I have a recurring nightmare about the final exam on which my college graduation depends. Thinking I am prepared, I open a blue booklet only to discover that I am being tested in a language I do not know. I try to explain that there has been a terrible mistake, but the proctor is unforgiving. I am sent back to my chair to take a test that I have no hope of understanding, let alone passing. The number two pencil shakes limply in my sweaty hand.
Unfortunately when I wake up, instead of feeling relief, I recall real-life experiences that were all too much like my dreams.
After studying French for five years, I still opened the booklet for a college placement test and understood nothing. Forging ahead, telling myself this was merely a result of nerves, I did my very best and ended up placing into . . . first-year French. I’d like to pretend that it’s just test-taking anxiety, but I have the same panic reaction when confronted with a menu.
Lillian Daniel is senior pastor at First Congregational Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a board member for Interfaith Worker Justice, and author of When “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Not Enough (Jericho Books).