Have you ever felt like the universe was trying to teach you something? I have led a somewhat charmed life. It sometimes seems that doors open for me exactly when I need them to. I often times take great leaps of faith with no assurances other than I believe a net will appear. This is not to say that I don't put thought into new endeavors or consider the consequences of my actions but, it is to say that I often leave the details to work themselves out...and they usually do.
I have led a particularly charmed life as a student. Academics always came incredibly easily and so, I very rarely gave school my all. I've always loved school and I think be happy to sit in a classroom for the rest of my life as a professional student.
I have also never truly 'failed'. I've never been to the principals office. I graduated from Maine Maritime Academy with no demerits. I haven't had to retake any classes. I have never missed out on an opportunity because I couldn't meet the requirements.
All that being said, I've worked hard and made sacrifices! I also lead a life that not many people would want to lead. While it is true that I'm currently in Turkey (which has the potential to be very cool)...it's also true that as I'm typing this I'm wearing navy blue coveralls covered in grease and it's 2am....
I approaced my Chief Mate course work and exams with a fervor that I have given very few things in life. I truly busted ass. And, you guys are not going to believe this....but....it didn't come easy!!!!
I was required to take about four months worth of classes before I was eligible to sit for the exam. I completed the classes, submitted my application and waited for approval (this is when I was home....moving out of my house and getting my wisdom teeth out). As soon as I got my approval letter I headed back to Florida where I immersed myself in the study room for about 10-12 hours a day - I did this for about 2.5 weeks before taking the exam. The exam is one of those things that you can never be truly prepared for. You simply cover as much material as humanly possible and hope it's what you see on the test.
The exam consists of nine modules and takes 3-4 days to complete. The nine modules are: Rules of the Road, Stability, Navigation Problems Oceans (celestial), Navigation Problems Near Coastal (terrestrial), Chart Work, Navigation General, Deck Safety, Deck General A, Deck General B. All of the exams are multiple choice however; Stability, Oceans, Near Coastal, and Charts require A LOT of math. For the Generals it is simply a matter of going through the bank of test questions and memorizing as much as you can....or at least being familiar with the answer. While it seems like Rules of the Road should be straight forward and every mate would ace it without studying it's actually quite tricky, the verbiage is designed to throw you off.
On Monday morning I went into the exam room and sent up a silent prayer. Everyone is required to take Rules of the Road first - I aced it. I hit Stability next....I really just wanted to get this one out of the way....there are a lot of formulas that need to be memorized and I figured it would free me up for the rest of the week if I could purge the formulas from my brain. I was most nervous about Stability - I got a 100!!!! I couldn't believe it. I was on a roll so I took Deck Safety. By this time I was pooped so I headed home on cloud nine.
Day two rolls around - I'm feeling quite confident. I go in and take my Nav Problems Ocean. Killed it....I've always loved celestial. My plan was to do my chart plot followed by my Near Coast Navigation Problems. I get my Chart Plot and was SUPER excited. I had reviewed this plot the night before! I recognized some of the answers and was blowing through it. I hand the exam in....again....feeling very confident. I FAILED IT! I couldn't believe it! I was so shocked that I teared up. This module required a 90% to pass...it's a ten question test so you can only get one wrong....I got two wrong...which meant that I was allowed to protest a wrong answer. I was so upset that I couldn't even look at the protest sheet. I packed up my things and retreated to the car.
As soon as the car door closed I called my Mom - this is what girls do when they are going to cry. As soon as I heard her voice I burst into tears. I was on speaker phone. This is one of those things that I'll remember for the rest of my life. My step-dad is in the background and says, 'What happened? Did she pass?' My Mom says, 'Johnny! She's crying! What do you think?!'. It was worth a chuckle at least.
Going back to the study room to regroup is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I reviewed my mistakes from the day...and you're not going to believe this....but, I had the right answer and I bubbled my bubble sheet wrong! Oh My God! Who does that?! At least, it meant that I new the material...and it gave me enough confidence to hit the books again.
On Wednesday Morning I began the day with Deck General A and B. This is mostly ships business and luckily for me I had studied the right things. I figured it was time for a little more math - so I tested on Nav Problems Near Coastal - I FAILED IT!!!! I just about died. Again, silly, silly, silly mistakes! Not taking the time to read the question properly. (To my deckie friends....an LAN question....calculated latitude at LAN...but they requested latitude for 1200....forgot to advance. Doh! The second question was a deviation problem...deviation! What the hell?!)
It was on Wednesday that I realized the universe was trying to teach me something. This wasn't supposed to be easy! I think it also made me think about people who have always had to work this hard for school. What if every test you took required this much effort. What if you routinely gave things this much effort and still didn't ace it?!
I studied as much as I could but I went back to my room a little earlier than normal to relax and recoup before my final day. I made a cup of tea and cruised my favorite blogs. I found two things....the first thing I found was a quote on one of my favorite sites: SHE BELIEVED SHE COULD. SO SHE DID. I immediately scrambled for a piece of paper and scribbled it out....and left it on my bedside table. Then I looked down and the tab on my yogi tea said: Empty your mind and let the universe fill you. Have you ever had this happen? When you find exactly the right words at exactly the right time? I had been thinking about the universe alllll afternoon and here it was right in front of me....let the universe fill me! Of course...how simple.
Thursday was do or die. (You can only miss two modules to be able to retake them. If you miss three you are required to retake all the modules.) I woke up a few minutes earlier than I had been all week (which was about 0445). I put on mascara and eye shadow (which I had not been doing all week)....I wore my favorite shirt....and I also wore all my favorite jewels. I walked into the exam room and sat down. I grabbed a piece of scrap paper and wrote in as big letters as possible: SHE BELIEVED SHE COULD. SO SHE DID. Then I took my finale module - and I PASSED IT! Woo hoo! This meant that I was eligible to retake my two failed modules. I retook my Nav Problems Near Coastal - and I PASSED IT! Then, feeling confident once more, I completed my Chart Plot - and I PASSED IT!
I was officially a Chief Mate!!!!! It was sadly anti-climatic. I simply got into the car and drove from Miami back to Ft. Lauderdale like I had done on every other day. All I could think was 'I did it'. I was too tired and emotionally fried to even begin to think about trying to celebrate. I literally went home and crawled between the covers.
I've been thinking about my exam week for ten days now - and I'm still trying to sort out how I feel and what I learned. Here's what I've come up with. I have a profound sense of accomplishment. However, the accomplishment doesn't have anything to do with being a Chief Mate....it is focused solely on the fact that I DID IT. I did something hard....it didn't go as planned...I stuck it out....modified my attitude...believed in myself and DID IT. Which means, I can modify my attitude and stick anything out. Which also means, I CAN DO ANYTHING. And, while I'm doing anything....when the going gets tough...all I have to do is let the universe fill me!
Thank you all for your well wishes, your prayers when things got dicey, and your congratulations when things went well :) It was amazing to know I had so many people rooting for me!