me a job for the next school year. Regardless of how it would come about, I had to be certified, which meant I HAD to pass this test. Not to mention it was expensive, and I was not in a financial position to be throwing my money away.

I woke up before my alarm clock went off; a feat of nature for the anti-morning person that I am. I dressed quickly and headed down stairs to make myself presentable. In the words of Cassey, “you look good, you play good!” Or test well, in my case. So I applied some make-up, styled my hair and instantly felt a slight boost in confidence. I grabbed a breakfast bar from the kitchen pantry and headed out the door. I had a 45-minute drive to the testing center and wanted to get there early – alleviating any extra stress like running late, hitting traffic or getting lost. Even with a GPS in tow, I could still manage to get myself turned around.

I pulled into the designated parking garage 20 minutes before I needed to be present for check in. I briefly reviewed my study guide, touching on the objectives I wanted. After my quick refresh, I took the deepest breath my lungs could hold and let it out slowly. You got this,I assured myself. I gathered the few items I could bring with me, left my phone in the car and walked in to my destiny.

Two hours later, I exited the building and walked towards my car with a pit in my stomach. I was going to be sick. Each step further away from the testing facility sent a fresh wave of stomach pangs. I could hurl any second. Keep breathing, I instructed myself. Just make it to the car. I was going to burst. Into tears or with projectile. Either way it wasn’t going to be pretty. Finally, I spotted my car. I collapsed into the driver’s seat and buried my face in my palms. I dry heaved and dry cried simultaneously. A horrific blend of all my pent-up anxiety over this test. I could look forward to this torture for a whole week as I awaited my results.

Usually, I had an accurate gauge as to how I performed on tests, but this time I was clueless. One moment my natural test-taking confidence held the reigns and I was sure that I passed the test with ease. The next moment, my all familiar self-doubt creeped in and took control. Of course, you didn’t pass the test, Sarah. You’re never getting out of your parents’ house. This cyclical back and forth plagued my drive home. Stepping back into the palpable darkness didn’t help either. The presence of the house consumed my thoughts and poisoned any resolve I had left. I sunk into the couch and continued to sink into myself. I was a tiny speck in black hole that continued to suck me further and further downwards into the abyss.

The walls closed in on me, slowly, dragging out the painful reality that I might not get out this summer. I couldn’t take another year of being a disappointment. Another year of falling short of impossible expectations. Another year of wearing the façade that was killing me. The mask that left me feeling empty while still failing to please my parents. Chipping away at me each time I had to pry it off my face.

And what would come of my relationship? I couldn’t even begin down that road. The ONLY way we had survived this far was to take it one day at a time. Relishing the beautiful past. Trying to make the most of the present. And attempting not to zoom too far into the unpredictable future. At this point, we could make no plans, had no inkling of when we might see each other again, and my light at the end of the tunnel was blacked out.

I spent the rest of the day in a funk that I couldn’t shake. I didn’t want to be around anyone in the house, but my solidarity was only propelling my negative thought cycle. I decided after a shower and a brief conversation with Kendrae that it was best if I just called it a day and slept it off. In brilliant Sarah fashion, rather than relaxing my mind and falling asleep, I couldn’t shut it off. My mind was running rampant with question after question. I couldn’t quiet my racing thoughts and I lay awake for hours battling my incessant insecurities.

I woke up the next morning with a more positive outlook. Playing out all the ridiculously awful scenarios my tormented brain could concoct had done no good, and only made the situation worse. If I didn’t pass the test, I would figure something else out. I was nothing if not resourceful. If Plan A didn’t work out, there were an infinite amount of other options I could sort out later.

Sometime that afternoon as I was cleaning out my email inbox my heart caught in my throat. Was I reading that right?

Your score report for the following test…can now be viewed online.

I wasn’t expecting to get my test results back for another week. I instantly overwhelmed with dread. This could not be a good indication for passing. Results the next day? That must mean I completely bombed the test. A cold sweat covered the surface of my skin and my hands shook as I clicked on the link to see my score. Even after realizing that I was holding my breath, I still couldn’t let it out. The molasses slow internet in the middle of the country moved even slower than usual as my phone loaded the page.

The ringing in my ears grew louder by the millisecond. I rested my arms on my legs in attempt to steady the shaking. Now my entire body trembled with angst. This had to be the slowest page load time in the history of this internet.

The page finally finished loading and my eyes froze on the screen.

Oh, this was just the login page. A slight wave of relief washed over me as I typed in my credentials.

Then, even stronger than before, my intensity increased as I awaited another slow page load. This was it…

Seconds later, my screen illuminated. The page had loaded successfully.

As ready as I was to see the results, I didn’t know if I was ready to deal with the ramifications that would follow.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

I swallowed my fear and forced my eyes towards my phone screen. My eyes began at the top of the page and stopped. My results boiled down to one word: PASSED.

Tears streamed down my face releasing all the feelings of unworthiness that had coated over me the previous day. My breath deepened as my nerves relaxed. The end of my tunnel was blindingly bright. I took off in a full sprint towards the light.

 

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