I’d characterize yesterday as an epically bad day in my 46 years of life, and while the turmoil had nothing to do with the SAT, my December scores did not help.

Yes, I do realize (intellectually) that I should feel happy about my Reading and Writing scores; but honestly, that Math score feels crushing, like a bully.  Today, well, I’m trying to see it as my Buddha.

The worst part was telling my son. I swear to you, he looked at me with these big, wide, honest to god eyes of surprise, and said “really?” —  like he truly couldn’t believe his mom didn’t do it.  I think I’d actually convinced him that hard work pays off (that’s what I thought!).

But he’s a sweetie, and he quickly focused on my Reading and Writing scores, telling me how great they are, blah blah blah. In fact I got all sorts of encouraging emails from friends and family:

“I know it’s hard to remember at times like these, but these scores are not a judgment. They’re just numbers ….. You did your best and gave it your best shot.  That’s what’s most important — the process, not the outcome …. Your scores are fantastic – you’re 40 points away from an 800 on CR – do you know how many parents would kill for that score?? The 730 on writing just puts you in your range.”

They made me feel better, in a supported sort of way — but deep inside I couldn’t help feeling like a high school senior who just found out they didn’t get into their first choice college, and everyone writes on their Facebook wall: “You’re too good for them…. It wasn’t meant to be….. There’s a better school for you…”

And that’s all true, but it still feels devastating.  At least it does for me.

At the end of the day yesterday, I received an email that truly did lift my spirits. It came from a high school senior whom I’d never met:

SAT scores came out today! How did you do? I hope you did well. I know you’ll get a good score, and congrats on completing the project! What you did was very inspiring, especially for high school seniors. I just thought that I would let you know that you motivated me to study, and I went from a 1630 (520R 600M 510W) (junior year) to a 2300 (700R 800M 800W) (senior year).

I need to print that out and post it at eye level on my bulletin board.

I haven’t fully processed how it’s possible that I spent dozens and dozens of joyful hours studying SAT math over the course of 10 months, and hardly improved at all from where I started without knowing a thing last January.  My friend Catherine says it’s one more piece of evidence that a solid curriculum is essential, and without that, no amount of SAT prep in the world is going to improve your score.

For all intents and purposes, I didn’t learn a lick of math after 9th grade (until I began this project).  I’m thinking about taking a math class at my local community college — and just starting from scratch.

I’m not done.  I have to pause in order to write a book right now, but I’m not done with the math.  I feel incomplete.

If there’s anyone else out there feeling disappointed by their SAT scores, here’s a quote that I have posted in a few places around my house that seems to help:

If you have the privilege of being with someone at the time of his or her death, you find the questions such a person asks are very simple:

  • “Did I love well?”  
  • “Did I live fully?”
  • “Did I learn to let go?”                                                      

                                 — Jack Kornfield



llustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis