Define Failing

Remember last week when I complained about my life?

I’d had a flat tire, Nick had missed all of his finals when he caught a virus, I’d caught his virus, and on top of everything I’d been scheduled for a mammogram and the SAT in the same week? I needed to retake the SAT to tutor the SAT for work at the age of 58. I felt ridiculous. I had other work to do, work that was only important to me and to no one else and I wanted to do it. I needed to do it. Remember all that?

Oh, last week is not over. Last week’s episode continues and I am the main character of the story.

My test results weren’t good.

So, I’m guessing that your age will determine which test you think I’m talking about. Young people will automatically think of the SAT and old achy people will think about medical exams gone awry. Which do you think I mean?

Both of them, actually.

My SAT scores improved. They did. My boss was excited about being able to market the change to his new clients since I was coached by my coworkers for the past eight weeks. My math scores rose by 18.5% but my reading and writing scores only rose by 1.6%. Neither score was good enough for me to qualify to teach to the SAT at work. It was embarrassing.

I’m still smart. I know I’m still smart, but I take longer to solve problems than I used to take, longer to read, especially with a cataract in one eye. What if this is as good as it’s going to get? What if my improvements are finished? What if this is the limit to my mental capacity?

I really don’t want to keep trying. I have other stuff I want to work on. I NEED to do my other stuff before I die. I don’t want to keep striving for a position that I don’t intend to take. I kept telling my boss that I only wanted to be the person he called when someone was out sick anyway. I NEED to do my other work.

But no. I’ve got two weeks until my next opportunity to retake this SAT. I’m going to keep working until then to get my scores up as high as I can get them. I am. I feel conflicted. My scores are high enough to get me into a good university, but they aren’t good enough for me to be smug with my smart coworkers at my job. It’s not exactly confidence, because I know I’m good at my job, but it is something more insidious. Do I really need that feeling? Why am I still trying so hard?

And there’s my mammogram.

I was happy to be finished for another year. Let’s face it. I would have procrastinated that sucker for an extra year if I could have. So, I should have said I was happy to be finished for two more years before I had to get my boobs smashed again.

But yesterday, I got a calm message from my GYN’s nurse that I needed to call about some test results.

Shit, no. It had to be my mammogram. I hadn’t done any other medical tests recently except see my eye doctor.

Did I also tell you my cataract is bad enough that, according to my cheerful optometrist, I am a candidate for lens replacement surgery? Did I tell you that?

When I told Mike about the eye surgery, he said, “There are no breaks.” He said it again this morning when I let him listen to the message from my GYN’s office. At least it was a nurse and not the doctor. If the doctor herself called me, I think I might really freak.

So now, I’m a candidate for eye surgery and also what else?

Well fuck. Will it get me into a great university to be a good candidate? Will I be a good candidate for a mastectomy too?

You know I don’t need to go all the way there, don’t you? I don’t need to think something is catastrophically wrong, but that’s what a mind does with a message like that in the hours before a clinic is open and you get to find out what it was really all about.

I’ve never known what to say to people who had to wait like that before they found out the results of some biopsy. You can’t say to them that everything will be fine. If everything were fine, the doctor wouldn’t want to look into it further. You just have to wait it out with them.

Will you wait it out with me? And while you’re at it, would you hand me that big book of SAT practice tests so I can resume trying to be good enough? Fuck the bucket list. I have work I have to do.

Thank you for listening, jules