Monthly Archives: May 2007

The brighter side of anticipation

For my birthday, this past weekend, I received from my wife the St. Moritz Titan II watch. I say that with the same sort of glee with Ralphie would take in saying each part of “official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle.” The watch is beautiful and functional and manly and rugged and sophisticated and light, and everything I hoped it would be. So that’s good.

What surprises me about all of it, and by that I mean the whole process of receiving it, is how much joy it has brought me. Not since I was a child can I remember being this excited about a gift, and I think I know why. Because not since I was a child have I known exactly what I wanted, and then had to wait for it.

I’m not sure how old I was when my parents first started the “reasonable negotiation” method of gift giving. That’s where I would come to them with something I wanted, and we would discuss it, me explaining why it was a “good” purchase and something my parents should support, and them considering and then deciding that either yes, they would, or no they would not purchase the gift. And then it was done. There was no waiting, really. Gifts didn’t come like opportunities around birthday or holiday times. I sort of banked them, for a while, and then they came sporadically when the time was right. The whole thing was very enlightened and progressive, but took a lot of the thrill out of birthdays and holidays.

Most of my toys in modern days have been self purchased, or the product of some negotiation, so there was never the wondering. If I wanted something, I bought it. In this case, though, there was the waiting, the anticipation, the desire, the fulmination of the need (real or imagined) and then the satisfaction. And the result? It is more thrilling to satisfy a need than a whim. That should be obvious, and of course it is, but in this age of consumer frenzy, I had forgotten that joy of waiting.

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On taking tests

In a few weeks, I will be taking a written test for the first time in six years. I suppose it’s slightly less if you count the written test at the DMV for getting a motorcycle license, but that hardly seems comparable. It’s a strange state to return to. For so long my life was punctuated by regular and significant testing and it was something I was good at. In fact, it could be said that it was what I was best at. Both in high school and college my work in a class was acceptable, but my ability to sit down with a test, particularly a standardized test, and see through it was really what distinguished me academically. In college, with midterms and finals, tests came regularly and rigorously. With the first couple of years of medical school, that pace quickened. But now… I took a handful of classes at the start of graduate school, all with take home exams or final papers, and aside from oral exams haven’t been tested, haven’t been stood up and measured in any focussed or critical way.

It’s scary. It’s scary to go back now to testing and to that sense of urgency and inevitability and anxiety. And yet, it’s also somewhat comforting to know that I will be measured again, and not arbitrarily, that I will be on a track of finite length, and that the end will always be in sight.

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