Last night I tried out to be on Jeopardy. It was a fluke, really. Several days ago somebody turned on the TV after dinner and Jeopardy was on. I sat down to watch it and remembered how much I used to enjoy the show. My daughter sat down to watch it with me and I had fun impressing her with the answers I got right, even when the contestants got them wrong (It's a lot easier to be right in the no-pressure atmosphere of one's own living room, I suspect).
I started deliberately turning on the TV at 7:30. It was a little bit of a departure for me; I don't consider myself a big TV watcher. But I found something soothing about watching the questions come up and getting several right in a row. Just when I would start to get self-congratulatory, I'd have a streak where I'd either get questions wrong, or have no clue as to the right answer. It took me down a peg, but not in any bad sense; just a knowing little reminder not to get too big for my britches.
A long time ago, when I lived at home and used to watch the show with my mom, I thought idly about trying to get on the show, but never with enough energy to figure out how. Then a couple of nights ago, Alex Trebek reminded the TV audience that the Jeopardy online test was being given the next night. Apparently it's only administered once every few months, and you have to register and be ready to take it when it's being given. Who knows what I would have done (or not) had any great effort was required, but my computer was a scant few steps from the TV, so I registered and was given a confirmation number to log in for the test.
Last night, I logged in carefully. The test window popped open, with a countdown clock until the actual test began. I loomed near the computer, jiggling the mouse so the screen wouldn't go dark. My kids were warned, in the nicest possible way, to stay clear until at least 9:15. The test started at 9:00, with fifty questions and fifteen seconds apiece to read and answer each one.
I was nervous until the test started. Isn't that always the way? Waiting is so much more stressful than acting. I got most of the questions right, I think. I left a fair number blank because I had no clue, and took a wild guess at a couple of others. But most of those I answered, I felt confident of.
But here's the thing: You can't find out your score. That is so hard for me, a person addicted to feedback. If you fail the test, you just won't hear anything. If you pass the test, you might not hear anything. So many people pass that the Jeopardy people just randomly pick some for further testing. They don't even tell you what "passing" is. Just that if you did, you might get called to audition. Sometime within the next year. Maybe one week from now, maybe fifty. Then it's another 50 question written test, and a mock Jeopardy game, and a personality interview. Then, if you pass all that, you'll be placed in the contestant pool. For up to eighteen months. And you might get called to be on the show--but you might not.
When my daughter came home from school today, the first thing she asked was if I'd heard from the Jeopardy people. When I told her I hadn't, and that I might never, she looked at me like I had just told her I'd donated her allowance to the Hare Krishnas. Why bother trying something if you might never know how it turns out?
I felt that way initially. And then, suddenly, it felt like a gift: all I had to do was show up at the appointed hour, do my best, and step away. No need to worry about my habit of being attached to the outcome (did I get a good score?). No comparing my outcome to other people's outcomes (did I get a better score than that guy?). I had no less control over the outcome of this situation than any other situation--my kids' health, whether I get a job I apply for, whether somebody likes me. The only difference is that I knew to be detached from the outcome right from the start.
Show up. Do your best. Wait. What will be, will be. Good rules--for Jeopardy tryouts, gardening, parenting, and life.