Author’s Note: Hi, me again. Thanks for sticking with me on this journey that is recounting my own journey. Journey. Who’s also a great band when I’m drunk. I’m sorry, what are we talking about? Oh, right. Part three of three. Like I said last time, if you’re just joining us, go back and read parts one and two, otherwise this is going to make no fucking sense. Or, just wait until next time, when I go back to talking about my boobs and picking my wedgies. Either way, enjoy.
The day of the test, I woke up numb. I knew there was nothing left that I could do. I had gone through my note cards hundreds and hundreds of times. I had repeated those fact until they were a part of my bloodstream. Anything that I didn’t know when I woke up that morning wasn’t going to be learned in the hours before my scheduled test, and there was nothing left I could do to prepare myself any more. So I ironed and watched The Simpsons. It seemed to make as much sense as anything else I could do. Driving to the testing center, I didn’t feel panicked or worried, more incredulous that this day was finally here. I kept saying in the car, in a thin, high voice that wasn’t mine, that I couldn’t believe that this day was here.
And then I was sitting at the terminal, and the first question was staring at me.
This was it. The test.
I dove in. Oddly enough, my nerves didn’t affect me during the test. I kinda got into a groove, focusing on each question as it came. Some of them were harder than I thought, some easier. Some annoyed me with their tedium, and some of them were deceptively simple. I did have the out-of-body thought that I sure as fuck hoped that I passed, because I had no goddamn clue how I was going to study to prepare myself any better than I already had. The questions seemed to be purposely worded in a way that made me think that I didn’t know how to come up with an answer. The best analogy that I can come up with is that it’s as if I’d been studying expecting a test where the answer choices would be:
- Red apple
- Blue apple
- Purple apple
When in reality the answer choices were:
- Blue apple
- Loui Eriksson of the Boston Bruins
So yeah, it definitely fucked with me on a few occasions. But in others, it felt as if the question had been written to be intentionally difficult when I was able to figure out the answer almost instantly. It was so easy, it felt like a trick. But with 165 questions and only 3 hours, there wasn’t time to ponder these mind fucks. Read the question, read the answers, re-read the question, choose an answer, next question.
And before I knew it, my allotted time was over. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is when my nerves found me.
No, sorry, that’s putting it lightly. The moment that countdown clock reached zero, my nerves stormed in and gave me a big ‘ol roundhouse kick to the face. Because it was over. I’d taken the test. There was literally nothing more that I could do except to receive the answer to the question that I’d been answering myself for months and months: “Can I do it? Am I good enough?”
Unfortunately for me, before I could leave my terminal to receive my results I had to answer a fucking questionnaire about the testing center. “Was the temperature comfortable?” Who the fuck cares? “Was the testing center easy to find?” I don’t care, I just want to know how I did on my test, you ass! “Was the testing center quiet?” I WILL DESTROY YOU IF I DON’T GET SOME RESULTS RIGHT ABOUT FUCKING NOW! I’m pretty sure I just clicked at random until the screen told me I could go, because at that moment all my focus was aimed at not vomiting all over the fucking terminal. I walked out of my little room up to the front desk, dazed and shaking. The look on my face must have been disturbing, because Kyle immediately jumped up from his chair and asked how I was feeling. I had a hard time answering, because I was imagining how the secretary’s windpipe would feel under my hands after I leaped over the front desk and tackled her if she didn’t give me my test results right the fuck now. Luckily for the both of us, she told me to follow her back to the printer, which would be spitting out my results momentarily.
Walking back to the printer, my heart pounded in my ears and my legs shook. This was the moment I’d imagined over and over. Every second seemed to take ten. Whatever the answer on that paper spitting out of the printer, I knew that my reaction either way was going to be violent.
And there it was.
It took me several seconds to register what the numbers meant. “Well? How’d you do?” Kyle asked, about to burst himself. “I…I think I passed,” I whispered. Kyle ripped the paper out of my hands. “You fucking passed!” he shrieked. “By a lot! You passed by a lot!” And then I was buried in his hug, which is good, because that’s when my legs gave out. And I was crying, and he was saying, “You did it! You fucking did it!” over and over, and the secretary was looking uncomfortable and as if she would very much like to be back behind her desk. We left and I called my dad from the parking lot. And I couldn’t believe it. I’d worked for so, so long, towards this one seemingly impossible goal, and I’d accomplished it. Just like that, it was over. Elated doesn’t cover it. I felt like I was going to vomit, but good vomit, like it would be all rainbow and glittery. This is all I’d wanted, all I’d worked for, all I’d dreamed of, and now it was mine.
In the weeks since I passed my ETCP, the ecstasy has ebbed, as it does, but so has the disbelief. I’m immensely proud of my accomplishment, and it no longer feels like such a miracle that I passed, more of the natural result of hard work. As I suspected, it’s done a lot for my feeling of validation. I no longer feel like a fraud about to be discovered at any moment, but someone who kicks ass at what she does, and I have the card and a fancy certificate to prove it. (As well as some stickers and a pin. I wanted balloons, too, but Kyle says that they don’t do that.)
But as with the ending to so many journeys, this one doesn’t feel so much like an ending. Rather, it feels like another beginning, one that has me asking, “What’s next?” At this moment, I don’t know. I have some hopes and some suspicions, but no definitive answers. We’ll just have to wait and see.
But whatever it is, I hope comes with balloons.
Author’s Note: I know, these are getting excessive. But just one more thing right quick. I wanted to take a moment to thank a couple of people who sorely deserve it. Endless, unbounded thanks to my amazing husband, Kyle. Thanks for your unwavering support, for never doubting that I could do it. Thanks for the countless hours spent talking me through concepts that I didn’t understand, and all those nights spent asking me note card questions. I quite literally couldn’t have done it without you. A giant thank you to my dad, Steve Dietrich. Without you, I still wouldn’t understand what the resistor color code meant and would still be confusing inductance and capacitance. Thanks for all the hours spent listening to me vent about how hard this was, and for understanding that I’m no better at math today than I was back in high school. And a huge, unlimited refills thank you to all of my family and friends who’ve had to listen to me talk about this goddamn test for the past year. I know that you have to be pretty sick of listening to me babble on and on about the taking of and subsequent passing of my ETCP, and yet, I’ve received nothing but love, support, and unwavering faith from all of you. That means more to me than I know how to say. (And now I promise to shut up and get a hobby.)