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pink electric guitar

My last post – kind of blue – came on the heels of my WSET Diploma exams for Unit 4 (Spirits) and Unit 6 (Fortified Wines).  I referenced Miles Davis’ song So What as it related to my feelings of freedom following the exam.  Well, recently I got the call with my results – I passed both exams with great success!  What a relief.  (This wine study thing is getting all the more fun.)  I reveled in the news briefly then got back to business.  The business of study, that is.

Last night I was reminded of Pink’s same-titled platinum hit from 2008 – So What.  Hmmmm…there seems to be a theme here.  Her catchy chorus goes:

So, so what?

I’m still a rock star,

I got my rock moves

And I don’t need you.

I understand why Chris Willman of Entertainment Weekly praised it as a great anthem of “bluffing and bravado”.  That’s how I feel right now.  I’m so excited about my results, but I have this sense of needing to convince myself I’m going to be all right.  The fact is, I’ve got to work my tail off to finish what I started.  I’ve got my rock moves, and what I don’t need is this bad guy called Doubt.

Welcome to Unit 3, probably the most dreaded and doubt-filled part of getting the Diploma.  This is my current undertaking.  Most people find Unit 3 as the most difficult, based on the pass rate.  The test includes blind tasting 12 wines; yes 12, out of countless possibilities covered in our syllabus.  Further, there is a theory paper to write over three hours comprised of five surprise questions, designed as essays, paragraph-style, or structured responses.  The pass rate is low, particularly on theory.  How low?  It varies of course, but here’s the average pass rate for the last three exams offered:

Tasting – 73% (okay, not bad)

Theory – 43% (ugh)

These are the kind of numbers that cause Doubt.  But rather than focus on the statistics, I think about a simple quote by the late Nelson Mandela:

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

So, I keep moving.  My very deliberate study plan takes 25-30 hours weekly (plus 2 hours of class each week), over roughly 24 weeks, until the exam in June.  I recall the advice given to those of us signing up for Unit 3:  Quit your jobs if you can.  I know why they said it.  The studying undeniably takes a boatload of time.

Right now I’m knee-deep in wine books and maps and charts and corks and tasting notes.  Chaos, it seems.  But I rest in knowing my chaos is organized.  I trust the trail I’m on and I keep moving forward.  One chapter, one wine, one day at a time.  Before I know it, it will be June and what seemed impossible will be done.

This morning I read an excerpt from Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal.  As she wrote about her desire to be a fine writer, her personal journal said:

Start with the soul and perhaps

the temporal gifts I want to exercise

will have their chance;

and if they do not,

I have the best in my hands already,

the only thing really needed. 

God must be in all my work.

Yes.  In all my work.  Including and especially my study of wine.  I keep moving, I work hard, I feed my soul and trust God on this path.  And so what if the pass rate seems daunting?  Hey, I’m still a rock star and I don’t need you Doubt!