As I study for the MCAT, it’s difficult not to get bummed out sometimes. (A lot of times, actually.) I am a very good standardized test taker, and I did very well in all of my pre-requisites. So while I was aware that the MCAT isn’t like other standardized tests, and isn’t like a regular classroom test either, I expected I would adjust to it quickly. But it’s a lot more challenging than I expected. I am working on practice questions now, and after one especially brutal set of physics questions, the phrase “emotional bludgeoning” came to mind. That’s how I felt. I know the concepts and the equations backwards and forwards, upside down and rightside up. But when it comes to those questions, even I, who normally don’t have major test anxiety, feel panic well up inside me. Then I waste precious seconds and energy worrying, seconds and energy that I should be applying to the question at hand.
My very wise mother and I were talking about my struggles yesterday. And about her own struggles with her job, and its frustrations. She reminded me: “We always have a choice.” By that, she meant that we can choose to panic, to worry, to be negative, to let what is going on bring us down. Or we can choose another path. The path of living in the moment, of doing what we can with the time that is given us, of focusing on what we can control. This is not some naive attitude that everything will be wonderful. This is changing your attitude so that whatever situation you are dealing with – a situation which may or may not change – doesn’t rule your life.
We always have a choice. I always have a choice. You always have a choice.
Another phrase that my mom and I frequently quote to each other is the famous British saying “Keep calm and carry on.” It’s a quotation that has become quite popular of late, with many iterations available on T-shirts, mugs, notebooks, stickers, you name it. I found one on the Internet that is quite fitting for me today.
Again, it’s making a choice – to maintain your calm, to be sure and steady, to do what you need to do. Unfortunately, unlike when choosing between steak and lobster at a restaurant, it doesn’t all end with making one choice. You have to choose again. And again. And again. But I believe it’s a choice well worth making.