Put on my shoes and rewind four years ago. You are fourteen, and the law is forcing you to make a decision. A decision that will impact your educational career and the rest of your life. The decision determines whether you will be on the elite side of the educated generation, or if you will be occupying training for jobs where even the homeless would cringe. The only thing you need to know about this is, if you take the risk, you either succeed, or you fail without a second chance.
Now as I approach the end of my seventeenth year of life, I stare time straight in the face, and remember the critical moment when it caught up to me, and even I could not escape completing “The choice”. This “Choice” was an old Czechoslovakian traditional obligation every young adult had to undertake when he or she graduates middle school. As a student put in this position, you have two choices, but only one decision. You can either risk to be a student of the elite high schools by taking a standardized test where only one out of six pass, or you can go the safe route and chose a highschool specified in one direction. Both determine what you will be studying for the rest of your educational career. Say you go for the first choice. That will mean you will be tested on everything since the beginning of your school career, with a bit of advanced material with the purpose of thinning out the competition. If you decide to take the test, but do not pass, there is no safety net to catch you. Failures have no other option than to go to school where drop outs go. School where society will look at you as if your intelligence, social behaviour, and overall ability, was lower than the ones of the elite.
I, myself, would rather take my chances with the possibility of failing, rather than to cry into the lap of regret. And so I did. I took the risk. I can still recall the gray color of the classroom the test took place in. As I sat down, the skin of my almost bare legs clothed in summer shorts felt a rough pattern of the old desk, made from cheap scrap wood. The desk left a cold shiver down my lower body. Cold, that is the perfect description. Cold it certainly was. Cold, as the supervisors stare who watched the short but persistent movements of the clock. “Twenty more” is what we students heard from a steady ecco resonating across the gray walls. I started to get nervous. Time was running out, and test questions were rushing in. Soon enough everyone started to get nervous and their nature did not bother to hide it. The smell of sweat debilitated the warm air with the combination of a cold briese that slowly bled through the window, opened by the supervisor. Next followed a loud clicking sound increasing its frequency by every second. All of a sudden: “Five more”, - finally - I thought to myself, not feeling any relief from the time statement, but from the interruption of the disruptive sound of the clicking pen that was building up inside of me. I could no longer hear the supervisor, nor the clicking pen. At this point, I could only hear my thoughts.
“Is this really what I want?” said my inner voice that pushed out the momentum of the focus I had reserved for the test questions. “Do I really want this? My grades do not qualify to meet the standard scores. What would make me succeed against the mass who like vultures jumped on this opportunity the same way I did. What if I don’t make it.” All that was occupying my last thoughts as the bell stroke its last move just before five minutes vanished to its very last second. I closed my eyes with a feeling of settlement, for I took my changes. What was done was done.
When would I know what determination did my future have? It was exactly a week from the day of the test when a gray envelope, noted with a few small letters, laid on the side of the wooden gate. The letters formed two names. The first name was mine, and the other belonged to the school I did the tests for. I could not guess on weather I was on the successful side, or the side of the failures. And the color of the envelope did not help with it at all. No black or white. No good or bad. Just gray. I did not think about it any further and just tore the envelope open. I closed my eyes. I wanted to know. When I opened, to my surprise, there was no black or white. No good or bad. The letter stated the following:
“ Dear applicant. We would like to thank you for restoring your future education in us, however, you do not fall into the category of the accepted students with outstanding test scores. We would like to inform you, that the number of students being accepted had broden, and we offer you an opportunity to join our waiting list. Thank you for consideration. Associate principal staff…”.
I was not accepted, but at the same time I was not disfavored. And once again, the same way as I did in the classroom, I just waited for time to run up. Oppose to the time spent taking the test, when I didn’t want time to pass by, I now wished for the clock to go against its persistent drumming beat. I wished for the clock to win the race against its inner opponent - time.
Second week, second mailbox visit, second envelope. This time I came to the gate late in the evening. As the night awoken from its waiting for day to end, my surroundings got dark. The night was cold, as the left over hope of my small ambitious self had left some for this moment. As I slowly returned to the house, my warm fingertips gripping onto a white envelope carried the relief of my waiting. I closed my eyes. I opened my eyes and the envelope. I read. There was no longer black, there was no longer gray. There was a few letters that formed a few names of accepted students from the waiting list. And the first name the letters formed was mine.