expectations are the pits

The following post is me feeling sorry for myself, but it is also me being vulnerable, because sometimes that is the only good that can come out of the shitty reality that is sometimes my life.

imagesI took my GRE today (I need it to apply to PhD. programs). It is already a long shot for me to get in, as the programs I will apply to (2 within communing distance) only accept 3 applicants a year. (and typically get about 30). I have never done well on standardized tests. I could study for weeks and really know my stuff, and then do horrible on the test. I know… this is old news, it seems like I have been talking about this a lot on here (but case I have a new reader there is my test background).

So I signed up for the test knowing it was just going to be a check on my to do list, really never expecting to do well. I looked at some review questions, I got them all wrong. It made me very sad. I could not even face the practice tests, it made my hyperventilate. I could not study, because the only way I could cope with this upcoming test was to hide it deep in my brain.

People kept saying “This test is not a reflection of you” and I know that. How am I ever supposed to do well on a test that is full of material I have never in my life used or been taught. I did not expect to do well. I did not expect to even do average. The only little blip of anxiety was that this test could determine if I can get into a PhD. program, something I very badly want to do.

So today I went and took the test. It was about 100 multiple choice questions, 40 math and 60 vocab. Then there were 2 essay type questions. I am not exaggerating when I say I did not even come close to understanding one of the math questions. Like this math is math I have never in my life seen before. No lie. I could not have even tried to come up with a solution, despite the 4 pages of scrap paper, two pencils and calculator they provided me with. Actually, there was one question I thought maybe I could solve, I even came up with an answer, which was not an option in the multiple choice answers. So I just scanned every question, knew I had no idea, and picked “C”.

The vocab was a little better. I felt confident about maybe ½ of them… but there were a lot of comprehension questions that had me baffled. Again, no big deal. I have realistic expectations.

And here were a few of my expectations. 1) I would not have my results for 6 weeks. 2) An average score was considered 150 which meant the bottom score would be 0 and the top score would be 300. So when my results popped up immediately when the test was done I was shocked. My verbal score was 143… Wow, that is pretty good! My math was 134… holy cow, that was way better than I expected…. Still below average, but not bad for guessing.

So I posted my scores on facebook with a hashtag #noshame. Then I went about my day, checking facebook once in a while to see likes and affirmations. I was feeling pretty good about my mediocrity!

Then I though, maybe I should actually see what a bottom score looks like… something about scoring a 134 in math when I only answered 40 questions seemed iffy. So I looked. It turns out the score range for the GRE is 130-170.

So now my 134 and my 143 have a whole new meaning. Despite these being scores I expected, I had a few hours of a high that maybe I was not as bad off as I thought. And that was the moment when the tears started to flow. That moment of, “Sarah, how in the world could you have thought that”. The moment of “Sarah, you literally did not know one answer of math and guessed at a huge percent of vocab, this is the reality.”

So I cried for a while. Not because this is a reflection of who I am, because I know it is not. But because for a few seconds I thought maybe I was better than I thought. Maybe I got a decent score and I would not be a flashing red flag on my applications. I knew even a crazy good score would not be a reflection of who I am… I would be a reflection of luck.

It is what it is. And I am sharing this because writing it helps me, but also because maybe you have been in that spot before too… utterly helpless. Defined by something that does not define you. Wanting something so desperately, but not measuring up to arbitrary standards.

top_invisibleAnd at the risk of sounding like I am coping through alcohol, I raise my gin and tonic to you, kindred spirit, and say “Cheers”


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