4 min read

Comprehensively Distinct, or, I PASSED MY COMPS I PASSED THEM

Comprehensively Distinct, or, I PASSED MY COMPS I PASSED THEM

Here’s what you need to understand.

Wonderer Beneath the Sky of Snow

I’d been having a very stressful week. Worry over performing well in the oral component of my exams was overshadowed by worry for my family and the intense flooding in Gatineau (though house is holding steady, it’s an island right now, with the forests and fields around it submerged, the road to it quite drowned); worry about my cats, who were under the weather; worry about the weather, more generally, because in addition to three times the expected amount of rain for April, we were looking towards snow in May, and everything felt and still feels apocalyptic.

Two days ago, the backpack in which I carry around my laptop and everything I’m working on broke badly enough to need to be retired for repair. Last night, one of the cats was sick all over the bed late enough that we couldn’t be bothered to do anything but strip the sheets and sleep in the spare room. But I couldn’t sleep; I tossed and turned until around 2:00 AM, woke at 6:00, forced myself back to sleep for a little longer, then got up and took myself to campus, figuring I’d find myself some food before sitting down with the committee for two hours.

When I arrived I saw the university centre, aka the building with food in it, was shut down because of a fire alarm test. Also it was snowing — not idle, incidental flakes, but a full on flurry.

I took a long route around to my building (that tall one) on an empty stomach, dropped off my stuff, attempted to go back down for food, waited 10 full minutes for an elevator (because half of them are being serviced), found food and tea, brought it back upstairs with a minute to spare, only to feel the tea leak all over my hands at precisely the moment one of my committee members was extending her own hand to shake it.

This was not the most auspicious of beginnings.

Everyone was very understanding while I ran around finding napkins and took a much-needed bite of sandwich and just generally recovered myself — and then we started talking, and I basically blinked and it was two hours later.

I Passed With Distinction. One week ago I had despaired of passing at all. But the best part was just how organic and easy and wonderful was that conversation; wide-ranging and deep-delving and thoughtful, inviting me to make connections I hadn’t made before, to the point where I frequently forgot I was being tested on anything and just thoroughly enjoyed myself.

My sister and I have often observed something to each other about playing music: the rush of performing, of feeling all that practice come together, leaves us hungry for learning new pieces and performing again. I definitely don’t want to write another comp — but once I was given my grade and floated up the stairs to my office, I looked at the books I hadn’t gotten a chance to read and felt hungry for them. I look at my comps list and want to cover everything, to stitch them into the tapestry of that conversation I felt we were building between us, to grow worthier of the regard and esteem of these incredible women and the knowledge they shared.

It was beautiful. I loved it. I feel so grateful that it all came together — the stress, the anguish, the fear — in this easeful grace.

Last week, while I was deep in the doldrums, terrified of writing the comp, I spent a tearful couple of hours on the phone with my dear friend Claire. She told me she was putting some firebird finery into a box for me, to play dress-up with, even if none of it fit — she just wanted me to open a box of red and gold.

When I arrived home today I found it waiting for me, as if to say here are the clothes and colour of your triumph.


So I played dress-up.


That there is my Circlet of Distinction. My friend gave it to me. My friends, my family, give me so much. I feel so loved and grateful I can hardly form the words. I feel like sugar lit on fire and dissolved into tea. But in a good way?

In a good way.