A Letter to My Honors Examiners

imgres-5To My Honors Examiner:


Dangling Apricots. When we meet in 106 days and start our conversation masked as the oral examination, I will deliver, with all sincerity, that humorously abstract phrase. You’ll be intrigued, we’ll awkwardly laugh as if students normally utter such non sequiturs, and I’ll catch you up on what dangling apricots, “which, like unruly children, make their sire/ stoop with oppression of their prodigal weight,” signify in the reign and demise of King Richard.1

I won’t be able to communicate to you how my study group giggled, squirming like tickled pandas in the middle of Sharples, when one of my fellow troopers nonchalantly tossed that quote out as an important passage. Surely, it must be a crucial passage because it had been scribbled, out of any context, in her notes. The most important notes during seminars are the unfinished, barely legible pen marks that attest to your frantic efforts to catch the spontaneous bouts of wisdom that vanish as soon as you realize their worth. As focused college seniors, we then proceeded to outline in detail exactly how we would theatrically use “dangling apricots” when we meet you, because, what’s a conversation about Shakespeare without some drama?

I don’t even know who you are yet but when we make some small talk, you will probably ask me about my experience with the Honors program. I will probably tell you in a very conventional manner that Honors preparations were grueling but rewarding, that in the end, it was an experience that I would repeat if I could. I can’t, but if ever I increase the statistics on the Quaker Matchbox, I’ll advise my kids to partake in the Honors program.

I’ll give you a sneak peek of what I’ll tell my kids, though. The task, 106 days away, is pretty daunting in the sheer amount of material that I need to recall, retain and articulate. I’m honestly not going to spend every minute of my free time reviewing. I’ll spend a couple hours here and there, mostly because I have a responsibility to my fellow seminar students to contribute engaged and thought-provoking insights in discussion. We all know we hate that kid in class who doesn’t really have anything to say but just blabs. No one wants to be that kid. Precisely for that reason, seminar inputs are stellar and on rare days, the inputs synergize to form a collective output that is greater than the sum of input made by individuals. And kids, that is exactly why I’m in the Honors program. Those achingly rare days demonstrate to me the beauty of kids busting their butts to remain afloat. The camaraderie of “we’re all in it together” whether “it” is The Titanic or a hot air balloon that euphorically dawdles amongst the clouds.

My study group is the remains of a F2012 seminar. More than half of our troop has graduated, with rumors of what they felt about the exams, how they prepared for it, who got what Honors distinction, and more.  Frankly, the only lasting part of their Honors examinations is what the underclassmen gossip about as we prepare for our own because no examination can truly test, validate or invalidate this experience. No examination will recognize the subtle lessons that I may be gleaning by making painstaking leaps of faith. I hope the legacy of the dangling apricots survive the rumor mill.

Best Regards,

Cathy Park

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