In the past week, I’ve gone through quite an extensive spectrum of emotions. And, appropriately, they were associated with what felt like disappointment. In myself, in others.
So on top of every other task set out before me to finish out the semester, I had also been preparing to take the German language CLEP test. I had taken it once before in August, which was technically after I had not really used German at all since sophomore year of high school. No pressure.
But I was surprised to find that I was only a few points short of my goal, so immediately when I left the testing center, I scheduled my next attempt in November, now last week. I didn’t think much of whatever else I’d be doing at that time, but it was right after the required wait period, and nothing was stopping me from not trying again.
The entire reason I’m even taking this test, after not taking German in years and only recently taking two years of French (don’t ask me to remember much from that language either) is because my current major of International Studies requires not only the two full years of foreign language, which I already have, but also a random extra semester. Why this silly requirement exists, I don’t know, but it has thrown me in a tizzy to just test out of that 4 other credits and be done with it.
If you’re new here, then you won’t know that I have pretty severe test anxiety. It’s definitely gotten worse since going through college. I have generalized anxiety and social anxiety to boot, but when it comes to any testing situation, I really become a mess. Can’t sleep, have constant jitters, sweat when I never do otherwise…food goes right through me and I generally cannot function beyond getting that test done and realizing how tense I had been and now exhausted I am. Anxiety: it’s great.
Let’s go back to last Monday. The week prior I had been looking through some German material, listened to German via TV shows and podcasts, all leading up to the big day. I was hoping that since already taking the test and at least having a sense of what lie ahead, it should help me prepare better than last time. And heck, after going in cold and only being a few points away, I should be fine, right?
Funny story: I got up that morning and was already in a bad place. A couple points I thought I was having a heart attack or felt like my throat was completely closing up. While on edge, I went about my morning the best I could, then made the long walk to the testing center. Compared to my last go-around, there were many more people testing (probably since it’s the end of the semester) which probably didn’t help. I know a couple of times during the test I started dissociating which means I had to really work to get myself to focus.
I ended up getting one point lower than last time. I walked out of the testing center and just started bawling. The next day I was going home for Thanksgiving, but I was genuinely considering not leaving because I was so ashamed. A normal person should be able to earn just a few points more than their last testing attempt, right? I felt like a failure, incapable. I had let myself and my family down, anybody who had been cheering me on, saying that if I walk in confident, the test will be a breeze.
For as often as I and many others face disappointment, when our plans don’t work out as neatly as they should, you’d think it would get easier to swallow over time and experience, but it doesn’t. I still fall into the same downward spiral I do every time I make a mistake, I don’t live up to my high expectations, then I am somehow less. Less worthy of basic human rights and love. Somehow one occurrence dictates my entire life, everything I want to do, and I should just start from scratch or heck, do nothing at all.
As I was thinking more that afternoon and letting everything sink in, however, I realized something. Regardless of how we approach each day, what plans and goals we set out for ourselves, our own desires don’t absolutely guarantee what our days will look like. Perhaps I could have passed that CLEP test, gotten my credits, and had been done with it all. But that wasn’t what was set out for me. There were other plans in store for me.
Those plans meant that yes, I didn’t pass the test I had been anticipating for months, but it meant that I was reminded that I’m doing okay. I’m still graduating in May, regardless if I switch a major to a minor or take an online language course next semester. I still have my plans set out for next year. And in any instance, things could be worse. There’s always someone doing “better” or “worse” than you are, but either way, we’re right where we need to be at that moment.
I’m grateful for disappointment, as odd as it sounds, because it puts me back into perspective knowing I’m not in full control of my every waking minute. I’m grateful for realizing how many blessings I already have and how far I’ve come despite the setbacks or even because of the setbacks. I’m grateful for the people that uplift me when I tumble into dark places. I’m grateful for my faith to keep me grounded and steady. I’m grateful for the promise of each day to bring about potential disappointment, but also unexpected experiences and gifts.
Regardless of where you are, what has happened in your life and what you plan for in the future, you’re okay. We’re all okay. Everything will work out as it should.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie