In just a few weeks*, another final exam awaits me. It’s my final exam for English literature and and linguistics. Now these are both fields I find absolutely fascinating, which is why I chose to study English in the first place, but I am not so fond of final exams, especially not oral exams.
So the other day, when the feelings were once again all jumbled and nerves causing trouble and stomach queasy, I realized something. First of all, I don’t want to be afraid of something I actually find fascinating. That’s not only inconvenient but incredibly silly, really. I know it is possible to be afraid of so many things as human beings, even things we generally think of as positive – like diving into a swimming pool, performing a piece of music or embarking on a serious relationship. Fears of getting hurt, fear of failure or embarrassment, fear of intimacy or losing your freedom are in competition with the desire to do something which is in itself good and likely to bring you enjoyment. The same is the case when you look at studying and exams. In the end, an oral exam is just a conversation on an academic level, where you talk about a topic you prepared beforehand, present your knowledge and discuss relevant issues. It can be enjoyable because this is something you are interested in and the exam offers both an opportunity to talk with someone who is an interested expert in the same field and it pushes you to work with your favourite subjects in a more intense and focused way. You learn through the experience.
Second, I realised that the exam is almost like a show or a performance, only that it includes dialogue. It is really rather similar to what I do every day when I do my tours as a tourist guide, which has been my awesome part-time job for the past five months – I present knowledge in a compact way, almost like telling a story. I take my tourists on a journey with various landmarks and combine information concerning history and geography with stories about people, customs and culture. What if I thought of my exam as a tour? A tour of the English language and a tour of English literature? We will embark upon a half-hour journey for each subject – so much shorter than my normal tours! – and I will be prepared to act as guide with a certain route prepared, but also ever ready to make a detour when requested or answer specific questions at one of our stops. I like that. Sadly, the tour will be too short to talk about all the wonderful things there are to discover and discuss! But that’s ok. All good things come to an end – including studies and exams and guided tours.
Ok, so I decided not to be afraid. Easier said than done. But in a way, it is almost like a decision. A decision not to allow that fear to keep me from continuing my preparation. A decision not to just sit on the couch and stare at the wall, but to get up and be productive. And a decision to trust that once again, I can rely on God to give me peace when I feel turmoil. So I got up, put on my headphones – with For Today’s song “Fearless” playing at full volume, and went back to work.
*less than a week now actually