One Wednesday some time last year.
We meet for coffee at Marigold’s and sit in the corner for our 10 am writing date. And in case you think we’re these super productive writers, let us fill you in on how most of our writing dates go. We drink coffee and forget to write. We just don’t write. Not one word. Laura is sure this is part of the process. Angie isn’t so sure.
In the spirit of not writing but intending to, Laura asks Angie how Will is feeling about his upcoming ACT. Angie has no clue because her then 16-year old son wasn’t very forthcoming about his plans, thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, friends or girlfriends. But anyway, and holy shit, here comes the lucky (if you believe in luck) part - Angie then learns that Laura used to work for the Princeton Review. And by work, we mean she actually taught kids how to take the test. Luck. Fate. Good fortune. Doesn’t matter, it’s like Angie just sat down and hit the ACT prep jackpot.
A: tell me everything
A: how should i get him ready?
A: besides standing in his doorway and yelling at him to study more
A: bc that doesn’t seem to be working
L: ok test is in 3 days, study time is over
L: here’s what you need to think about
L: how have you helped him prepare to focus for 4 hours? what is he gonna eat at each break to leverage his stamina? what’s the plan?
A: um, what?
L: ok, listen to me. he’s been studying, practicing and he’s ready. you need to fill him up with confidence. he needs to fully and completely believe in himself. it’s not always the smartest kid who kills it on the ACT, it’s the kid who believes he can.
A: um, what?
L: ok, let’s make a plan right now. he’ll wake up, take a shower and eat a hearty breakfast; then, he’ll gather his pencils, snacks, calculator, timer (you have a timer, right?); and then you head out. don’t talk too much, just fill him up with confidence. you can do this, you’re a natural motivator. motivate him.
Angie gets in her car and blasts the Pink song ‘Walk Me Home.’ She’s pumped up and is even more enthusiastic than usual. She thinks long and hard and comes up with her version of the perfect way to motivate Will. It’s a quote. It’s like a mantra. She’s sure it’s exactly what he needs.
She loves it.
She thinks he’ll love it.
Inhale confidence, exhale doubt.
He doesn’t love it.
He doesn’t even like it.
He hates it.
Text string later that day.
L: so how’d it go?
A: well, it wasn’t great
A: and by not great, i mean it sucked
A: i tried to build him up
A: but he wasn’t interested
A: he wasn’t even listening
A: but i gave him a great mantra
A: i think you’ll like it
A: inhale confidence, exhale doubt
L: i do like it
A: well, good thing we both like it
A: too bad we aren’t taking the ACT on saturday
Angie stands firm, she’s sure this is the right messaging and insists that if Will closes his eyes before each section of the test and inhales confidence, while exhaling doubt, he’ll feel empowered.
Fast forward, it’s test day!
7 am: Will and Angie wake up and the rituals begin.
Will is listening to tunes and getting pumped up, packing his snacks, sharpening his number 2 pencils and making sure his calculator is working and that he has extra batteries just in case.
7:15 am: Angie couldn’t be more pleased with herself and is reaching around to pat herself on the back.
7:45 am: Will’s phone starts lighting up; his friends are wondering where he is.
The doors to the testing center close promptly at 8 am in Morristown, 13 miles away and it’s 7:45 am. Oh. My. God.
‘We’ thought it was 9 am.
Immersed in her mountain of confidence-building hell, Angie got the time wrong.*
7:46 am: They jump in the car and drive 95 mph.
As you can imagine, the car ride is not relaxing, not inspiring and certainly not helpful in any way.
As they screech into the Morristown High School parking lot, Will runs out of the car while the proctor is shutting the front door.
Angie unrolls the passenger side window and considers saying something encouraging to Will as he’s running, but decides she’s said (and done) enough.
It’s a good thing she opened the window though, because if she hadn’t, she may not have heard a panting Will call out ‘don’t worry mom, I’m inhaling confidence.’
* And hold off on judging Will for not knowing the time; if your mom was as ridiculously organized as Angie, you’d rely on her too.