March 2nd, 2010


not exactly

I used to skip entire questions on exams, not because I didn't know the answers, but because I couldn't physically force myself to write. Imagine the scenario: you've got a big blank page with a question about Oedipus's mom at the top. You've read the play, you know the information, you even studied for a change. But it's a big, blank expanse. What if they're expecting you to fill it? Or what if you write too much or too big and there's not enough room? How do you even start? Okay well it's only six marks, that's not a big deal.

The problem, I think, is that I find it very difficult to ignite if I don't know for sure that I'm giving my peak performance. If I can't tell myself that I'll be perfect, I can't start in on something. Which is weird, because I've done all kinds of terrible things that will never be considered perfect in any way or shape. Maybe there's something else at play. I don't know, I just feel like I've missed a lot of opportunities because I was driven/pressured by a combination of factors to be mathematically precise all the time. Make it all add up, coyote, fill in the correct bubble and smile at the right moment and you'll get an A+ and a girlfriend. Everything has exactly one solution and trying to weasel your way past us with your free-thinking malarkey will result in permanent, crippling failure.

When I was gearing up to go to university, I went to an orientation weekend thing at Carleton, where the school mascot is the mighty Raven. The lady doing the first part, the 'I will talk to all of you at once and tell you how great our campus is' speech, opened by asking us if anyone knew what the raven represented in native mythology and how that tied into the university's mission. Well, hell, I knew that one. Put up my hand and said, "Raven created the world, so it's like you want us to make new worlds here."

There was a pause. The lady turned her head, her eyes seeming to rove off in search of a handy distraction, her almost-plastic smile very nearly dipping into a frown. "Nnnnnnyes, that is true, but, ah..." She trailed off, not willing to finish the sentence: yes, that is true, but it is the Wrong Answer. Luckily, she was rescued by another attendee, a fetching young lady who was probably going to take a double major in Germanic History and Modern Architecture, who gave the Correct Answer ("Raven is wise" "yes and you're going to be wise too after you give us all your money for classes and residency!" "hooray") I felt absolutely terrible. I'd nearly wrecked this lady's speech. Too clever for my own good. Not in lockstep. I went to Carleton anyway because it was the only one I tried applying for as an English major, whereas I put down "Computer Science" for all of my other choices. (Queens actually rejected me outright -- I wasn't even good enough for their waiting list. SORRY MOM ONLY ONE OF YOUR KIDS WENT TO THE RIGHT UNIVERSITY)

So yes I kind of have issues with having to be correct all the time, with trying to make everything perfect, with giving up very easily if things don't go just the way I planned them, even through no fault of my own, but usually because I screwed up somehow.