Hey yall! Guess who passed the COMLEX Level 3 board exam last month and is now eligible to be licensed in the state of Georgia? Yep, me! God is so good! So let me back up and tell you the story, before I get carried away.
I took my exam at the beginning of June. I had to really put in work and manage my time wisely while wrapping up first year of residency and studying for boards. I studied using some of the methods I talked about in a prior blog post (check it out here). I also had one of my attendings and my advisor hold me accountable and check in with me weekly to discuss my studying progression. Overall, I knew I put in the time and work while preparing, but I was still nervous. I always get nervous before big exams, and I will admit that I have test taking anxiety. I have a routine on exam days where I get up early, call my parents who pray with me, and then put on my pre-exam music playlist to get my mind right. So the time came, and I sat down at the computer to tackle this 8-hour exam ahead of me. I said another quick prayer, and got to work.
Things started off pretty well during the first sections. When I got to section 4, right before the lunch break, I hit a brick wall. I quickly realized that I had taken too much time in the prior sections and was running out of time. Each section has 50 questions, and I got to about question 30 of the fourth section and only had 10 minutes left. There was no way in the world I’d be able get through the remaining 20 or so questions in 10 short minutes. I have never had a panic attack before in my life, until that moment. My heart started to race, I had trouble breathing, my mouth was dry, and my hands and legs were shaking uncontrollably. I tried to calm myself down and use visualization techniques to get it together. However, the more I tried to close my eyes and focus, the more my eyes drifted to the ever-winding clock. I came up with a quick strategy, and with about 2 minutes left on the clock, I planned to go through the remaining questions and just randomly choose B for each answer. Unfortunately, I still had a few questions at the end of the section that I did not get to answer. Alas, the clock went to 0:00 and it was time for lunch.
I pushed myself up from the chair with my sweaty, shaky hands and wobbly legs and staggered to the break room. My heart was still pounding out of my chest and I felt like I needed an inhaler, and I don’t even have asthma. At this point, I had no appetite, but knew I needed to eat something to make it through the 4 hours after the lunch break. I called my mom, who immediately sensed that something was wrong. I told her what happened and she calmly said, “Jay, listen to me. Don’t look in the rear view mirror.” I knew exactly what she meant. Early that morning before she and my dad prayed with me on the phone, she said the same thing, “Don’t look in the rear view mirror.” I had struggled with standardized testing before and had a habit of dwelling on the past. The anxiety and fear that came when taking board exams stemmed from my previous failures (more about that here ). Once you fail a board exam, you always have that experience in the back of your mind. My mother told me to forget about the things in the past, and focus on what was in front of me. As I sat in that break room, my mother’s words soothed me. I was reassured that everything would be okay. I went on to eat my lunch and reaffirmed God’s promises to me as I prayed in my head.
As I re-entered the testing room and sat at my computer, I took a deep breath and started the next section. I kept reminding myself not to look in the rear view mirror and not to focus on what happened before lunch. I went on to finish the rest of the exam without any issues with time. I was relieved that the exam was finally behind me, but I also was up against the month long dreaded wait for my exam score.
Fast forward to last week. I got the email that my score had been released. I was excited and a tad bit scared at the same time. I logged in to my account and scrolled down to see the words: PASSED. Can I tell you, how I almost rearranged my living room furniture from shouting?
I had spent a little over a month anxiously waiting, and even had a nightmare about this day. (I had a dream a while back that I failed.) The first thing I did was thank God! I could not stop saying, “Thank you Jesus,” because I knew it was only Him that brought me through that exam. The next thing I did was call my parents. They were just as excited as I was. I then texted/called my friends and attendings to share the good news.
My purpose in sharing this very personal story with you is simple. No matter what you happen to face in life, and no matter how difficult or impossible that situation may seem, DON’T LOOK IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. It’s okay to reflect on how far you’ve come, but do not dwell on previous failures. The Apostle Paul said it best: “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” -Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)