Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Post-board exam anxiety

I would just like to share what I wrote and what I felt after the board, before the results. I guess this is a picture of the anxiety test-takers feel after the board.

At last, the board exam is over. It isn’t the relief I expected… there’s still the results on the 28th. It felt like my brain went through a meat grinder for two days. The licensure exam is something one has to pass in order to practice a profession - you can’t be a teacher, nurse, engineer, if you don’t pass the exam given by the PRC. It was the exam to be a qualified librarian, a profession that still has many negative stereotypes and misconceptions but the exam was hard. Since the first exam in 1992, the average passing rate is only 20-30%.

I’ve written before that I think of the exam as mythical threshold to pass. It wasn’t just a mere exam. I had to leave home, alone for the first time, to review for it. Think of yourself as Odysseus. You will encounter sirens of doubt, the naysayers outside and the constant voice inside that says nothing you do will ever be enough. I admit there were times I imagined setting fire to all my reviewers, leaving all the shit and run away. The pressure not only to pass, but to excel… it left me feeling drained. I realised that the board exam also meant recognition, higher salaries, and thus represents a better life for most people. So much relies on the license, and on the exam results.

Maybe a more apt metaphor would be a ‘battle’. So many tips from others have said that in order to prepare for this, you have to be ready in all aspects: emotional, spiritual, financial, mental. I took the advice to ‘rest before the exam’ for granted, I didn’t really rest… if the exam was a battle, then I’m now the wounded soldier still recovering from the blows. It was a multiple-choice exam, 100 items each for the 6 subjects, but the choices are very tricky and you are forced to think. I didn’t expect my brain to be that hurt.

Back to the mythical journey metaphor. The exam was in Quiapo, Manila. What more appropriate place for the end? Every January, the procession of the Black Nazarene there attracts multitudes, millions crowding just to touch a centuries-old miraculous statue of a fire-blackened Christ on his knees, bearing the cross and eyes toward heaven. It was said to have survived a fire in a ship from Mexico - the crowd, Filipino religious fervor at its best, and at its worst. It is always expected that people would die in the procession and the millions of devotees care more about the figure. The spectacle, both pagan and Christian at the same time. It may look very irrational and fanatical, but I understand the state of mind that comes from having nothing else to rely on but faith for a miracle…

While I don’t compare my simple board exam to the plight of most people, the examinees flock in the church to pray for favor from the Nazarene. Because in that exam, you realise that you do not know everything, no one knows what questions will come out, well, maybe, except God. So many people find strength in this verse, and I’ve written it out myself and posted in the room where I study, a ray of light and a glimmer of hope in times of despair and tiredness:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (James 1:5-6).

I have asked. I am going home tomorrow, about to face whatever is next that lies ahead…

[Note: on April 28 the results got out]

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