Thursday, May 17, 2007

Anatomy of a Choke

How is it that one can practice a certain style of problem for dozens of hours over the course of a few days, forsaking family and friends, cleanliness, and sleep -- to arrive at the test and completely blank? What is the anatomy of a Choke?

I had the fantastically morbid experience this evening of looking at a problem on a test, and having absolutely no idea about how to proceed. The dam in my understanding only cracked as the Prof. was calling out "finish up" times, so I scribbled a description of what I knew to be true for some mercy credit and had to turn it in.

It's amazing really, the whole event. The feel of the event. Sitting there, staring at an 18-point problem and not having a f'ing clue what to do. The stomach turns first, then heat rises to the scalp and ears, you burp up some brimstone and your feet disappear. My mind tried to spin, imagining already how I was going to describe the bloody event after the test, even as my limited time was slipping away. Somehow, I just couldn't fathom that F- could be a conjugate base of a weak acid. I thought it was some kind of sly trick, despite the presence of a Ka, confirming that it was a weak acid. I just couldn't get that through my thick skull to proceed as I always had.

It's taken me about 3 hours to calm down from the blistering anger I was dealing with right after the test. After this cathartic little writing exercise I expect I'll be sleeping like a baby, having wrung out my endocrine system from all the stress and emotion of the last few days. I really do want to know how that could possibly happen. My mind wants to make stories -- I just changed this or that in my life, I didn't get enough sleep last night to make up for the accumulated sleep deprivation of the last week, the stars are aligned in such a way that I was destined to receive a psychic pistol-whipping this evening -- anything. In the end, I just don't know what happened.

In hindsight, of course, I know dam well how to do the problem. Hell, had I 10 more minutes I would have done the problem -- it was that 20 minutes of sitting there huffing and puffing like a bull staring down the last matador he'll ever see that screwed me.

If anyone has insights or stories about totally choking under pressure, please feel free to unburden yourself in the comments section.




Shocho said...

I have a different story you're going to hate me for sharing. When I took the SAT, I didn't study at all. I figured it was all general knowledge, so WTF. I thought I'd be able to take it again the same summer if I failed. As a result, I was super calm and felt like I did pretty good.

My score? Perfect. 800/800.

What good did that do me? Well, I couldn't find a job taking the SAT, so I'd have to say not much. There's more to that story, but I'm sorry, I don't have a choke story.

Terrific image there, though. :)

Bpaul said...

Holy crap dude.

Tate said...

ya no choke story here, not super smart either, i was just really good at taking tests.
and i Used to have a great memory.. oh to have that back again along with my hair *sigh*

Bentley said...

I suffer from the funness of "Test Anxiety" this cuppled with a little ADD means i can study, have perfects on all my labs, totally understand the subject, and get a good solid 2 on a test because i go 100% blank.

Bpaul said...

/shudder, I feel ya sister, I feel ya.

CtheG said...

when I worked in theater ( where I met your lovely wife ) I used to have theater nightmares. The senario was always teh same type of thing. I was suppose to be back stage handing off the most important prop for the show and some how I was driving down teh street trying to get back to the stage and couldn't find my way. The play came to a screetching halt because I missed a cue. The actors stopped - walked off the stage and the play was shut down.

The next one - wedding photography nightmares.
ie: no film in camera, or camera is broken and the most important moment just passed me by without capturing it on film.

As far as tests though - I must say that I was a bit preoccupied in High school and sat real close to Andrew who was the valedictorian in our class so I did GREAT on all of my tests! *wink wink, sleezy grin*

CtheG said...

oh and then I went to art avoid all types of written tests.
and math.
but give me a blank canvas ...