Friday, October 28, 2005

My Psyche is a Fraud

I have just failed my exam. This means that I will have to study bacteria, viruses and immunology all over again. Plus the lab exam. I cannot stand immunology. Can NOT stand it.

Why did I fail my exam? I am so very glad you asked. Please read this first, it will help you understand. Seriously, it will. Then come back and I’ll tell you all abt the fraud.

Done? Good. See, that was not really my template. That was my psyche.

*Enter fluffy bunnies and frolicking sheep*

Once upon a time there was a girl, let’s call her Our Heroine (OH) who was really intelligent. REALLY intelligent. In fact, she was so intelligent that school had always been easy, too easy.

[Other than exact sciences, that is, Maths, Chemistry, Physics, Geometry - all very awful, her brain truly was not wired in a way that allowed her to fully grasp them. But she wasn’t worried, she wasn’t going to ever need them, right? [Ha.] And the way the educational system in her country was organised, she’d only study them till grade 9 anyway. Nothing but sweet humanistic subjects from then on: Psychology, Philosophy, Languages, History. In short, bliss of the highest degree. This was the sort of OH who till this day finds that doing grammar exercises in English is very much relaxing and GREAT FUN!]

OH went on to university and surprise!, it was all so very easy. An Anthropology degree? Please, daß ich nicht lache. She even got a 20 out of 20 in Maths bcs of her grade improvement paper on Alice in Wonderland and The Other Side of The Mirror (for Logic). Granted, studying the Omaha Indians kinship system was a bloody pain – and forever to be reminded as such - and it took her three whole hours to memorise it, can you imagine?? THREE WHOLE HOURS. All the rest was easy, even those subjects she couldn’t stand. For those she would read the absolute minimum and then make up the rest with general culture and personal inventiveness. It was perfectly all right to have 12 out of 20, gah, horrid subjects, she never wanted to see them again. The subjects she did like were something else entirely, it was a pleasure to read the course material, and well, it was all RATHER EASY. She’d more often than not NOT attend classes (unless she REALLY liked them, of course) and could also be found clubbing the night before the exams, much to her father’s dismay. Her mother never worried much bcs OH kept herself in the top 5% so the method, albeit puzzling, seemed most effective. And if she happened to have a grade she found UNWORTHY in the subjects she liked (e.g., Human Geography or Ethology) she’d retake the exam so she could improve it bcs quite frankly, 16 or 17 out of 20 were a bit shameful and why stop there when one can EASILY end up with a 19 or even a 20? Unsurprisingly, OH finished her degree with a 17 average and a 19 in her thesis.

*Exit fluffy bunnies and frolicking sheep*


See, OH was luckier than she knew bcs it so happened that her brand of intellect was absolutely perfect for what this degree demanded of her. More understanding than memorisation. Emphasis on articulating related and sometimes unrelated bits and producing a coherent, innovative text. She loved reading and had read a million of books by then, many of them at a very inappropriate age, so her general culture was quite all right and she could, say, start answering each exam question by relevantly mentioning her mother’s sprout rice and Taran and the Magic Cauldron, respectively, thereby unwillingly but welcomingly impressing the pants off the professor. (Her antennae being what they are, OH knew exactly which teachers would value such things and which would not.) She loved writing, writing had always been her medium of choice, and she took full advantage of it. She was also quick to grasp everything and her intuitive mind, her greatest strength, allowed for leaps of thought that were convenient. And whenever she had to present something orally she’d find a way to have fun - much more bearable for all involved if, for her Tuareg presentation, she turned off the lights, turned on the desert music and entered the classroom donned in the garbs she’d brought from Morocco, carrying a tray with sweet mint tea for the front row. (Again, antennae, again, teacher’s pants.)

She was careful not to show that she thought it all REALLY, REALLY EASY, she’d found very early on that her little colleagues were not so fond of people like her. So she moaned and pulled her hair for all to see – and then went clubbing. Summers were always vast and worry-free. Life was good. OH was brain-spoilt, as it were.

Then tragedy struck. Shock, revulsion and horror, OH finds herself in vet school. VET SCHOOL! And pray tell, what the fuck is an algorithm? What the hell is the inverse of 107? Carboxyl what? What do you mean she simply must memorise 400 pp of rubbish? What do you mean, she must STUDY? As in what, sit down on a chair for hours on end, actually working at it? You must be mad, you must be deranged, this is OH you’re talking abt remember, OH does not DO studying! Go away you demented person, GO AWAY!

