Don’t Cry Over Spilled Coffee

I’m taking a pause from my studies to write this emotion filled blog— I was going to wait until after finals, but the occurrence this weekend supersedes any test.

Like the fact that I didn’t pass a very important one.

As part of my flight training, I am working on my rating to fly in IMC, instrument meteorological conditions— my “cloud license” as my friend Stephen puts it. Aviation is very much like learning to drive in that there are several stages to training: you take a written test and then a practical test. This weekend, I took my Instrument Written, a very confusing and in-depth review of regulations, weather phenomena, standard procedures, and symbology of IFR flying. Part of my course load was an instrument ground school— but there are some tricks of the trade that I studied in addition to the course. Advantageously, a company writes a book with almost every possible question that may appear on the test: 2,000 total, I believe, and it ends up being 500 questions written four different ways. Of COURSE I studied this book, because not only do I have a deeper understanding of the test, I know exactly in which format it will be presented.

But alas, I scored one less point than I needed to pass. ONE. And it costs a pretty penny to take these exams, too.

As I walked from the testing center back to my dorm, a cold drizzle began to fall, along with my esteem. I tried not to mull the word “fail” over in my head, even though the printed document with an official raised seal said it in full capital letters. “I didn’t pass” sounds much better than “I failed.” And then I thought of my explanation to my mom, my airline pilot friend, my instructor, and everyone else— needless to say, I was embarrassed.

So I called my mother and relayed the grim news; it isn’t the end of the world, by any means, but as my yoga instructor once told me, “Life just downright sucks sometimes.” And for that moment, it did. Her reaction was compassionate and dutifully served, as much as a mother could be through a telephone. I was so worried to disappoint her; she reminded me that I did all that I could to prepare, and if I tried my best, then she is happy. And I did try my best— but when your best isn’t enough, it’s very disheartening. It’s like being swept away in a flooded river, and you grasp for the last branch that could save you— your arms overextending to reach the limb. But it passes. You cope with the cold water, lack of control; and the water throws you on the bank.

My mother went on to use a perfect analogy, which is why I wrote this post. She said, “When you carry a cup of coffee— if you look at the coffee and walk, you’ll spill the coffee. But if you keep your eyes forward, you won’t spill the coffee. You’re looking at the coffee.” And I was. There wasn’t a darn thing I could do at that moment to reverse my score. I ended up spending the day with my friend Alex, and we weathered the holiday shopping traffic to buy a few items for him; my mind wandered, and that relaxation was exactly what I needed. I was reluctant, however, to let myself go. I was going to stay cooped up inside all day, because I hadn’t passed. My mom convinced me to do something for a break.

And my beloved role model and friend Delia, who flies for an airline, also comforted me. I was worried about how this would affect my career— of course, I should always be proactive and do the absolute best that I can. But this doesn’t end my ambitions right here, not even in the slightest. She said it’s only a written, and I know that these scores are only valid for two years anyway. I will retake it. I will improve. I will pass. Because this, too, shall.

We live and learn.

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