On November 21, 2015, I couldn't get out of bed.
My alarm went off as planned. I sat up. This was a gut check moment.
I thought about it for a few minutes, trying to decide if I could surprise myself and summon the courage to actually do this. But truthfully, the decision had already been made -- on wasted evenings and lazy Sundays for the last four months. Today was just the day of reckoning. The alarm was just a formality. I knew I had lost.
I was stuck somewhere between disappointment and shame. I knew it was 100% my fault. There was no imaginable scapegoat. I also knew that I had screwed up -- not just on this morning, but basically every day for the last four months.
November 21, 2015 was a failure. My failure.
But now it was done. I turned off the alarm, shut the blinds, and went back to bed.
Four months earlier, I had spent $195 to schedule my appointment to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). This purchase was the first step towards grad school, and I approached it with the same anticipation of an 8-year-old getting his first hamster. Day 1, I was committed. I had a plan. I could do this. I spent $40 on a GRE test prep book and some flash cards. I was ready.
But just like the 8-year-old, the commitment wore off pretty quickly. That's when I started bargaining with myself.
"Alright, you get one more week of fun and relaxation, but then you're diving in. Two hours of studying, every single night, until test day." After the week evaporated, I figured I had earned a one or two week extension. The bargaining continued (before I had even started studying), as "every night" became "week nights," then "two hours" became "one hour." By the time November 21st, rolled around, I literally had never opened the book or started the flashcards.
It was a disaster.
How does that even happen? The short answer is a crippling combination of laziness and meager self-esteem. But there is, of course, more to it than that.
Fast-forward almost exactly one year.
On November 15, 2016, I got out of bed.
This time I had a few more things in my arsenal: a semi-regularly attended online GRE class, a few practice tests under my belt, some test-taking strategies researched online.
My alarm went off. I got ready. I did one of those fake morning-of-the-test study sessions, where you look at a year's worth of material and pretend you'll retain something useful for a critical moment of the test.
Then I got in my car, drove to the testing center, and walked inside.
Four hours later, I walked out a champion.
Even though I knew I had bombed the math section, November 21, 2016 was a win. My win.