I have never liked being tested, probably because I’m not a great test taker. I always feel I’m being tested for what I don’t know, not what I know.
But at least in school, I knew the rules. I was presented with the material, I could study for it (or over study in my case), show up with a sharp pencil, and go to work.
In college, the one class that was meant to weed out those unworthy of journalism was Mr. Polk’s Editing class. Among the tortures he inflicted was a spelling test and the only way you could study was by reading the dictionary. Since the dictionary is one of my favorite books, this is one test I never worried about. So when it came time for the 25 word test, I jokingly said, “I wish we could have 50 words.”
“Since Ms. Parlin requested it, we will have 50 words today,” Polk intoned in the voice that informed us we were all failures just waiting to be caught in our inadequacies.
The photojournalism major sitting next to me punched me in the arm. I still feel ghost tingles to this day.
You’d think that would have cured me of any and all jocularity, but it didn’t.
When Polk passed back our midterms,”I got a “D,” I crowed with great pride to my friend Mare.
“Ms. Parlin, I wouldn’t be bragging about a ‘D’,” said Polk, who happened to be hovering behind me.
“You would if it was the high grade in the room,” I said, pointing to all the “F”s around me.
Once you leave school, the tests change. Can you blend into the culture at work? Can you get up to a 6 a.m. alarm? Can you work quietly?
I never passed that last test. In my first year evaluation, my boss told me I was a hard worker, I never made the same mistake twice, and I was reliable. Then he glared at me and said, “If there’s fun in the room, you find it. And if there isn’t, you create it.”
I promised I would try to do better, but in 36 years I never did. In evaluation after evaluation, the subject of my extremely loud laugh, my loud telephone voice, and my inappropriate joyfulness at work was mentioned again and again. It got so bad that I installed the Parlin Wall — A plywood form covered in cotton batting and calico to muffle the happiness coming from my corner of the newsroom.
Now that I am the master of all I survey, I’m still being tested. This time by my sleep patterns. I have never been a great sleeper. If I can grab six solid hours, that is joy. And because I often start fading at 10:30 p.m., that means I’m often up at 4:30 a.m.
I don’t want to be up at 4:30 a.m.
So when my sister Therese called today at 6:45 a .m. on her way to work, as she does every day, I was bubbling with enthusiasm. “I just woke up five minutes ago.”
“That’s fabulous,” she said. “What time did you go to sleep?”
Since I nodded off around 11:30 p.m., that means I slept for seven hours.
And I didn’t even have to study.