I just sat (and I’m pretty sure spectacularly failed) a biochemistry exam whilst wearing my slippers. Yes, you read that right. Slippers. Not because I’m lazy or anything, but because my feet/ ankles/ lower legs are now so swollen I can’t even get my toes into any of the shoes I own, or wear trousers that aren’t tracksuit bottoms with zips at the ankles. Should worry me more than it is, but exam stress is very much winning the fight for my attention.
I sat down in the exam room this afternoon (actually about two hours ago) to discover that the last minute panic revision I attempted over the last two days taught me nothing other than the fact that I knew almost NOTHING I was supposed to know. I used my brain. I tried to think. I tried to apply what my thought processes threw into the forefront of my mind. I tried to ignore the fatigue and the fact that an irritating wheezing sound suddenly occurred with every breath I took. I tried to pretend this was nothing to do with the swelling, numbness and now pain (it feels like my skin is stretched to the point of splitting) in my still ice cold and blue feet. I wrote some stuff. I’m pretty sure it was wrong. I left in under an hour and I’m writing this sat in the corridor in Winston waiting for my friends to finish passing the same exam I just failed and come and rescue me. (My revision wasn’t actually revision, because I was either in hospital, trying not to pass out because I had walked to the medical school campus from main campus where I live and in doing so significantly annoyed my heart to the point where I couldn’t function, or asleep, during the lectures for this module; and was therefore actually teaching it all to myself for the first time as opposed to revisiting it.)
It turns out that waking up on your desk to find that you fell asleep whilst trying to make the world’s most colourful revision notes does not mean that your brain absorbed the information while you slept, as I had hoped. I finally figured out how to sleep the night before an exam… The one night that I actually wanted to stay awake. Also, the one time my exam was in the afternoon. Good one brain, good one. I managed to grab about three hours of shuteye, which combined with an equal amount of time spent procrastinating (my brain was in such a state of panic it decided to lose the ability to focus, and I found myself drifting to YouTube and Jenna&Julien podcasts way too often) meant that I didn’t get through all of the lectures for that module. I think actually, it was not the absence of insomnia, but the significant deterioration of my health that forced the sleep. I don’t remember falling into it, but I know that when I woke up I looked rough – pale, kind of grey. And I couldn’t walk. I didn’t care. All that mattered was biomolecules – glycolysis and protein structure and stuff that I can’t afford to wipe from my memory because it will be required for resits in August. It took me a long time to become ‘with it’, and I never really shook the state of sleepiness from my brain, but I put the pen back in my left hand, wrote out random letters until it remembered how to write legibly again (I’m right handed but surgery messed up my right hand so… I adapted, and now my left hand writes neater than my right after a bit of a warm up) and carried on cramming.
The build up to these exams has been more difficult than I expected, I didn’t expect to almost die halfway through them either (did not see last weekend coming), and I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up back in hospital again before my next exam on Tuesday. This whole year of university has been pretty tough health-wise and emotionally too, but I just sat the exam I was most worried about. I screwed up, I failed, I didn’t even know the format of the exam, I didn’t know what I should have and I felt like a complete failure and almost burst into tears multiple times. But sat here I realised I’m failing at many things (successfully humanning – yes I potentially just made a new term – being the most notable) but in making it right here, right now, I kind of have something to be pleased about. Instead of straight forward student life (is there even such a thing?) I had to learn to juggle, with often little support and eventually entirely on my own.
I did what so many people told me I’d never do.
I seized the opportunity to fail.
(And I failed spectacularly)