Tonight I’ll be getting on a bus and sitting on my arse for 6 hours on my way to Bogota.
I’m taking the IELTS (‘International English Language Testing System’) tomorrow morning. I registered for it some weeks ago. Until last Wednesday, it was still something unreal – although still scary. Then I received a letter of confirmation and it hit me. This is happening. I’ll be taking this scary exam in less than 20 hours.
long post alert
Some posts ago, I wrote a bit about the future and my hopelessness with some anxiety added to the soup:
I have things on hold for the future but they don’t seem real, they look like a TV show, I could turn it off anytime and it would be all the same. I act like I do, but don’t really believe I’ll be doing these things ever. I just have them there because they’re supposed to be somewhere… “just in case” I get better. Just in case I survive.
Taking this test is part of my acting as if the future plans are doable even when it doesn’t feel as such. It’s like a game (what I feel) but at the same time it’s real (what I know). I have taken pride in my English knowledge for a while but I never took it seriously, I was afraid to do so and find out I’m nowhere close to my own expectations. Until now it was just a game. I started thinking in English a while ago because I was paranoid the people around me would hear my thoughts. I thought, “well at least if they can hear it they won’t understand it.”, it wasn’t actual paranoia… it was… a game. Also it’s not a secret that for years I’ve wanted to live somewhere else than Colombia, an English speaking place to be more precise. I don’t think I have such a bad life here but I feel trapped, like I had been born in the wrong place. I don’t seriously believe I will feel more at home somewhere else, but I don’t feel at home now, so nothing is attaching me.
English helped me go through med school. I might not be as good at memorizing as many of my classmates are, but I have good analytical skills, I can read really fast and it was really good to be able to do so directly from the source (most relevant clinical studies are written in English. My classmates had to translate or read from older textbooks or articles.) My best friend during university also has a decent English but she has branched for other languages like French and Italian. I consider this my specialty.
But it’s a game. Or is it? I have succeeded in comparing myself with Colombians who struggle with this language (easy!). But I also I write this blog and have a blogroll with many aspiring writers who are actually good at this. I know this is my second language and that I shouldn’t try to compare myself with them. But my confidence is slipping lately and my brain looks for soft places to stick forks at. Ever since I registered for this exam I have been giving myself a hard time for every single mistake I find, and feel even worse about the mistakes I probably have missed all over the place. I have the feeling that I make many more mistakes now than when I was oblivious (Probably the Dunning-Kruger effect). I get tense everytime I write a new blog post. I had a friend correct me one of my posts a while ago, and I almost died inside, but it turns out it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I’m not asking to be told “hey your english is fine”, so please don’t. I’m just trying to show how much my own mind is torturing me about this. I know I should try to relax, but the exam is tomorrow and that’s it.
There’s also the added pressure that I cannot fail this test, as I cannot possibly afford retaking it. I’m taking this one using a loan, go figure.
It is true that you can’t really “fail” it. This is the scoring system:
9 Expert User Has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding. It would be very hard to attain this score.
8 Very Good User Has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
7 Good User Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriateness and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
6 Competent User Has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
5 Modest User Has a partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. The candidate should be able to handle communication in his or her own field.
4 Limited User Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in using complex language.
3 Extremely Limited User Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.
2 Intermittent User No real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
1 Non User Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
0 No Original English Used
This scale actually makes me feel a little bit better. I feel like I can fit somewhere in the upper levels at least in the written test.
My biggest fear is fear itself. What if I freak out so much that I forget all about it? I have had mental blocks that last hours. The experience with the internship is unsettling. So many things can go so wrong and they have gone wrong in the past. I am unmedicated and have had very bad days lately. Suicide has been hovering again although only as a vague idea, but I thought I had more control. Yesterday I woke up after a good night of sleep and stayed awake all day while being very hyper and happy, but at the same time fearing that the mood wouldn’t last me for the weekend. And the night came and I could not sleep, the dawn came by and I was still awake and my thoughts were racing. I had to take a notebook and try to put all that down but I couldn’t. I finally exhausted myself and slept a while during the morning.
It is so out of control and hard to predict, what will my mood be like tomorrow morning? If I could be stable during the exam I might have a chance, otherwise who knows what will happen.