A Tanka Poem About Exams
Practitioners, an exam is coming.
Don’t worry, it’s not you who’s being tested. It’s me.
In a little over a week, I’m taking one of the most important exams of my career. It’s not the kind of exam students take, instead it’s a professional exam, and as I sat studying at the Carol I Central University Library, surounded by students of various disciplines—young people who from my current point of view are essentially kids—I got to wondering about how quickly time elapses and how easily we humans are able to get over things. Every exam I took as a student felt like an end point, a chasm beyond which life was unimaginable. What I found instead, every single time, was that life just sort of…continued. There were never any magical epiphanies or earth-shattering changes. I just got more confident, more knowledgeable, and less stressed and stressable.
These days, my struggles look a little different. They’re grown-up struggles, like paying the rent on time, taking out the trash every morning, replacing batteries and lightbulbs, and doing dishes (ugh!). The thing is, these sorts of struggles feel different too, more real and palpable, and getting through them actually leads to a concrete result. Which is why it feels so weird to be taking exams again. Looking at all those dilligent kids at the library, some of them law students and just discovering material I’ve read dozens of times already, I won’t lie, I felt old, man.
Anyway, today’s offering is a tanka, a type of poem that originated in Japan, comprised of five lines and with a syllable distribution of 5-7-5-7-7.
Enjoy, and wish me luck!
Round you lies a sea
Of people—shuffling, sweating,
Waiting to begin.
This exam is everything,
You think, not for the first time.
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