Portrait of the Artist as a Nervous Wreck Waiting to Hear Back on Her Master’s Application

Since the dawn of my academic career, I have been “that kid.” Not the rebellious-artsy one who needed to have her short story drafts confiscated in the middle of chemistry class. Not the slacker-artsy one who skipped classes to go out and have real, gritty life experiences to enhance the reality of her work. Not the slightly-psychotic artsy type who made no attempt to hide the gratuitously violent and bloody sketches in the margins of her looseleaf paper and hissed at people.

I was the keener-nerd-alert-academic type, who was too busy taking ALL OF THE NOTES to be writing anything else in class. Who only ever skipped one cooking class in grade twelve so that she could work on her English 30IB paper in the library. Whose psychosis was most strongly induced when the teacher announced that assignments were being handed back.

I swear, in the hundreds of times I sat at my desk waiting to get marked assignments back – from grade one all the way to my last year of university – I had hundreds of tiny medical emergencies. My heart rate increased, I felt lightheaded, my mouth went dry, and I lost the ability to speak. It didn’t matter if I knew I did well. At the end of multiple choice tests, I always used to go through and count the number of questions I knew I answered right and then calculate my mark. This little double-check also took enough time for someone else in the class to hand in their test, because I never, ever wanted to be the first person to hand in my test. I was extremely distressed at the thought of being the first to hand in a test only to get a bad mark (a bad mark, in my books, being 80% – see, “that kid”).

So even after all of that lunacy, even after I had assured myself that the lowest possible mark I could get was in the A-range, I was still left a nervous, shaking, mute mess of a student for those two minutes between “I’m going to hand back your papers, class” and “Amanda B.” I would get out of my desk, take the paper, sit back down, all with robotic precision. I would search for my mark, double and triple-check it, and then put the paper in my binder without a word. After the small trauma of waiting to get it, it would take me about two days before I could look at the paper again to read the comments.

Which is all INSANE.

After seventeen years of this, I find I’ve built up enough stamina to face my longest waiting-to-get-results-back time ever: four months. In September I submitted my master’s portfolio, and the following two weeks were filled with the keener-crazy. But I think my body decided that it was not going to sustain that nonsense into October, probably out of self-preservation. I chilled out for a few weeks. But now, in the home stretch, I can’t even have a passing thought about my upcoming results without spiralling into a nervous, shaking, mute mess. People ask me if I’ve heard back from UBC yet, and I squeak out a “no, not yet” and frantically try to find my happy place. Ironically, that happy place is often school.

I love school. I always have. I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and (aside from the few months I wanted to be a Sailor Scout), that plan always involved post-secondary education. I always have been, and apparently always will be, “that kid.” The one who looks forward to back-to-school shopping, the one who enjoys taking notes just for the pen-to-paper sensation, the one who has yet to find a truly worthless piece of information. The one who is currently out of her mind with anxiety and exhilaration, thinking about school.

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