Which asshole am I going to tell off today? Asked the eccentric man on the subway platform (I am being nice by using the word, eccentric). In the grand tradition of subway riders, everyone was unshaken, including me.
Public transportation can make the sane go insane. Man spreading, break dancers, sweat dripping from unknown sources, germs, germs, more germs, body odor, the possibility of contracting bed bugs, this ideally described the daily subway riding experience.
During my New York years, anxiety levels were raised high. In case of entrapment in a subway tunnel, I carried a Murse (man purse) full of distractions. Books, a sketchpad, sketching pencils, Batman notebook, and an iPOD filled with catchy tunes.
“Oh, geez, it would be swell to drive a car. No germs, no spreading, no surprise street performers!” After a nose wiggle, my quirky-self ended up in Riverside, CA. Strolling from coffee shop to coffee shop, driving a car through freshly scented orange groves, and reading on a bench, it was a perfect distraction from the chaos of New York City.
Within a month of returning to Riverside, I took the CBEST test (for my teaching credentials). Anxiety levels were at an all time-low. Yet all the Prozac in the world couldn’t rid the anxious clogging my head, upon taking the test.
A few weeks later, an email was sent. “Your test results are available, next day.” Smirking, I played it calm, “oh, well, there’s still fresh air and coffee in abundance.” Unfortunately, this New York/Riverside hybrid really proclaimed, “Shit, we’re all going to die. If I didn’t pass my test, everything is over.”
More riveting than electroshock therapy, anxiety levels rose, and rose, and rose. Even a relaxing drive through the beloved orange groves wouldn’t smash crazy in the nose.
Glancing at the passenger seat, the murse smiled back. It had an eyeglass-wearing cat plastered on the bag. “ The caption read, “Don’t bother me now, I am reading right meow.” Feeling nostalgic for the days of artistic therapy on the train, I took charge of my anxiety.
Heading to the coffee shop in the strip mall, breathing exercises followed. I drew gay cowboys, with tortoise shell glasses. It distracted anxious feelings for a bit. After an afternoon of cowboys and lattes, it was back to my humble track home.
Unexpectedly, anxiety, my old friend returned. “What happens if I didn’t pass the test?” The test results were emailed. The file opened. In (huge) bold letters the PDF read, “You did not pass the CBEST.”
My hours of studying were flushed down the grand toilet of life. However, being Mr. Optimistic, depression didn’t loom over me. For an hour, everything remained normal. The next day, anxiety turned into depression.
Failure and disappointment, it happened. Hiding in the Gay-ve (the gay man cave), depression wouldn’t subside. Great literature and pretty pictures couldn’t boost up morale.
After a day of licking wounds and dying of failure, I made a comeback. Carrying my murse, I marched to Wallgreen’s, bought notecards, and found an open table at Augie’s Coffee.
Taking a different approach to studying, plans to retake the test were cemented. No giving up for this future teacher of America. Life’s great villains (Algebra and multiple-choice tests) would receive a kick on the tuckus. Thank you, note cards, I’m ready for a test taking comeback.