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The Choice Of Taking Tests In Life

Do you remember the visceral sensations of angst over an upcoming final exam? Or the first procedure as an independent doctor? A major presentation, perhaps?

Life’s exams test not only specific knowledge and skill, but one’s self esteem as well. And it’s the self esteem portion that creates the stomach churn, the palpitations, and the random thoughts of doom.

The future lurks over you for weeks, like a weighty backpack, or the possibility of encountering the bully on your walk home from elementary school. (For my bony self, her name was Marilyn.)

For a 47 year-old, an upcoming bike race shouldn’t feel like a final exam. A father, husband, doctor, and blogger who hangs little on the cycling peg should feel no pressure from anything bike-related. But this is no ordinary bike race, and though one tries to deny its existence, there is a peg.

Next week, the National Championships of “Masters” cycling comes to my home city, Louisville, KY.  In fact, the road race course, a 5-mile loop though a very hilly city park, passes within meters of my home. Of the hundred or so 45 to 49 year-old bike-racers-with-jobs that will contest the national race next week, only a scant few are unserious. It will not be easy. No final exam is ever easy.

Like many of my over-achieving racing peers, bike racing is a but a hobby, albeit a serious one.

My real job is an observer of “squiggles,” a navigator of a catheter, and installer of cardiac devices — a doctor. But I am also a bike racer.

I am a father of two children, who, as all children do, care not that a father races bikes, rather that their many needs are met. Nonetheless, I am also a bike racer.

I am a husband to an incredibly outstanding woman. A woman whom I am certain would be happier if I consistently picked up my laundry, helped her in the yard, and closed the cabinet doors, than if I won (did well in) a bike race. Yet, I am a biker racer.

Combine said reality with the realness of the watt meter’s truths, and my left brain knows that bike racing really doesn’t matter. But tell that to the nervous mind and body. When one pays the fee, pins the number, and steps within the barricades, it’s not like training or practice. The ego is exposed for all to see. Things get hung on the peg.  So it’s for those that voluntarily sign-on to take life’s exams — the potential for finding the treasure is worth the risk.

Life has choices. You can test yourself or not.

But does the noxious sensations of worry indicate an excess of inflammation? Would it be better to stay in the comfort zone — to never have those distinctive stomach rumblings, or to never reach a 1,000 sheep before sleep arrives? You could exercise regularly without the stress of actually testing yourself in a race. You could stick to the same procedure and never experience the steepness of a learning curve. You could have seemingly great ideas and not ever type them out on a free website for others to see — and perhaps scoff at.

Life is short — too short to outgrow taking tests.


*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

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