Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Pop Quiz, Hot Shot

In school tests were announced well ahead of time—possibly so there was no one left to blame if you weren’t prepared. It’s in black and white. You should have been there the first day. You were handed the syllabus and it was posted online and scrawled on the corner of a beaten-up dry erase board (yes it was there the whole month, see down in the right corner, in chicken scratch, no, no one ever said it was there but you should have at least looked instead of zoning out). And the semester stretched out in front of you, full of parties and naps and breaks and holidays before the very end where you would be required to prove that you had listened, absorbed, and simply become a more knowledgeable human being by the end. So that everyone could be resolute in you moving onwards and upwards. This was all that you had to pay for learning that lesson on the finer points of Stats, the Philosophy of Law, Intermediate Italian (apparently the powers that be thought learning was its own reward, the results aren’t yet in on that one).

I didn’t realize it at the time, and frankly never do, but I so appreciated my tests being laid out for me. The scheduled points of needing to pay attention versus cruise control. I cringed in the wake of pop quizzes, they just seemed so incredibly unfair, because why would it be that we weren’t allowed to prepare? When it’s seemingly unnecessary, we don’t cram into our short-term memory the finer details of what matters in the moment. And why should we? We have lives to live, other stressors to cramp our shoulders, paths in the afternoon to jog, tea to sip, gardens to visit, Edward FortyHands to play, dutchies to pass on the left hand side, etc.

And now in real life, I finally comprehend the meaning of pop-anything. Because real tests are never laid out clearly, they come and go as they please and intrude without invitation. They plant themselves in front of you, tears streaming, snot running, vein-bulging, life-leveling, and they will not move until you take them in, absorb their worst intentions and are able to inhale, chew and spit back out so they can slide on down to someone else. They’re parasitic. They’ve been known to drive insane, kill, maim and all around cause unpleasantries. They can crush what you once looked upon as golden and good and forever and make you feel like a shamed fool who didn’t even deserve the gift of the lie you lived for TK number of years.

Pop tests, all tests can be incredibly cruel. They don’t care that this is the week the budget is due, or this day is the anniversary that you are woefully trying to suppress, or that your injury from the last has not yet healed. They can be dependant on another person’s flippant mood who will not be talked down from their incorrect perch, or a corporate restructuring from across the pond a million miles from your office, a sand castle that falls apart because it can’t bear the environment that made it possible in the first place, anything. Tests don’t really have rhyme or reason. They’re unpredictable.

They’re meant to teach us, of course. But there are no checks and balances to life. There is no one person or machine at an eagle eye view of your world and your world alone to judge whether you’ve been given a bad hand and it should be evened out. No intervention to shake the people close to you to stop doing what they are doing and to see the light. Or you. There is no force that strikes down and punishes when life treats you badly or when you do it to yourself. Religion and meditation may help alleviate, but you need to be willing to sign over your control to ebb and flow. And in New York City, that’s just hard to do. You might fail the test. At best you only pay for it in this life. At worst; it’s the next.

The only way I can see it to deal with anything at all is to tattoo your own cheat sheet on the back of your hand, rife with past experiences and expectations, future goals and your closest sense of self. There is no study group, no one who has been there before you have and is pushed to your own limits. There are people that sort of understand, in their situations, in their own experiences. And yet, something is always lost in translation. What’s most infuriating is that any path you take must be your own. You can only rely on yourself for the answers, and even if you think you are prepared on the best of days, you never really know for sure until it’s there, dark and passing a blue book and a number 2 pencil towards you in a room with no clock. Only then, when it is upon you, can you judge.

Will this be a day I pass or I fail?


CM said...

Pop-quizes can also make you realize you're ready, smart, strong - it's so much more satisfying to succeed when something is thrown at you, then to do it slowly and aggonizingly and interminably. Don't worry girl, your pocket-protector is full of all the utensils you need to fill out your life's answer sheet in full, dark, bursting bubble circles.

Anonymous said...

You will pass.

I mean this with no irony, but you are like the deepest person I don't know.