Writing the last line of the last essay question in my closed book exam I felt immense relief as I put the last period. Lifting my head up for the first time in about an hour, I noticed my entire class was head bent furiously writing. I felt bewildered. Did I answer all my questions? Turning the pages front to back and back to front, I duly noted everything was filled in. All objective type, all essay questions complete, replete with graphs and equations.
This could not be true. I gathered my stuff and made as silent an exit possible. Handing in my paper, I murmured “It was a pleasure working with you.” and smiled back as eyes twinkled behind his glasses. Throwing away my water cup, I walked unharried towards the front entrance. I was torn between waiting for my classmates to be done to discuss the paper and a fear that if I waited, I would know what a terrible sham I was.
It was one of those papers I wrote non stop. I had no idea if I was spewing rubbish or actually making sense. Concepts got intertwined and mixed up as my pen scratched the paper surface. No longer sure if the graph had to move left or right, if the axes were labelled correctly, I emptied everything in my mind on paper.
Driving back home, I realized my shoulders and earlobes were still tense. I had to relax. Breathing deeply, I realized this was the point of no return. I cannot undo anything in the paper. I just need to be patient and wait for the scores. I have no idea if I did badly, OK or well. I will not know either.
The feelings of anxiety and nervousness were reminiscent of a time when I walked out of exam halls picking up my bag, lounging by the water cooler, waiting for friends to trickle out one by one. The looks on their faces would give away how they felt. As we trudged home, we would exchange notes on questions as we remembered each one. Either giggles of joy or painful sighs would interject our conversation. Beyond that the exam would be forgotten in the anxiety about the next one.
Years later, nothing has changed. I feel as anxious as ever and strangely very blank. I can’t remember the questions or have the inclination to open the book to see if what I wrote was right or wrong.
As I unwind and try to put the exam behind me, I realize the task I have set for myself is rather arduous. The excitement of starting school is slowly wearing away and the burden of studying in addition to working is showing. The end seems far, far away!