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Into the Deep End

As a seventeen-year-old would-be hippie, did anyone else try to propose to their parents the idea of a “gap year” spent freeloading around Europe or something?  Did your parents, like mine, promptly shoot that ill-conceived idea down?  Well, they were RIGHT to.  Your education is a freight train best kept running, because once you allow it to come to a grinding halt, those gears and cogs and stuff start rusting HARD.  Try jump-starting that thing again in a few years and let me know how it goes.

I’ll let you know how it goes, because tonight I cracked the spine on my behemoth GMAT prep book, my first true academic pursuit since I turned in my final paper to the Religious Studies building at BU (hungover at 8:58 am, running down the street in my pajamas to get it in on time – it’s a wonder I was even able to make it through that time.)  I was always a good student, but taking the GMAT pretest cold turkey tonight was a cold hard dose of reality: I have not been a student for over two years.  I have not sat in a math class in almost SEVEN.  Remember when you pestered your teacher about when you would ever use combining system equations or cosines and tangents?  You were right; you NEVER use that stuff in real life!  I haven’t had to solve for the unknown angle of a triangle out in the world!

Getting back in the swing of things is going to be a project.  I scored my pretest… Verbal: 90th percentile.  Math: 8th percentile.  I’m not sure, but it seems like that’s borderline retarded.  (And I feel compelled to insist, I used to be legitimately good at math!  I got A’s, I swear it!)

And I knew I was shitting the bed on that pretest, too.  At least I’m not delusional, I guess, but it was a scary feeling.  There’s a point in taking a test where  like the first ten questions in a row leave you completely clueless and you think to yourself, better just pack it in, give up the ghost.  I definitely cursed myself for telling people about this stupid plan and wondered if the book was still in good enough condition to return to Barnes & Noble.  It was hopeless.

But a crazy thing happened somewhere in the middle there: I got that familiar schoolwork thrill.  My brain was chugging along, working hard to solve problems I was capable of, but that weren’t easy.  Mental muscles long dormant were all firing at once, and it felt good.  I was worried when my book casually mentioned that most people study about 100 hours for the GMAT, but with 3 of them rapidly dispatched on the pretest and answer review, it felt doable, and – dare I say, moderately enjoyable?

Of course, for each sparkling breakthrough, there are a million new stresses like “can I literally stay awake long enough to work full time, go to school, and study?” and “will the U.S. government even allow me to borrow any more of their money for this endeavor?”  But I guess these struggles are much nobler and more worthwhile than the travails of Banana Republic; according to a text from a coworker, the District Manager didn’t approve of the pants I put on one of the mannequins.  So there’s your perspective.  Vive l’ecole!

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