I don’t know about you all, but when I first learned I had multiple sclerosis, I felt utterly powerless. Weak. Beaten down. Cornered. Cowed.
Yes, I experienced all of these negative feelings (and a hundred more besides) in the first year or two after my diagnosis. But after time, I started coming back to square and feeling more like myself. Sure, things were different, and they have been for almost 17 years. But I adjusted to the new normal, got back out there, and made the best of a very strange situation.
That doesn’t mean I always feel that way. I’m 42, and in some ways, I’m still very young and in tune with the rapidly changing world around me. But there are also times when I feel so incredibly old and out of touch, like the world is rapidly leaving me behind, like a used toy in a collection bin dropped off without a second thought.
Recently, I’ve felt more uneasy about my career and where it’s headed in the post-COVID-19 world, if we ever reach it. (Please, Lord, let us reach it soon!) I wasn’t sure my current skill set would be enough to give me options in the future, so I decided to bite the bullet and try for a PMP certification. (PMP stands for project management professional, by the way.) Having the certification would give me something to bargain with in case I needed to get a new job, and it would validate all the work I have been doing for nearly a decade.
If you’ve never heard of the PMP exam, let me just tell you this — it’s hard. So hard, in fact, that roughly 50% of first-time test-takers don’t pass. You must answer 200 questions in 240 minutes. Some are formulas, others are ethics questions. Some are straight-up fact-based questions, while others require you to choose the best of four equally valid options.
I started taking a six-week online class and studying my head off. For 13 weeks, I studied about four hours a day without fail, and on every single one of those days, I still didn’t feel ready. Honestly, I felt like I did when the doctor told me I had MS: scared and totally out of my depth.
Each morning when I started studying, I had to remind myself that I was capable and that I could do it. I even wrote a quote from the incomparable Alice Walker on a Post-it note and stuck it to the base of my computer monitor to motivate myself: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
On Dec. 4, I walked into the testing center and sat for my exam. It felt impossible. I second-guessed myself on more than half of the questions and had to go back and review them. I used every possible second of the four hours, and the test window shut down as I was checking the last question I had marked for review. And as I sat there breathing heavily and shaking, the words I had been wanting to see popped up on the screen: “Congratulations! You have passed the PMP exam.”
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