Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Better than the Best

For the second night this week, I found myself trekking out to Satan's Club at 9 PM.

(Please forgive me. I usually try not to shop there, since they're evil and all. But sometimes, I can't help myself. They're only 5 minutes away. And? They're open until 10:00 PM. TEN. PM. That means that even after CG is settled down to sleep, I've still got two whole hours of shopping bliss ahead of me.)

Tonight, I was in search of a calculator for The Big Test. Late this afternoon, I realized that:

1. The Big Test is tomorrow.
2. Only 6 specific models of calculators can be used for the test.
3. I don't have any of these calculators.
4. Did I mention the test is TO.MOR.ROW?

While I love the logic side of math, I'm not so good at the crunching-numbers-in-my-head business. So, being the smart girl that I am, I figured I should probably go buy a calculator.

Based on price and availablility, I settled on the "sounds scarier than it is" TI-30Xa. On closer inspection, I'm pretty sure I owned this exact same calculator before. In another life. Like, oh, high school. But since college was almost 10 years ago, and high school was, um, before that, I don't think it'll be turning up anytime soon.

Walking around the store, I felt peaceful bliss. I can't even explain it. It's the feeling only a true procrastinator knows. Shopping (or blogging, for that matter) when you should be studying. It's that feeling that the 14 hours you have left before The Big Test is forever and a day. Even though 8 of the hours will be spent sleeping, 2 hours peeing, showering, and eating, and 3 hours prying a crying toddler from your leg.

(Quick question for the math lovers in the crowd - how many hours does that leave for studying?
Answer - not long enough.)

I've accepted the fact that I didn't do what I had to do to pass this test. I cut myself a lot of breaks and didn't take the Buckling Down seriously. I waited too long to really focus, and once I did I realized I had forgotten more than I thought I did.

And I'll be honest. I considered cancelling. Paying the 60 dollar "administrative fee" and trying again in a year or so. Unfortunately, I even procrastinated too long for that. Last Friday was the cut-off for cancelling. In a way, it was a relief to know there was no backing out. I have no choice. I might as well go forward, try, and (probably) fail.

The friend who talked me into this catastrophe is one of the funniest women I know. She had terrible year last year. One bad thing after another. She had major surgery and had complications for months afterwards. To finish off the year, her father died, right before the holidays.

As many people do, she had an awakening in the midst of all this tragedy: She can't stop the Bad Things. She can only get up every day and do her best. Do the best at her job. Be the best mother that she can. She's going to screw up. She's going to make mistakes. But none of that matters, so she doesn't let it stress her out. Instead, she says to her boss, her husband, her friends, herself: "I can only do my best." It takes the pressure off.

There was a time when I couldn't stand to fail this test. I'd be stressed out, trying to do anything I could to NOT FAIL. I would have made myself miserable with worry about my score, what everyone would think of me if I didn't get a good score.

I'm beyond all that now. In fact, I don't really care if I pass or fail.

Okay, that's a total lie. Sure, I'd love to pass. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I know the difference between getting a failing score and being a failure. I've learned a lot these past few months, about math, my goals, and what my limits are. That alone may have been worth the exam fee.

I read part of the CAS syllabus for the 2005 actuarial exams. I found the following excerpt particularly interesting:

Motivation is the single most important ingredient in learning-and in passing examinations. Motivation suffers when candidates worry about or are preoccupied with personal matters or other problems. This suggests that candidates should keep studying and examination taking at the very top of their lists of priorities...

(Emphasis mine)

This hit on the very reason I had been waffling about the actuarial field in the first place. I don't want a job where I have to put studying or my career at the "top of my list of priorities". My priorities are already set in stone. They are:

1. The boys (and Jete)
2. My family & friends
3. Personal fulfillment

My career is a part of #3. But in reality, it is just a means to an end. I use it to keep #1 happy. To help us keep little things like our house. Our cars. Medical insurance. The internet. Chocolate chip cookies from time to time.

I'm gonna do my best tomorrow. That's all I can do. I may not pass the test. But even if I don't, I have no regrets. I will never wish I spent that extra hour studying instead of playing with CG after dinner. Or that I took the last 15 minutes of the night to do some more practice problems instead of discussing the day with Jete. I'd do the same thing again in a heartbeat.

For now, I'm off to try to review a few more things before I go to sleep. I've taken tomorrow off so that I can spend the morning studying some more. All I know is that by tomorrow night, this test will be behind me one way or another.

After that, I'll be on to more important tasks. I've got to decide what the boys will wear for Halloween. I'm going to take CG pumpkin picking for the first time. I'd like to work on my Ethan scrapbook some more. Jete and I may even schedule dinner - alone! - to celebrate our fifth anniversary next month.

Hey, what can I say. A girl's got to have her priorities.