Seriously though, I am crying right now. Shoulders shaking, nose running, and tears blurring my eyes and streaming down my cheeks. Before I started to write (because writing can be healing) I had my head in my hands and I just cried and shook and said a few very bad words over and over again. So since I may publish this on my blog, I will try to refrain from these words, but know they are in my head and feel free to insert them as you feel lead.
I have felt like a faker my whole professional life. I just keep waiting to be found out. And then, I keep getting myself deeper into my career. I do more, I have more responsibility. More is at stake if someone discovers me. Because I still see the red F on my math tests. I still hear Mrs. D….. saying “don’t worry Sarah, this isn’t a writing class” because the last class I took with her I had to write a term paper and she gave me a C. I loved writing. Until that moment. I still remember sitting in classes in my undergrad noting even knowing what notes to take because nothing made sense coming out of the professors mouth. I remember taking my first psychology class, feeling so excited about this information and getting a D on the test I had studied for and felt so confident about. I failed the MEAP and got an 18 on my ACT’s. It’s a miracle I even got into college.
I keep telling myself, as an adult, something you are doing is right. You just don’t take tests well. Screw Mrs. D…. and her stupid comments, she can read my manuals and reports and blog and proposals and presentations and eat her words. And then I have a day like today. Where I am reminded that none of my accomplishments even matter. Because I really am not smart. I cannot take a test. I cannot understand math. I can read every classic novel on the Harvard 100 top novel list and not answer a question correctly about a paragraph that is right in front of me.
I know getting my PhD is a big stretch. I do! I know more and more every single day how competitive it is. How much work it takes. I have talked to many Universities. I have read many websites about programs and qualifications. I have a notebook full of information and questions. I have pages of ideas that I want to focus research on. Pages.
I also have 4 years (8 semesters) of really fabulous evaluations from my students. I have people tell me they learned more in my class than any other. I hear that I make learning meaningful. I heard a professor I respect greatly say: “We need more professors like you”. I have been a social worker for 18 years and I still love it. I have an insane amount of passion for it. I want to keep moving forward and change everything I can change, I want to inspire others, I want to give back. I want so much for so many.
But 6 questions just destroyed me. 6 multiple choice questions. I signed up for the GRE yesterday. $195 and 4 hours. I gave myself 6 weeks to study. I started yesterday, hours of my afternoon pouring over the manual: “Practice Book for the GRE General Revised Standardized Test”. I loved it. So much good information. How to prepare, what to look for, how to think about questions, what the answers are looking for. I took pages and pages of notes. I even spent the evening on the University of Michigan Web site thinking maybe, just maybe, I even have a chance here. I read about the students and faculty and the duel PhD program. I got excited. I got more excited thinking I would get accepted everywhere I applied and then get to choose. (Loyola obviously).
And then I sat in the sunshine on my deck with my favorite cardigan and tried a few practice questions. I read a paragraph and answered the questions confidently. Really confidently. Then I read some sentences and put in the missing words. This stuff is easy! It makes sense! Then I got all the questions, except one, wrong. This is just verbal people, not even math. 1/6. I don’t know math, but I know that sucks. And what’s worse, is I felt really really good about it. And then it hit me. Everything I want for myself, for my profession, for my community and my world. Everything I hoped for in the past 2 months could be meaningless because of this test.
And I know, it is one test. It says nothing about who I am (Although it could say a lot about who I want to be). But it makes me forget every good grade I received. Every compliment I heard. And it makes me thing of every Mrs D… that had decided when I was a sophomore in high school I could not write. And it makes me think of every class I dropped and every tutor I lied to because despite their help I still got a bad grade. And it makes me think of the mediocrity I have spent my life trying to overcome.
I have listened to a lot of inspiring people lately (TED radio hour) and have heard about their overcoming great trials. Losing a leg and then, not only learning how to walk on a new one, but getting their PhD in some crazy engineering/science/computer field and then creating better artificial limbs for others.
I am not book smart. I will likely do pretty crummy on this test. But I will take it. I will prepare for it. And it will, in NO way, reflect who I am and what I can do. I will apply to schools. I may or may not get in. I will likely spend a lot more afternoons in tears because of the difficulty of this test. I will hear the negative comments in my head. But I will do it. Because I committed. And I may not be smart, but I do follow through. I may not know algebra, but I do know how to help people. I may be an ordinary, mediocre Midwestern 30 something cliché of the American dream, but I will not settle for that. I don’t want to settle. I don’t want easy. I don’t want to be driven by fear. I want more. I just don’t want to take this test.
(And writing this did make me feel better. And maybe, it made some of you feel better too?)
(Honestly, I feel a little silly about the entire reaction because I am remembering I wrote a similar blog a few years ago regarding cooking: https://sahzu.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/cooking-with-sarah/)
I am nothing if not dramatic.