Last weekend I had grand plans to go on a camping trip with my friend Lisa and eight of her friends. The plan was to leave a couple of cars at the campsite and to shuttle everybody to the start point. We would then hike 16.6 miles to the campsite and camp out for the night…with a campfire, chili and sausages, and s’mores to boot. Then Sunday we were to pack up, shuttle a couple of cars to the end point, and hike 10 miles from the campsite to the couriered cars. Last but not least, people would be shuttled back to their cars and go on their merry ways.
I was super excited about this plan at first. An overnight trip without the need to carry a heavy pack. Getting to spend time with Lisa. Meeting new people. Hiking.
Then I realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve hiked even close to that much in two days. And I’m supposed to be taking it easy on my toesies (or so I had decided). Hm, OK Lisa, how about I join for the first day and then camp out and leave Sunday morning? Sound good? Great. Now I’m hiking a 16.6 miler. I can handle that.
Dot dot dot
Fast forward to last Wednesday. I was back at work after two days of glorious stir crazy respite caused by Hurricane Sandy passing through. The senior vice president (SVP) in charge of my office called a small group meeting to discuss next year’s budget for items such as business development, conferences, and certifications.
As we were going through the spreadsheet, he pointed out, “I’d like to see you gaining another professional certification next year. I think it’ll be a positive boost to your resume and make you more marketable to clients.” At first I thought, “I’m not sure I’ll need this in the middle of the woods.” Then I remembered that this is only a sojourn and that the certification actually does have the potential to benefit my post-trek career.
I pocketed the idea and went to talk to a couple of coworkers that had already passed the necessary exam for this certification. Both said I just needed to read a particular textbook and would be prepared. Then I went online and registered for the test. I know, I know, the SVP was talking about next year, but why wait? Since the website said to allow 45 days for verification of my eligibility, I figured I could read the text and take the exam before the end of the year. The following day (Thursday) I submitted all of the necessary documentation for proof of education and employment experience. Then I got back to playing catch up from the storm.
Wouldn’t it just be my luck that Friday afternoon two relevant emails popped into my inbox: one from Lisa saying that the campsite was closed and that she was in the process of finding an alternative and one from a representative of the certifying company saying that I was eligible to sign up for the exam. What?! I thought it was going to take 45 days.
Hm, flip flip flip through my calendar. Crud. The next two months are filling up so quickly…the holidays, thru-hiker workshop, celebrating birthdays, college girlfriends reunion. Soon enough it’s going to be the new year and time to start selling my furniture and packing my bags!
Don’t even think of suggesting that I study in the evenings after work. That time is reserved for writing and other fun commitments, which I’d much rather do anyway.
When in the world am I going to study?
By the time I got home, I was officially in a frenzy. I didn’t know where we’d be hiking and camping, and I was starting to feel that coordinating ten people (including shuttles) required a lot more time than I was willing to spend. Of course this wasn’t a problem before I had decided to take my coworker’s borrowed textbook home and read it. So I faced the guilt of flaking (I’m usually reliable, I swear!) and emailed Lisa to let her know I wouldn’t be joining. Then I read the first 100 pages of the 330 page textbook before heading to bed.
Have I mentioned that I get like this? I’m sure I have. I can be kind of intense. I decide I’m going to do something, and I do it. Well, I woke up Saturday morning and decided I’d be ready to take the exam on Monday. I checked the testing center’s website and saw that there was still an 8AM time slot available. “Let me see if I can read the rest of the textbook today. Then I can review tomorrow and snag that slot for Monday.” The thing about this intensity is I have to take advantage of it while I’m in the zone. Looking at my calendar, I knew that if I didn’t cancel all my plans for the weekend and just get on top of studying, it would linger and so would the anxiety with having it on my plate.
I finished grad school almost six months ago. I guess that’s recent enough that I still know how to study but long enough ago that I’ve effectively recharged my ability to cram. I started reading the rest of the textbook at 7:30am, took a break at 12:30 to shower and to eat something, and finished reading it at 3:45pm. Done and done. Then of course the requisite nap to seal in all the knowledge juices before socializing with my roommate April’s weekend visitors and relaxing for the evening.
Sunday I went to the office and spent several hours skimming through the textbook and taking notes. Then I reviewed the notes a few times before heading to bed, woke up Monday, and was at the testing center before 8am.
The worst part is that the exam was five hours long. Five hours?! Is that really necessary? I get so impatient and antsy with long tests, especially when I don’t see the added value after about hour three in the process.
I don’t actually know whether or not I passed yet. In addition to multiple choice and computational logic questions (sounds more complicated and impressive than it is, I promise), there was an essay that still needs to be scored. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter if I achieved the certification, although of course that would be nice (reeeeally nice, amaaaazingly nice). Instead it matters that I took the test. If I had let it linger on my To Do list, it would be taking up brain space that I currently have reserved for getting ready for my A.T. trek and for visiting my friends/family, which are much higher priorities, especially as the holiday season approaches.
The best part about taking the test with such little advance planning: when I told my mother my intentions and started to justify my insanity, her only response was, “I knew you were my daughter after all. Good for you. Get it done.” And when I told my older sister Lauren, she shared a similar story (including the same strategy) about taking a test last week (and getting the highest score. yay!) to qualify for a better position at work (cross fingers for her interview today! But only cross one set of fingers on her behalf. If you cross more than one set, it’s bad luck. Everybody knows that).
So I missed one weekend of hiking and camping. It’s not the end of the world, and I crossed a pretty big tasker off my list. Besides, I’ll have plenty of time to make up for it come March.