One very snowy morning last January, I trudged through a descending blizzard to retake an English exam that hadn’t gone so well the first time. School was closed for everything but the test-taking, and because of the weather, the brown-wood gym felt cozy and empty at the same time. Despite the cold and some slight nervousness, I remember being really happy. Exams aren’t so bad when they are final: at least everything you need to do is right in front of you on a square table you have all to yourself.

This week I walked over there (through the rain this time) to pick up my results and found I had turned my C into an A. Not only that, but I was one mark off total perfection. I’d known I had it in me, but this was the first time I’d seen it in black and white. I almost didn’t believe it at first. Then I was an overcome with the most soothing feeling of satisfaction.

I never beat myself up about that C, but we were never friends. I didn’t mention my disappointment, because I was just glad I took the exam in the first place, and there was nothing I could do to change it until I decided to re-sit it, but I knew it wasn’t right and it wasn’t a reflection of my actual ability.

Now this was just one exam, but it has propelled me forward. I am not sure why getting an A in English is so important to me. Perhaps it’s because English is “my thing.” It’s the one subject I WANT to excel at in every possible way. As much as the pressure of grades frustrates me and makes me want to rebel, sometimes it feels like they ARE the best way to measure your capability. In some ways, the pressure is worth it, just for the gratification you experience when you look at a mark like that with your name at the top of the page. ♦