I’m quite skilled in the art of Inducing Unnecessary Panic. After weeks (months?) of sleepless nights spent imagining a future in which I fail my exams and am trapped in an asphyxiating, unsatisfying lower-middle-class job… I finally took the GRE. It was an utterly anti-climatic endeavor.
When I had the “Oh, hey, you’re graduating THIS year!” shock, I purchased an exorbitantly over-priced GRE study book. I worked through the entire thing while having flailing “I’m going to fail!!” fits. Turns out, NOTHING that was in that book was on the exam. Not a single thing! What a letdown. I still did just fine on the exam. You receive your preliminary scores as soon as you complete the exam. I suppose I did better than fine. It all feels like a waste now: the insomnia, the panic, the useless revision.
I still have applications to complete and papers to submit and the rigmarole of finals (WHICH I MAY NOT SURVIVE) but I’m still riding the letdown train. I’m sure the panic will return shortly. Because December is a panic/letdown month. Like when you’re eight and you have balloons at your birthday party. Not helium balloons, just good old Mom-inflated balloons. And they float around your living room for a few days, until they get kicked under the couch where they shrivel up but are still, impossibly, inflated weeks later. Wrinkly and shrunken, but partly inflated. There’s a letdown, but it’s never a complete wash.
There’s the end of semester panic followed up by that final mid-week final, which inevitably feels so completely…whatever. And the gift-giving! One post-Atheist Christmas, my family went off to church and I went into a frenzy, creating an elaborate present scavenger hunt. There were clever clues! But nobody liked it. They were just confused. It was a big letdown. Or there’s when you work really hard finding/making the perfect present and you’re so excited! …But it’s only met with a lukewarm reception.
December. It’s full of buildup and quiet deflation. I don’t mean that to be depressing. Most of the time, the anticipation is more fulfilling than the event. That feeling, that moment when you’re balancing on the precipice of what is and what could be, envisioning all the paths you could take, which branch of the fig tree to climb out on…it may be the best feeling. Just don’t give in to anticipation so much you forget to live.
After the buildup and the letdown, when melancholic nostalgia is all that’s left over, nothing’s better than Jose Gonzales’s cover of Heartbeats. The best.