When I was in school I had a very mixed relationship with tests. On the one hand, I disliked them, as did most of my classmates: I saw them as joyless measures of our probable inadequacy. On the other hand, I had every intention of doing well on every test, because to not do well would mean that I was a failure, and I could not bear the idea that there was any metric, no matter how meaningless to me, by which I could be measured a failure. Numerically speaking, this position usually netted me an 85 out of 100, which, in retrospect, is an accurate representation of my commitment to the test. Occasionally, by the pure accident of personal interest, I would score a perfect 100. When these tests were returned to me I would feel first the rush of pride followed almost immediately by a total collapse of meaning. I had managed to answer someone else’s questions accurately; the only pleasure this brought, thin as the paper my 100 was written on, was the knowledge that at no point did this other person get to think: “Wrong. You are wrong. That is the wrong answer.” This is what we were all angling for? This is why we were supposed to study and not watch Charlie’s Angels?

My academic friends, who almost always scored 100 on their tests, were quick to point out that doing well on tests was merely a part of the necessary game to get where you wanted to go. Unfortunately, though I loved games, I refused to play this one, and I remained a stubbornly B-plus student until the end.

I dropped out of school to end the tests, but I could not drop out of life. No matter how far I fell, I found someone who seemed to be holding a hoop for me to jump through. The promise always was that if I jumped through enough of these hoops, I would be allowed to leave the circus, a good lion returned to his rightful kingdom.

The circus can be a confusing place – all that cheering, all the lights and music. It is hard sometimes to know if you are in the ring or in the bleachers, if you are cheering or bowing, if you are dancing or playing drum. It is even hard sometimes to see that the one holding the hoop is you.

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