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Positivitea Cup Sixteen: Surviving the First Exam

Raise your hand if you like to put extra pressure on yourself to do extremely well in school no matter the subject matter. I practically hit the ceiling with my knuckles from raising my hand so high. This whole pressuring myself to do the best always thing is getting a bit old. Yawn. Alas, I've been doing this to myself for years and years, constantly telling myself that my best is not actually my best and that if it's not an A, it could be better. As crazy as I know this sounds, it's what's in my head and I haven't been able to tweak or change it.

There's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to do well. You should have pride in the work you do and exerting effort on your education isn't wrong. But there's a line between pushing yourself to reach success and dragging yourself through hell and back and back once more just because you think there's no chance of success at a level deemed less than perfect.

I have my first exam in one of my classes today and one of my first "concept" exams in quite a few semesters. It feels like I've forgotten how to study, how to retain information, how to explain concepts to myself in ways that will make them stick in my head. I've forgotten how to fill out study guides, how to pinpoint important sections of my notes, how to do anything that is supposed to lead me to success during this exam. I scolded myself for falling asleep studying last night and once again this morning when my alarm went off half an hour early and I switched it to my original alarm time because I deemed those extra 30 minutes of sleep more important. Hell, I'm even scolding myself now for waiting until the last minute to write this blog post when I could be studying my little booty off before I head to campus.

One might say I need to breathe. And truthfully, I probably do. I need to breathe and relax and remind myself that whatever happens, it's not the end of the world. The outcome of this exam won't hurt me in the long run. I've studied too hard to completely fail (this could, technically, affect me in the long run if it did happen...but I digress). Not receiving a perfect or near perfect score isn't going to kill me. It's not going to ruin my spirit or ego or make me deem myself stupid. It's just going to be a reminder to do a little bit better next time.

On the other hand, it could be a reminder, or rather a testament, to my work ethic. I could pass with soaring colors and explain my thoughts and opinions on the matters of political communication in elegant and well-thought out sentences and paragraphs. I could whiz through the exam with confidence and smile proudly when I finally see the grade.

There are plenty of different outcomes when the exam is said and done, but none of them should affect me the way that they do in my head. Surviving a first exam (or even a fifth exam) in a class is not about the actual grade at the end, but the way you feel about it. It's impossible to tell someone not to get down on themselves or not to put these immense pressures on ourselves. School is hard, exams are hard, some of these concepts are hard. But how we do on exams doesn't define us. It takes a while to learn this, to commit it to memory so that we actually believe it.


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