Monday, June 25, 2012

I have never much liked standardized tests, though their role in my life has been at times rather fruitful.

I have a tendency to face challenges with a sort of myopic inelegance: things that get fixed into the schedule, like presentations, tests, evaluations.. they tend to absorb an inordinate amount of emotional energy which I sometimes resent. This is the root of my love/hate relationship to any "important" event that comes up. We can take a kempo tournament as example, but I assure you it's not limited to participation in stuff like that.

So a tournament is great for me in that it gets me back into practice, gives me something to work on and strive for. I have learned a whole lot this month in preparing for my test and two taikai that I know I would not have absorbed so rapidly without the necessity implied by the looming events. The downside is that it kind of prevented me from doing a lot of other things, because I couldn't really afford the time and energy to all that non-necessary stuff. And that's fine for a while! I don't resent my recent kempo engagements the way I would resent the JLPT were I taking it soon.

There is another effect, that is the sense of emptiness that naturally accompanies the end of any long-term or middle-term seeking. I've found that after finishing up any consuming endeavor (especially in a successful way), I'm kind of sad. Like when you're reading a huge freaking tome of a novel and you wonder if you will ever finish it.. but once you do... you kind of miss it in an odd way? I get attached to these time demands and do feel a loss when they go, even as I complain about them when they're mine.

Because it all depends on the time and place. I want to make the most of my time in Japan, which I am every day aware is a dwindling resource. Someone asked me if I were taking the upcoming JLPT, and in my head the idea of taking it here, now, soon was downright unthinkable. Studying for something like that would probably absorb not only my time but also produce a nice amount of stress. At the start of my time here, I thought I might at some point take that test, and I do still hope to, but I feel like I'll have plenty of time for studying and test-taking once I am re-installed in a life more ordinary and less full of this whole thing that smacks of once in a lifetime.

Standardized tests are mostly in my view a somewhat necessary evil. I hate them, I hate them a great deal. BUT I understand that in a world where we don't have time to evaluate every single person based on their entire potential, we have to have baselines. Also I would be a little bit of an ingrate if I did not acknowledge that standardized tests have been an agent of good in my own life as well (they gave me lots of free reading time when I was in school, and they gave me a job for a while once I was out).

I made a similar decision regarding the GRE when I was a senior in college. I knew that for getting into grad school, I would have to take the GRE in the first semester of senior year. That's just how it works, that's when you take it, mostly. But that was the semester I was studying abroad in Rome, and I looked that idea right in the eye and said, ef you sir, I would rather wait a whole year than spend a moment of my time living in Rome, Italy studying for or taking the GRE.

I handled it in Kansas instead, because I had the time for it there. In Kansas I wasn't getting special access to ancient ruins twice a week,or soaking up the presence of a disproportionately awesome entire-building-full of classics people. Instead I was living hand-to-mouth and hanging out sometimes with the like four friends I had, enough of whom were in grad school and super busy on their own. And then all kinds of great stuff happened because guess what kind of demand there is for a GRE teacher in a college town?

So it's sort of funny. That part of the reason I was in Kansas for that year (and not in grad school) was because of the choice NOT to take the GRE until after graduation. And while there, the GRE helped put food in our fridge and snazzy secondhand sandals on my feet. (The other part of the reason for being in Kansas was the Italian postal service's unreliability issues... or destiny.)

I guess all I'm rambling about is the idea that sometimes, there are things you can only do where you are right now. And so it's natural that those things get priority. I don't so much mind kempo having taken over the month of June because my Japan kempo dojo experience has grown to be a big part of the last two years, and was even an element of why I stayed this third year. When I think of not being surrounded once a week by these kempo folk, I sort of get choked up. Working on this stuff with these people is part of what I will soon lose. That impersonal monolith of a standardized test is not.


  1. More people need to remember this. Just because you are "supposed" to do something doesn't mean here or now is the right place or time for it. I need to remember this. Brava on having this shit figured out! It's so hard sometimes to recognize one's own needs.

    Miss you, darlin. By the time you visit us, we may have bought a house! Things are crazy amazing wonderful. I'll send you a letter.

    1. Thank you Anna! Of course, knowing it and living it are two different things, so I need to remember this too.

      Can't wait to see you new house (?) ! Send a letter soon. <3

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