It is a fact that OH cannot memorise things in bulk very well. It is also a fact that Oh is very tired from 4 years of non-stop studying, no holydays, no rest. Furthermore, it is a fact that OH has an appallingly poor visualisation capability and is spatially at a permanent loss, as we know. But the deeper truth is, OH RESENTS all this… this… this effort, for fuck’s sake, it shouldn't happen to HER, and so she still hasn’t learnt how to study properly. She will focus on the bits she likes/understand better and more often than not hope for the best. The best in vet school doesn’t often come along and she is therefore often confronted with *shudder* her ignorance. OH should know better but she, pretty much like that template, is still stomping her foot [OH is nothing if not mature] and repeating But it’s not fair! in a most unbecoming manner, refusing to accept that yes, sometimes in life things - unlike birds, yes? - do NOT come easy, and sometimes in life we are expected to work very hard at things we find most unpleasant, and self-boycotting for whatever reasons should have long lost its appeal, and please stop this life is not fair idiocy, it really ISN’T, what part of it could have missed PH’s psyche really, and kindly BUCK UP AND DO IT.

So see, it’s all rather sad really. People keep telling OH that she is so strong and she therefore politely enquires What the fuck? Does this sound remotely like strength to you, this It’s too bloody hard I’ll just pretend it will be all right if I close my eyes and skip a few chapters, shhh, no one will ever know. So when she sees the exam and it turns out that the questions are not quite as expected BUT SHE STILL KNOWS ENOUGH ANSWERS TO PASS never mind that, her psyche quickly translates it into I knew it, I knew I could never make it, it’s too bloody hard, I knew it, quickly, here’s a MIND BLANK so you can escape. And poof, gone is the knowledge. In its stead we can find a scene worthy of the Petunia Vase and the Sperm Whale, i.e., What is a Baccilus, help?? There was that unforgettable moment a few years ago when the exam blank included the unforgettable OhmyGod, whatdoesapiglooklikeagain??

OH did go and get a book after the exam, as planned, alas for comfort and not celebration, as hoped. OH was tempted to buy another one but then thought Why yes, why not reward an imbecilic psyche with TWO books, there’s a punishment. And, as always, OH ended up agitatedly gesticulating and berating herself aloud, much to the surprise of at least 4 different people, as the answers to the questions slowly slowly trickled back to her, as always much too late.

So yes, strength. Gallons of. Oh and courage, loads of that as well. OH has vowed something WILL change, if it kills her. OH finds the whole thing disgraceful and cannot stand herself today. So she'll smoke ANOTHER fag and sod it all for now, bcs a strong will is another of her endearing characteristics.


At 28/10/05 13:32, Blogger Benjamin said...

L? I'm aware you've got your fellow and all, and that's great. I'm not trying to horn in.
But I am crushingly in love with you.


I know, I know - I'm sorry you've had such a rough time of it. But I'm too busy, really, just grinning and saying "that's a fun girl, y'know?"
And nice reference to the sperm whale. "I wonder if it'll be friends with me."

At 28/10/05 14:06, Blogger Bubbi said...

OK--well--would it help if I posted my complete support and confidence in your abiltys?

I do, you know--have confidence in your abilty.

However--I think I shall refrain from all that and simply ask that one day--you promise to write a book about your experience as a vet student once it is all behind you.

There is a book template out there with your name on it :)

At 28/10/05 16:11, Blogger CarpeDM said...

I adore you. I am trying really, really hard not to laugh out loud because a) it is horribly mean of me to laugh at your suffering but I remind you of the blue stiffy and I think we're even and b) I'm reading this between calls and keep answering the phone "Thank you for hahaha calling hahaha NABABNA" and that's just not good.

I miss you so very much. Come to America. You need the vacation.

At 28/10/05 16:15, Blogger Lorem ipsum said...

Sigggghhhhhh. This is why I don't have an advanced degree. But if I did, it would be in veterinary medicine. See previous sentence.

At least you have Hot Loverboy to keep you warm. Or does he contribute to the problem?

At 28/10/05 16:25, Blogger The Lioness said...

Ben and DM, you must be mad. You are laughing? I am disgusted with myself but at least I don't seem to have disgusted anyone else. Ben, oh yes, such fun, especially today, i believe I've added two more frown lines to my forehead. [The crush is good though ;)] And DM, America never sounded better. I could hide in a 2nd hand bookshop and you could come feed me at semi-regular intervals.

[The Blue Stiffy was a low blow and NOT AT ALL THE SAME THING!]

Bubbi, thank you. Right now, I don't, not so much. It will get better bcs it must but right now - oh blah.

