My Examination Tap Dance

My Examination Tap Dance
by Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe

Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe’s school photo.
I have always suffered with exam anxiety. This condition has caused me hair-raising moments, physical ailments and absolute horrors of the mind. What escapes me is why? I recall a day in grade nine when I was so physically sick I could scarcely wait to finish the exam and get a cold Coca-Cola, which always seemed to help. Only as an adult did I understand that I was probably low on fluids and blood sugar, and the Coke corrected the physical problem at least.

All the pressure at exam time would hit me like a blow to my solar plexus. Never having failed any examinations I am unsure now if the anxiety drove me to do well or if doing well caused me to have anxiety, because I did not want to break my record. Either way, I just know that I would be terribly unwell when put through the rigors of examinations. However, I worked through it, all through school and nurse’s training, and beyond, as I did other courses and studied new things. I don’t think anyone realized just how stressed I was. Migraine after migraine, wiped out for days, nausea, cold sweats and sheer panic were part of my wretched examination history.

But there was a time when I tap danced through my examinations. I am sure my parents would remember it because I was totally unreasonable during my grade 10 exams. My favourite place to read and study was the kitchen. Now why someone would choose the kitchen in a busy household shows just how unreasonable I could be. Struggling to get through chemistry, a course I needed to be accepted for nursing was dreadful. I didn’t do chemistry in grade nine in the small school I attended, so in grade 10 I was doing both grades in one, because we had relocated and I was attending a bigger school. Now two-in-one may be ok for Certs breath mints but it wasn’t ok for me. It brought sheer agony. I would sit at the kitchen table making up acronyms for the chemical symbols and would be outright miserable.

I think my parents and siblings must have decided to leave me alone one evening. I had the kitchen to myself. It was wonderful! Then I heard drip, drip, drip, glub! And realized we had an annoying kitchen faucet. I got up time and time again, marched to the sink and pounded my fist on the tap, stopping the agitating noise. I would just get back to the books when there it would be again—drip, drip, drip, glub! I leapt up and repeated the procedure. I even put a cloth under the faulty tap, then a cup, then I stuffed a paper towel into the faucet, but nothing worked.

I was two feet off the floor, mad as a hatter, actually dancing across the kitchen to the sink, the longer it went on. My level of anxiety increased with each tap pounding, which continued for an hour and a half. The drip and pound was my activity, not studying chemistry. I was half crazed, nerves shot, and angry! Things deteriorated rapidly.

The tap dance continued until I was at wit’s end. Nothing would stop that thing from making the noise, and nothing could stop me from making each smack at the tap more aggressive. Disgusted, I decided to leave it and try to concentrate.

That worked until I finally completely all-out lost my cool, composure and common sense, and made up my mind that the last glub was going to be just that—THE LAST GLUB! And it was!

Drip, drip, drip, glub!
Tired of it all, sick to my stomach over chemistry, with darkness falling, my siblings coming through the door, followed by my parents—all came together to turn me into somebody I did not know, or even like for that matter. I heard the giggles from the children, Mother telling them to put their bikes away, and then the glub came—the last one. I flew across the kitchen and pounded on the faucet. I pounded and pounded, harder and harder, until the faucet fell off and crashed down into the sink! Smashed, crumpled, finished, broken, but no more drips and glubs!

Just the way I wanted it to be! Why didn’t I do this before?

“Well now, was that necessary?” My parents had the tenaciousness to ask as they entered the kitchen.

I turned to see my whole family staring at me. So I stared back. But the best of it was, there was no drip, drip, glub, I had finally fixed that. I was commanded to take my books and go to my room. So I did. I should have been there in the first place.

Father got the tap fixed, I passed my exams, and my brothers and sisters told all of our friends and classmates what I had done. Some cheered, and some jeered! I didn’t care, no more drips for me! A bad example had been set for my younger siblings, but as they grew I could see they would have done the same thing if put in the same circumstance. I danced across to that tap just once too often. I also danced my way into trouble with my parents, then I proceeded to dance my way through the exams. So, all was well!

But if you suffer from exam anxiety, don’t smash taps! It just causes a whole bunch of hassles and proves nothing. My tap dancing was a prime exercise of a crazed mind, and surely you do not want to be like that. I am a good example of a bad example, if you follow that!

It was the chemistry that did it! The chemistry in books and the chemistry in my brain were a poor combination! I never failed an exam. I just caused household disturbances, and created untold misery for myself! Oh, dear! -I just heard a drip, drip! I think I feel the beginning of a dance!

Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe is a retired Registered Nurse living in Shoal Harbour, Newfoundland, passionate about photography, writing and her family. She has two grown children and one granddaughter, who all live too far away from her in Alberta. An anthology of short stories called Up Til Now is available through