Stories tend to be better when the outcome is uncertain. Desperation makes deliverance all the sweeter.
Consider the 1988 World Series. I didn’t watch any of it live, but I have seen highlights and read stories about it. The classic moment–a moment that will live on forever in baseball lore–occurred in Game 1. The favored Oakland A’s led the Los Angeles Dodgers by a run in the 9th inning. The most feared closer in the game, Dennis Eckersley, was on the mound. With two outs and a runner on base Kirk Gibson came to the plate as a pinch hitter. Gibson was injured. He had been a critical part of the team all year, but going into the World Series he had injuries to both legs and a stomach virus. He hobbled to the plate and quickly fell behind in the count 0-2. Gibson and the Dodgers were one strike from defeat. And then he hit a home run. I get chills when I watch that highlight, and I’m not even a Dodgers fan.
The next day the Dodgers won Game 2 by the score of 6-0. Orel Hershiser threw a complete game shutout. Mike Marshall hit a three-run home run. But no one remembers that game. Everyone remembers the game that came down to the last strike.
I had one of those game today. It was in the form of my comprehensive exam retest. My first attempt in November had gone terribly wrong for a variety of reasons. The second chance was an extension of grace from my committee, but it was a final chance. Pass and continue on with my pursuit of a doctorate; fail and get terminated. When I surveyed the historical fates of students in my situation it was not encouraging. So I had 89 days to prepare for the retest. Those were 89 stressful days.
The test today went better than I had dared to hope it would. Sure, it had rough patches. Yes, there were times I felt rather stupid. But it did not spiral into one of the disaster scenarios I had dreamed about (both daydreaming and traditional dreaming). After the exam was finished and I found out I had passed, the image that came to my mind was of the miracle scene in Pulp Fiction. Vincent and Jules look at each other in amazement, we’re still alive! Winston Churchill once declared that “There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.
So for this one night I will celebrate my close encounter. I walked on the edge. I faced imminent defeat. Only one strike remained. And then good things happened.
I haven’t slept well in two months. I may sleep for two days now.
Then I’ll get back to work. There is much to be done.
I have no idea who Brooklynn is, but this clip of her winning a race captures my graduate school experience so far (my first comprehensive exam occurs at 1:13).