I am very opinionated (which should surprise no one since you’re reading my blog). There are, in fact, few topics about which I have absolutely no opinion.
Which is why I was surprised this morning when my brain stopped transmitting its continuous fount of opinions during my final (and most important) oral exam. I was asked to give my opinion (in Spanish no less) and in sportsball terms, I fumbled, I whiffed, I airballed. Is splice a thing? Because if is is, I did that too. I most definitely did not make contact with the ball.
Something that should have been pan comido (or a cakewalk) for me ended up being more like a 4th of July show with wet fireworks. Like you drove 3.5 hours just to get to the beach and spent another hour (and $40) finding parking, waited 2+ hours for night fall only to get a grand finale that was more dog whimpering than lion roaring. Not to mention the fact that you now now have to to sit for 2.5 more hours in traffic with a car full of cranky (maybe drunk) people in dire need of beds and bathrooms. WE CAME ALL THIS WAY TO SEE THIS.
THIS being an apt description of my performance. I have a 3.95 GPA after six months of intense Spanish learning seven hours a day for five days a week. I have frequent conversations with my professors like the one that I had today for my exam and I normally do well. But today the star pupil, like the MVP quarterback, didn’t quite live up to the hype. Or her potential.
I feel embarrassed just typing that because it leaves me exposed. It reveals the gap that exists between who I am and who I should be. Or maybe it’s between what I’m able to do (or what I actually do) and what people think that I should do. Or maybe the gap is caused by an inability to self-asses. The thing is: I don’t even know exactly what (or who) is causing this gap. But I do know that this gap is stuffed full of disappointment and self-recrimination.
I couldn’t focus on the reading that I was supposed to be doing after my test today because all I could think of was how badly I’d spliced (I don’t care if this is a real thing or not). I even left class to call my Bestie and The Twin to confess this sin of not living up to my potential.
I’m sure you didn’t do that badly, said The Twin.
And she was right: I didn’t fail the test — not even close. I am pretty certain that I got the score that the school desires that students get (the score that every other student wants to get). But that wasn’t the issue.
I’m not saying I failed, I tried to explain. I’m just saying that I didn’t do as well as I should have.
Well, did you study? she asked
Of course I studied! I replied. But that’s not it. Look twin, I just didn’t– you know what? nevermind. I’ll talk to you later.
I’m sure I sounded slightly hysterical during this exchange (which my loud stage whispering -because I was standing in the courtyard and not in class -did not help in the least) because a) I was and b) my twin giggled right before I abruptly hung up the phone.
To my self-accusations, I added frustration. Why couldn’t the Twin just understand that it hadn’t gone the way that it should have. Why didn’t she realize that I should have scored higher — that I should have been better. Why couldn’t she see this failure of living up to my potential?Probably because self-criticism is an inside job — a virus that that feeds off its host. A sickness that continuously nibbles away at your joy and satisfaction in your efforts and success. It leaves the dust of its what-if and what-could-have-been patina across the surface of all of your hardwork.
Yesterday during my final prep session, I described perfectly for my professor exactly what I would feel like after today’s exam: I’m going to feel awful (about myself ) the test no matter what happens, I told her. I’ve been here so many times before that I anticipate (hours before the event) the anvil that will settle about my shoulders and make me unwilling to talk for hours afterward. I am all-too-familiar with the odd sensation of throbbing and cringing that will occur in my heart as if someone is playing it like an accordion. And I can recite for you word-for-word the script that will take place in my head: ugh….that was so stupid. You’re really not as smart as you think you are, are you? How could you mess that up — that was so easy. Well, Ms. Magician, I guess someone finally turned off your smoke machine and broke your mirrors. Looks like the long con is over.
When I was much younger, someone (or maybe many someones) told me about this potential that I have — this yet-to-be-achieved ability – and I’ve been struggling to reach it ever since.
To be continued…