L, QUITE. And no, Loverboy is not part of the problem at all, he is rather lovely even if he has caused the net to be much much slower. It's all me. ME ME ME.

At 28/10/05 20:17, Blogger Udge said...

Dear Lioness, you are a treat to read, even when whetting your claws on your own extremities. May I presume on your time and our blogfriendship to pontificate?

I knew it, I knew I could never make it That is the real problem, not the books you did or didn't read. Your sudden memory loss during the exam is called "panic", it has no necessary connection to intelligence, ability or preparedness. Example: watching Jana Novotgna repeatedly lose her nerve and the match, when she was within inches of winning it.

Stop beating yourself around the head for not being someone other than whom you are, and consider how to deal with the panic.

But give yourself the weekend off first. Do something nice with Loverboy and the cats.

At 28/10/05 20:18, Blogger brooksba said...

First off, I'm sorry to hear about the exam. I know you're anxious be done with your exams and you deserve to be done. It does take a lot of hard work and I completely understand the wanting to kick and scream, "It's not fair!"

If there is one comfort, know that it is common for those who do well early in life [at school] to struggle later because they never needed to learn to study. I can't memorise anything of significance and do admire you for trying. You will get it one of these days.

When you are studying, how are you doing it? Are you just reading the book and taking notes? Do you want to use anyone as a study mate? I know it helps me to learn things by teaching them to others. It's the easiest way to truly know a subject.

Your post is brilliantly written. I do adore you.


At 28/10/05 20:23, Blogger Udge said...

There is of course no "g" in the name "Novotna". <sighs and shakes his head>

At 28/10/05 22:59, Blogger Absurdo said...

Mas porque raio dos deuses uma antropóloga decide entrar em... Veterinária!?

At 28/10/05 23:12, Blogger Savtadotty said...

Don't Ally With the Enemy...get help for the panic attacks. Without Delay! The Psyche Can Become Your Friend! E-mail me for further encouragements.

At 28/10/05 23:24, Blogger Nancy said...

Uhmm As Absurdo said, how DOES one go from Anthropology to Vetrinary school?

and dear... panic is the enemy of brain cells. You know the stuff, just don't let fear choke off the free flow of information.

Roar Lioness.

At 28/10/05 23:54, Blogger Diana said...

So, are you the sperm whale, the bowl of petunias or the ground? Immunology and bacteriology are horrible, vile subjects and deserve to be failed, and once passed (you will, you will) instantly forgotten. That will show them and serve them right. Happily, this hurdle will have no bearing on how great a vet you will be. The stuff you need to know you will know, because you will have a framework for it, not just because you rotely memorized it. Bah on all of it. Bah!

At 29/10/05 00:22, Blogger Henri-V said...

I've been there, L. Actually, I still am there. You have this concept of yourself: very bright (but humble about it and not about to use one's skills for bad, selfish ends), resourceful, intuitive, and even in sticky or challenging circumstances, still sure of your good sense and effortless intelligence. Oh, but then you meet your first stumbling block, or two or three, and then the confidence goes oh-so-quickly, and you wonder how and why all the chaps around you are doing _just dandy_ and yet you are still stuck understanding some basic concept or muttering under your breath why an entire field of study has been built a couple shifty principles, in THEORY, at that. Yes, the jumbled feelings of shame, anger, self-doubt, and reproach as the answers and knowledge ebb back to you in all their correct, A+ glory.

Ahh, but this is the good thing. AT LEAST THE ANSWERS WERE THERE, if hidden. You have absorbed the material, or at least the minimum amount needed to pass, which might be counted as a mark of exquisite intellectual efficiency (hee, but I don't think you'll buy that). To put it in more positive terms [if you are slacker-minded], think about the relatively small effort you put forth now, and how with just a minor tweaking of your study and testing skills, you will be able to see major improvements in your test scores. The ability is all there, miss. You **will** figure out how to harness it if you put your mind to it.

Really, "our heroine" may be a narrative device for you, but I think for many of your readers it is a truth.

Christ, I wrote a lot. Still so many issues with school. : )

Please feel better!

At 29/10/05 01:20, Blogger Lord Chimmy said...

Oh, Lioness, you're much too smart to have these problems with immunology. I don't know your study technique, but I used to memorize (sorry about the z) things by writing them down over and over again. I couldn't read through a book or study a diagram to save my life. If you haven't tried it give "repetitive writng" a shot. It still works for me. There is just something helpful about "seeing yourself" write out the correct answer.

Hey, you obviously know this is in your head. You just need to figure out how to get it out when you need it ;)

You might have failed the exam, but you're still one kick ass Portie...

