Most grown-ups harbor an inner teenager still struggling to make it in high school. Deep down -- even as adults -- we're all a bit insecure, a bit awkward, and a bit worried about where, exactly, life will take us.
Among other things, it's this inner-high-school universal which helps to explain the popularity of the hit television show Glee.
It also explains my attitude towards taking the UK citizenship last week.
Let me preface this by saying that I am, by nature, one of those people who has recurrent dreams about test anxiety. I frequently dream that I'm back in high school -- invariably in a Math class. I learn that there's a test that very day, but I freak out because I haven't been attending the class regularly or doing the homework.
The odd thing about this dream is that I've never been unprepared for a test in my life. But the anxiety is there, lurking just below the surface, just as it surely was in high school.
And so I studied my ass off for this thing. I read the five required chapters from the Life In The UK Handbook religiously. By the end of the first week, I could break down the British population by region, religion, ethnicity. The age at which can obtain a driver's license for a medium-sized lorry (truck) vs. a large one? No problem. What makes the House of Commons different from the House of Lords? Easy peasy.
I went online and took some 50 practice tests - none of which I came even close to failing - and then went back and re-read the fine print in the Life in the UK Handbook a few more times. Just, you know, for good measure.
Despite all of this preparation, when the test day rolled around, I was really anxious. I got to the test center early and waited for my husband (who, true to form, arrived on his bicycle with only a few minutes to spare and was still studying even as we registered with the immigration officials. Among other things, taking a test with your spouse also reinforces your central marital "ziplock" conflict.).
When we finally sat down to take the test, I breezed right through it. I was certain of 20 out of 24 of the questions, and took an educated guess on the other four. (You need to get 18 right to pass.) I completed the entire thing - including double and triple-checking my answers - in five minutes flat.
That's right. Five minutes.
Needless to say, I passed. When I got the news from the immigration official, I was elated. Ridiculously, absurdly so. And *not*, I hasten to add, because I was that much closer to having permanent residency in the U.K.
Rather, my exuberance all stemmed from the challenge of having studied hard for a test and having aced it.
That said, because they don't actually tell you how many - and which questions - you got wrong unless you fail, I couldn't know for sure if I'd gotten 75% right or 100%. And damn it, I wanted to know!
So as soon as I got my result, I rushed back to my seat and poured over the Handbook to check all of my answers on the tricky questions. And every time I discovered that I'd answered one correctly, I pumped my fist in the air and let out a "Yesssssssssssssssssssss!"
My husband, who by now was in queue to get his own result, looked over at me at one point and asked, incredulously: "Is this how you were in high school?"
Sadly, yes. And I suspect that's true for most of us. Whether it's taking an important test or competing in a do-or-die football match or finally screwing up the courage to ask the girl you've had a crush on to Senior Prom, none of us ever fully escapes the clutches of high school.
And thank goodness for that. What on earth would I blog about?