Hunter Kuffel | May 10, 2018
We stand in one long row, tingling with anticipation in our peculiar uniforms. I look to my left and to my right, seeing strangers, untested and unproven. Don’t focus on them. Just worry about what you have to do. I try my best to quell the paroxysm of emotion raging inside my chest, a mix of nervousness for what I’m about to do mingled with confusion as to why I’m nervous. I’ve done this exact thing countless times; this time shouldn’t be any different. I take several regulated breaths, a semi-feeble attempt to calm down. I see another test-taker a few spots down. Is he nervous? He doesn’t look nervous.
I shift my eyes forward at the task ahead of me, loosening my muscles in preparation. I reassure myself of my capability. I can do this. A voice behind me tells me it’s time, and before I can question my resolve, I feel my legs tighten, my feet abandoning the safety of solid ground. My new environment envelops me, and the sensation acts as an eraser of sorts, wiping away any passing thoughts or nagging worries. I am of single mind. Forward. My arms become twin couriers, propelling me further from my untested self. My breath becomes more ragged, and I begin to feel a familiar burning in my muscles. I don’t mind; there’s a satisfaction that comes too, a sensation of accomplishment. The anxiety of waiting has faded away, leaving the quiet strength of action in its place. Before long, I feel my hand slap against wet concrete, and I know my trial is a quarter of the way done. I allow the smallest smile to take residence on my lips, but my rendezvous with sturdy land is fleeting, and I immediately contort my body and propel myself forward once again. Forward, the only thing that matters.
My single-minded state begins to wane as I cross the halfway point. Fatigue has begun to circle me with hunger in its eyes, growing closer and closer with my every move. For the first time since beginning, I open my eyes to see the ceiling far above me. For a moment, I am distracted, taking notice of its size and the intricate pattern of its tiles. However, the increasing difficulty of my labor wrenches back control of my attention. With each impact, the burning in my shoulders is kindled further, each side quick to pass off responsibility to the other, over and over. My progress stalls as my pace becomes sluggish. Try as I might to maintain my resolve, doubt has entered the edges of my consciousness.