I really thought I was over this feeling. Thought I'd left it all behind me, and grown up, or got over it, or widened my lens big enough to know that these things just don't matter.
But, I just got my first mark back on a uni assignment after a long time not studying, and I realised that actually I do care what other people think of my work and the precise numerical shape of their evaluation.
I'm not going to say what my mark was, or how much it was worth because that, at least, I know isn't relevant. I think it's kind of funny, though, how marks can make you feel, especially when you know that they don't mean anything. Like an actual punch in the gut. Like suddenly getting your period in a public place. It feels exposing. And then it feels really fucking heavy.
I think we live in a time of over-evaluation. We seem to need so much data to make things work, whether it's ride-sharing apps, or Netflix, or school curriculums. It's a problem of measurement, in some ways. It seems logical to get data on school performance from test results. But it seems quite illogical to teach only so that students can get good marks on the test, to turn data-gathering into a performance.
And the fact of testing is itself a barrier. Tests are stressful and horrible. That's why when I have to get an Uber I give the driver 5 stars. Because I can't bear the thought of a person being judged every fifteen minutes in a day. I just think it's a level of social confrontation that doesn't need to be there for either of us. Is this an advance in technology? Me, getting a ridiculously cheap taxi and then having the freedom to affect this person's ability to earn an income, based on my own random expectations? Who can accept that level of embedded, almost feudal, social injustice?
When you do something as an adult that you once did as a younger person, you can kind of re-enact the ways you got to think the way you do. When I was in high school, I was really a rubbish student. I would panic for three weeks and then start assignments the day after they were due. Once, I was so late doing a presentation on blood doping in sport that the only source I consulted was an old copy of the Macquarie dictionary.
Then, in college, I started getting given good marks. It was extremely weird and incredibly pleasurable. With every score I felt more and more like a beautiful, intelligent butterfly emerging from some sort of crysallis of chronic ineptitude.
We had this big yellow sign blu-tacked to the wall at our school that said 'you are not your UAI', and we used to look at it while we did endless exam prep. And what I thought was, no, you are not your UAI, but I am my UAI. I wonder if I would have thought that if the sign wasn't there. Or if I never started getting the good marks.
Data is supposed to take our flawed decision-making out of the equation. But, one way or another, everything runs on judgement. It's a handy skill to trust your own.