Well, now, THAT was exciting. In a “drop at the beginning of a roller coaster” kind of way.
It has dominated my days and interrupted my sleep for nearly seven months now. I have missed deadlines, dropped projects, and skipped family gatherings because of it. The voice of Misdirected has grown fainter with every week as it approached, an inexorable monster that threatened to swallow me whole.
I am referring, of course, to the final exam for the ACE Fitness Personal Trainer certification.
Which happened yesterday.
We Don’t Need No Education
My relationship with education has been weird throughout my life. I didn’t go to college out of high school. I got married and started waiting tables instead. Who needs that education stuff, right?
My professional career as a database developer and project manager all came from books and week-long seminars. My success derived from an unusual talent: I was the person who was willing to Read The Flipping Manual. But I also had the ability to remember what I read. This didn’t seem unusual to me. I just thought everyone else was lazy.
Then my disability struck, and suddenly I was unable to remember my own name for long stretches of time. By the time my treatment stabilized, I could do a pretty good impression of a thinking person, but the memory was gone. I literally can forget what I am doing in the midst of doing it nowadays. I made a couple of abortive attempts at college in my thirties, but couldn’t ever keep up.
And that is where I thought my relationship with education would end.
Where Obesity and Literacy Meet
Fast forward a decade or so. My upcoming bariatric surgery met my gaming blog, and the current version of Misdirected was born.
Suddenly, I was fielding questions I didn’t know the answers to. I went to various sources for information: my nutritionist, WebMD, my wife the massage therapist, my brother the personal trainer. The deeper into the process I got, the further down the rabbit hole I fell. In January of this year, I was suddenly 100 pounds lighter and writing a book about bariatric surgery, for goodness sake.
Then, in February, I happened to mention to my family that I was looking into getting some education about muscular retraining, weight loss, and lifestyle changes. Maybe, I said, at some point in the distant future, I would look into getting my personal training certification.
Later that week I was presented with a gift: my family had sprung for the ACE course materials for their personal trainer certification. Just one little detail: I only had 180 days from the time they ordered the course to take my certification exam.
Opening The Box of Pandoras
I suspected I was in trouble when the box of course materials arrived. Inside were anatomy charts, nutritional guides, exercise CD-ROMs, and over 1,000 pages of textbooks.
I confirmed I was in trouble after I completed the first “class”, took the final exam, and was presented with a grade of 40%.
Oh, man. What did I just get myself into?
I remember confessing to Lor that I would never be able to do this. There were twenty-two individual course segments I had to pass, for goodness sake! By the time I got to the end of a chapter, I had already forgotten everything I just read. And I had no previous experience with any of this: no frame of reference. What the heck was adenosine triphosphate? I never took chemistry! What was a muscular attachment point? I flunked biology in high school!
Twice, in fact.
I had apparently thrown myself off the deep end of reality, into the swampy morass of human physiology.
The Struggle Is Real
For months I studied, and quizzed, and attempted to memorize. My fiction writing slowed to a crawl. My posts to Misdirected became ever more sporadic, the closer I got to the date of my final exam. I stopped sleeping normally, waking up in the middle of the night to go study.
Everyone in my family was tremendously supportive, all patting me on the back with various versions of “You can do it!” I remained unconvinced. The time pressure was the real killer here. I was sure I could do this, given enough time. Say, 2 or 3 years. But not 6 months.
I finished the course materials, then threw myself back in again from the beginning. Then a third time. Each time revealed new weaknesses. Finally, after my 3rd time through, I took the practice exams with a week left before my final.
I managed a 76%.
I was crushed. Yes, it was a passing grade, but…a “C”? That was the best I could do?
Lor disagreed. “You worked harder for that C than I ever saw you work for anything in your life” was her take on it.
I would have to settle for it: I was out of time.
Yesterday morning dawned early. Real early in my case. I was up at 2 AM, in a complete panic about the exam coming up at 8:30.
There was nothing else I could do. I resolved that I would not rush, that I would go through the exam multiple times, that I would read each question several times before answering. Breakfast was out of the question. My stomach dipped and rolled frantically as Lor drove me to the testing center.
150 questions. 3 hours. This is what the last 6 months of work had finally come down to.
After my meticulous progress through the exam, it was time to press the “Submit” button to have the test graded. I probably sat there for 5 minutes, willing myself to click the button. Only the fact that I was convinced I would throw up if I waited any longer forced me to move.
The spinning wheel rolled for a moment as the PC thought, then I was presented with a “You Passed!” message.
My final score? 77%
I have never been prouder of a C in my life.
Jeremy Schofield, ACE Certified Personal Trainer