Coming Full Circle

Some of you may remember a few of these things, but I’ll start at the beginning for the sake of clarity.

Last week, it was a pressing concern of mine to remind everyone, near and far, both those who are known to me and those of you who have just stumbled upon this blog, to ALWAYS, ALWAYS use roller bags, and documented my less than delightful adventure up and down escalators (which will break down in the event that you do not utilize your roller bag) and all around Frankfurt via my independent train adventure. All on a previously unrealized quest to take a particular test at a particular time in a particular place. Yesterday, that particular test (the GRE) was taken at a particular time (7:30am) in a particular city (Frankfurt). This was NOT my original plan, but it was the plan that was going to work.

I hoped.

And then… insomnia struck. I had started to take it for granted that sleep would come when I laid down. Silly me. But seriously, after years of very regular insomnia, I have had almost 2 months of 7+ hours of sleep each night! (Can I get an AMEN?!?) And the very routine of it got me all caught up in expecting it. Wouldn’t you know that the very night before I had to take a 5 hour test, laden with geometry and percentages and factorials was the very same night that… “Insomnia Strikes Back?” (Take it from me, Insomnia is way more powerful than the Empire, no disrespect to Luke & the Gang. It probably isn’t as good a movie, though…)

On 0 hours of sleep, I set out to face down the enemy known as quantitative reasoning. It was at least 1/4! as much fun as it sounds…  (That is my attempt at a nerdy math joke, by the way. I was not implying that I was really excited about it being a quarter of the fun that it sounds like it would be, but 1 quarter factorial, should you know how to expand that little equation.) I arrived, and after clarifying with the nice man behind the desk that Mike had dropped me off in the right place, and that I did not, in fact, speak German well, I was off. To the cafe for a cup of something with caffeine. And then to take the test. Rather than put you through the pain of my morning, I’ll summarize by saying that math is hard (just like Barbie says…). And of course, I got an extra math section (they always include an extra section for “research,” and I was not all surprised, given the no-sleep situation, that mine was math). But… all in all, I didn’t feel too terrible about the whole thing. After completing the question, you go through a series of questions asking you what you want to do with your scores, and then you see your scores (less the scores on the 2 essays which are reviewed later). You know that dream? The one where you are sitting at a desk, taking a test, and it’s written in Chinese but you don’t realize that it’s in Chinese so it is very confusing, and you have no clothes on, and there is a spotlight shining on you and an audience of thousands is pointing and laughing at you, while you are sitting at the desk in complete confusion and humiliation? Oh! You don’t have that dream?! I do (who said insomnia is a bad thing? With dreams like that, insomnia sounds like the better deal, n’est pas?). And I felt like it was happening – IN REAL LIFE – this morning! I saw my score, and then I rubbed my eyes (I was wearing my contacts for the 3rd time in the last couple of months (blindness is ok with me, I guess) thinking, surely, it isn’t that bad?! But it was. My scores were exactly what it said that they were.

While I do kind of agree with critics who say that attitudes like this make it harder for girls to be successful in subjects like Math, I appear to be in agreement with the statement itself as it applies to me. Math IS hard. And I would rather go shopping. 🙂

Immediately, tears rushed into my eyes. All of those people in my dream? They were falling out of their chairs, they were laughing so hard. I maintained composure, at least nominally, and exited the testing room. The very nice man who had checked me in was on a smoke break, and his replacement didn’t speak English well enough (and my German just wasn’t there with no sleep and that much math; there is only so much room in my brain, and the spot that German language goes had been squeezed out by the circumference of a circle formula) to tell me where the nearest train station was located (Mike had thoughtfully dropped me off at the start of this disaster). He encouraged me to go downstairs and ask the lady. The lady was thoroughly annoyed that I was in her office, it seems, and told me that the train station was out the front door. Which was true, in her defense, plus or minus a couple of kilometers and a few turns.

Walking out the aforementioned front door, into a blinding rain storm (well, maybe not blinding, but it was pouring) without an umbrella, the tears came in earnest. At that moment, I felt that my worst fears had come to pass. I was a confirmed imbecile. And it was raining. And the lady knew that I was a confirmed imbecile and had treated me like I wasn’t worth the space in her presence.

I did what anyone would do in a similar circumstance. I cried all the way to the train station (but it was raining, so it didn’t look so weird; given the insomnia situation, I had also flaked out of any real effort on getting ready, so there was no make-up to streak; who knew I was such a planner? Such foresight!). And past the train station. And back to the train station (the lady’s directions left a little something to be desired…). And then, I pulled myself together, got out my Kindle, and read. Nope, not too stupid to read (yet). Fortunately, the 1st train ride was rather long, and the train was rather busy, and the book was quite good (“In the Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larson; I’m not through with it, but I would recommend it so far…), and a sit-in at a certain international coffee chain was on the agenda for the afternoon. So… much to my surprise, given my newfound lack of intelligence as measured by a standardized test, I found my way across 2 different train lines from the ffffaaaaaarrrrrr side of Frankfurt to my little burg.

After throwing out all evidence of the test and test-related paraphernalia, and going to our German class (out with the circle, in with the Kreis, I say), I wanted to check again. How low was that score? I logged into my account at, and do you know what I learned? They have reformatted the way that they do their scores since the last time I took that sucker! Instead of having 1600 possible points (+ writing section), there are only 340 possible points (+writing section). Proportionately (for those of you who like math-stuffs), this makes a HUGE difference! 328ish looks REALLY low if you think that you could have 1600, but out of 340? I’ll take it! I am not stupid (as measured by a standardized test)! YAY!! (and yes, I know; a single test could never really reflect my worth no matter whether the score is high or low, and yes, Mike had already gone into major recovery mode, buying flowers for me and rubbing my back and doing all kinds of nice things, including reminding me that a test can’t really make you stupid or smart, but sometimes, when you are on that downhill train, well… we know where that ends up, right? Just ask my flashcards! Le garbage…)

With that, I’ll leave you this thought:  “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” ~ Guillaume Apollinaire

In the garden just outside the artists’ colony in Darmstadt, I found a series of trampolines. Trampolines always make me happy! (my pants wanted to respond to gravity, but that wasn’t going to impact my fun!) I didn’t know that Mike was taking pictures (or videos for that matter; I am having technical difficulties getting it uploaded or I’d share that here. I get on a trampoline and just start giggling and playing like I am 10!)

Yee haw, y’all!

The video is really, um… “precious.” I’ll work on figuring that whole editing/uploading thing out… In the meanwhile, I wish you more trampolines (wherever you find them) and less tests!


2 thoughts on “Coming Full Circle

  1. So…. I don’t understand the Barbie and Math is Hard reference…. But I was totally feeling your pain through your story–your writing speaks your voice so well! And LOVE the trampoline pictures. I never knew you had such a thing for trampolines!

    • Back in the early 1990s, they released a Barbie doll that could say any of 270 phrases, one of which was “math class is hard.” There was a huge brew ha ha about it, and a bunch of people got involved in protesting and all that… (saying that it was perpetuating a stereotype about women and math that is bad for women because we tend (as human beings) to meet the expectations set for us. So if our “role models” are telling us that “Math class is hard,” we will believe that and treat it accordingly. To make matters worse, this was sometimes followed with another of Barbie’s phrases, “Let’s go shopping!” Thus… the Barbie reference… 🙂 I love, love, love trampolines… I don’t know why, exactly.

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