17: SATs — Subjective Aggravating Torture System

17: SATs — Subjective Aggravating Torture System

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting In...To College

SATs — Subjective Aggravating Torture System

In examinations, the foolish ask questions the wise cannot answer.

~Oscar Wilde

Sprawled across my giant, cozy living room couch, I stared at the images on the television screen. To my parents and younger brothers, it probably seemed as though I was deeply concerned about the fate of the players on the show Survivor as I gazed in their direction, but in reality I was far away from Survivor and far away from my living room. I was standing at the edge of a cliff waiting to either fall or make my way to paradise.

Now, of course I wasn’t literally standing at a cliff’s edge, but as I thought about taking the SATs the next morning, I might as well have been. In one morning, after one test, my entire fate would be decided for me. Would I go to college or would I jump straight into work without a degree? Would I go to Harvard or Princeton, or a local school that was not nearly as prestigious? Would I be able to become a lawyer as I dreamed, or work somewhere that didn’t require a degree? Tomorrow morning would set the pathway leading to the next four years of my life, or even forever.

My mom’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “Courtney, maybe you should go to sleep early. You have to wake up early tomorrow morning for the SATs. Did you forget?”

Oh sure, I completely forgot. It must have slipped my mind that tomorrow I would never see the light again.

“I know. I’m waiting for Survivor to end.” I replied.

“It ended about ten minutes ago. You’re out of it,” she replied.

“Oh right,” I quickly answered. “I just, uh, dozed off for a minute or two. Okay, goodnight. Wake me up at 7:00!”

But that night I couldn’t sleep. I tried counting sheep. The clock read 11:42. I tried repeating the alphabet over and over again. The clock read 12:36. I tried repeating S-L-E-E-P over and over in my head. The clock read 2:30. In four hours and thirty minutes I would be awake again, only to again, anxiously await my doom.

I watched the digital clock across my bedroom slowly change. Minutes seemed as long as hours. I felt like the victim of some crazy torture scheme. Time was nothing more than a subjective system manipulated by the will of an all powerful jerk, and tomorrow he would strangle me with calculus questions I couldn’t answer and vocabulary words I never knew existed. With knots in my stomach and fear in my head, I finally fell asleep.

And woke up one minute later. Or at least, it felt like one minute later when my mom called me from downstairs.

“Courtney, hurry up! You can’t be late. I made you pancakes for good luck. Dad’s waiting in the car to drop you off. Come on already!” she yelled.

With my eyes purposely and dramatically half closed, I got ready quickly and ran downstairs. At least my last meal was pancakes. If I died of stress in the middle of the SATs, I’d have had my favorite breakfast. As soon as I finished, I was out the door.

Pale and anxious, I arrived. I looked around, saw my friends and other students in my grade, and realized I’m not the only one in this condition. Everyone felt nervous. What was the point of feeling this way? I was going to take the SATs, whether I liked it or not, and although I disagreed with the Subjective Aggravation Torture system, I couldn’t fight it. The only things I could do were calm down and do the best I could, striving for a perfect score.

Two and a half hours later, it was over. I sat on a bench waiting outside the building for my dad to come pick me up, basking in the sunlight with a smile on my face. All that stress and fear were completely unnecessary, I thought. The test was completely fair and not at all that difficult. My scores would come soon, and if they weren’t what I had wanted, I could always take the test again, or even a third time.

A few weeks later I checked my scores online. A smile spread across my face and I thought back to the time when I felt nervous about the SATs. That day I was a new girl—smarter, more confident, and ready to attend a prestigious college with my impressive SAT scores.

~Courtney Starr Sohn

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