Countdown: Less than two weeks until departure. Whoa, how did that happen? How did 19 weeks of training get past me? The Chinese test is the end of this week.
If all goes well, then yes, I will be departing on time. I know, saying “if” in the same breath as my Chinese test is against my Positivity Plan Code of Conduct. I am supposed to say, “After I pass my test this Friday,” or “When I totally ROCK my Chinese test on Friday…” and so on and so forth.
I am trying. I continue to say positive things to myself every day. Things such as “我是一个汉语的女王” or “I am a Chinese [language] queen.” I repeat that kind of thing to myself in the car. And power pose.
I am really starting to believe my amazing Chinese teachers are going to pull this off (with my help of course), that I will blow away the testers and that the recording of my test will be used for years to come as an example of how someone with AWESOME Chinese takes the end of training test.
That does not mean I will not be bringing all my various talismans. I am not really a superstitious person. I do the “knock on wood” or “knock on [insert random material, like plastic, here]” on occasions, but that is it. This is except, of course, when I am in an FSI exam. Then I am armed to the teeth. I will wear my positive mantra bracelets, carry my daughter’s smiling daycare center photo, and even bring in a ridiculously cute string doll that purports to help the owner “kick start your life, give you courage and confidence to get things done.” I am sure it was marketed for teenage girls, but I do not care. Whatever works, right? If I had lucky undies and a bullet proof amulet, I would wear those too.
This however has been my best training week yet. I do not have to do much homework to prep for class because my reading class is “cold” reading (first time seeing the material) and my speaking class is “impromptu” discussion of topics or presentations with very little prep time – all of which simulate the test. Previously, I felt so frustrated in class after spending hours studying and still not understanding SO much. Now, I feel elated because I understand SO much without needing much preparation time.
This week I have been thinking of my language test as a half marathon. (of course, what is a runner supposed to do?) Generally, I take between 2 hours and 15 minutes and 2 hours and a half to complete a half marathon. The language test also takes roughly the same amount of time. Running a half marathon is exhausting. So is sitting in a room having a conversation or reading an authentic three to four paragraph news article in a foreign language in which you are not fluent, especially if you are being graded on that language. Also, if your language test happens at lunch time, but that is whole other issue.
In the months leading up to a half marathon, I do a lot of training. Some days I have great runs. Some days I have terrible runs. Sometimes I cannot drag myself out to run at all. But over the course of the three to six months, my long runs get longer, I grow stronger, and I am better prepared for the big day. Still, on race day I never really know how it might go. I could wake up feeling off. A few miles in I might feel an odd twinge in my knee, which may or may not cause me problems. I may need to walk through the water stops to give myself just the break I need to push through.
I think back to this fall as I dropped out of my October half marathon down to a 10K and then later dropped 10Ks to 5Ks. I thought I was out of training. But I have been training for another kind of half – my language test. Nineteen weeks of training in fact. As I sit down to begin my test, I will neither know my outcome nor what hurdles might be thrown my way. I may need to slow down, check my pace, and correct my stride.
At the very least I want to finish strong. I want to know at the end of the test that I gave my best with whatever I was given. Even better if I hit a PR (scoring above the required language score can result in incentive bonus pay), though that would just be icing on the cake, not a goal.
There are no medals at the end of this race, just plane tickets and a new position waiting in Shanghai.
Race Day: Friday, high noon.