At 29/10/05 12:27, Blogger Babs said...

I saw the word 'immunology' and my head imploded.

Explains why my college career failed so spectacularly.

I've a feeling yours will turn out MUCH better, though.

At 29/10/05 18:22, Blogger elvira black said...

Oh, can I relate--love the humanities; math and science not so much. As you pointed out, there's a lot more wriggle room--and, I daresay, more creativity--involved in studying the former over the latter. But I'm sure you will prevail with your eyes on the prize--helping all those kitties and dogs and other animals out there who need a Lioness to look out for them!

At 30/10/05 23:29, Blogger Serialangel said...

I have to say, I found your post really funny, but I totally sympathize with you! Dear Lioness, being another student, I know how you feel! I've spent all week learning Marx's theory of history for an essay and it's been really hard. When I read all I had to read I just did something else, I relaxed. One of my favourite sayings is from Philip Pullman when he talks about how he deals with writer's block. He just finds his favourite chair, lies back, and does something non-commital, something random and just waits for the words to come. You just to have faith in your strengths to carry you through.

Humanities and anything that requires any sort of writing I'm good at, unless it's maths, then I'm realistically crap. I know I have to work hard, along the way I learnt how to study. It requires like patience, and organization and energy which most of the time I just don't have, but I have perseverance, and I'm very stubborn which on a good day passes off as patience and energy, but you see what I mean? You need to transfer your skills perhaps. I would never in my right mind study science, although I would love to be a neurologist in a fourth career...

Your smart and you know it. Stick to it, be positive and stubborn and weigh out your chances, and you'll find it hard to get your college career down the pan.

At 31/10/05 03:43, Blogger Dale said...

Oh, dear, I'm sorry you failed your exam but this was the most entertaining thing I've read in weeks. I laughed and laughed. I might have written it. Too bloody clever by half, both of us, in some departments, and quite ordinary -- which horrifies our ego-ridden souls -- in others.

When I went to get my degree in Computer Science, I came up against this harrowing experience in a course on Compilers. (The programs that turn the programs you write into programs that machines understand.) There was just no way around it. No way to substitute fast talking and general knowledge and cleverness for it, no essay questions that I could cunningly half-misunderstand, and answer with a brilliant essay that just happened not to have anything to do with what was being asked, but which happened to cater to the prof's propensities... yes, it was dreadful. The long march.

But it's okay, dear. Soldier on, and you'll get through it. I did. And no, you never need any of that stuff again :-)

At 31/10/05 19:01, Blogger Ana said...

I'm sorry about the exam. It sucks, but I'm sure you'll get through it, and you'll get your vet degree an whatever else you put your mind in to.

At 31/10/05 19:05, Blogger amyesq said...

I know people like you! Although most definitely not blessed with such innate knowledge, there were fellow students in law school who, every once in a while, were forced to actually study a subject to pass. I marveled at how they usually were capable of a mere skim of someone else's notes a few days before the exam while the rest of us, me included, had to slog through on a daily basis. When, every once in a while, they realized they were not going to pass if they didn't buckle down, they ended up still getting the highest marks. Which is I am sure what will happen to you next time.

Until then, please don't be hard on yourself! You are quite brilliant and one poor mark shan't change that.

At 31/10/05 20:34, Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Wow, you get to take the class again! Imagine how well you will know the subject next exam!

At 1/11/05 05:00, Blogger Mudpuppy said...

I feel badly for you, yet oddly comforted by the fact I'm not the only "brilliant" person who was stopped dead in their tracks by work which involved practical things (in my case, my nemesis is physics). I love words, and I can do all sorts of things with them, but put numbers or formulas in front of me and I get a brain cramp. It's very disheartening and needless to say, a very brutal awakening when it happens at university. I hope immunology, like love, is lovelier the second time around.

At 1/11/05 11:16, Blogger Noorster said...

I keep re-reading this post and nodding sympathetically. I feel your pain, honey. *cough* Calculus *cough*

At 1/11/05 20:32, Blogger Jen said...

Me too, me too! Breezed through so much of school - even math in the lower grades - and then totally hit a wall with calculus. I *got* the concepts. I had NOTHING to apply them to because all that stuff I was supposed to have memorized in the 10 years leading up to it Was. Not. There. And I was too embarassed to go back and relearn it, so instead I failed the first semester of calculus. Three times. But with that gift of writing and talking and knowing how to read (work!) people, I never had a failing grade on my transcript....

At 2/11/05 18:01, Blogger CarpeDM said...

Hey. Where did the Lioness lego (leggo?) come from? I like it.


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