07 March 2010

Lesson #19: I will fail.

This lesson isn't meant to be a downer, believe it or not.  I'm not writing off hard choices down the road, or giving up before I even begin.  No, Lesson #19 is actually something I had to figure out in the last ten or twelve years, even though it makes perfect sense.

Sometimes, I'm going to fail.

I'm not sure why I've had to learn this lesson, because there are certainly things I've tried to do that haven't worked.  However, there's a difference between a setback with a hobby that I'm 'meh' about, and a setback in an area I've used to define myself - being a good student, for example, or forgetting the rules by which I mean to live my life.  Let me provide an example.

I remember my first C.  I got it in high school, freshman year, the very first paper due in honors english.  The assignment had something to do with trees.  I have no idea now what it was, I just remember it as 'the tree paper'.  I got excellent grades in elementary and middle school.  I was a good student.  I sat down, wrote that paper, and handed it in, expected to be at the top of the stack again.  And... I got a C.  To me... this was a huge deal.

I was so pissed off.  I remember I barely listened to the teacher's remarks.  Eventually, I got over it.  I figured out how to write a paper the way she wanted, and it must have been the right way, because that's one of the skills that was the strongest when I left high school.  But I still remember being angry, and disappointed in myself.  My identity as a 'good student' had been changed.

Fast forward about nine years, to grad school.  Three grad classes, three finals, squashed into a limited period of time.  I remember sitting in the library, notebooks and books and cards all around me, walking the fine line between melt down and sanity.  It was a lot of information.  There was not a lot of time.  This was the first time I realized this lesson: I might fail.

I could have fixated on this fact.  I could have sat there, freaked out, and only thought about how I was going to be kicked out of the classroom before they even collected my paper.  But I didn't.  I sat down, and I looked at my situation.  I looked at which class had the strongest grades, which class I was doing least well in... and I studied accordingly.  I turned in that biochem final early in the testing period... and failed.  It was horrible.  Failing, especially when you know you're going to fail, sucks.  But the As in the course kept me afloat with B+.  And the extra studying in the other classes got me an A- and an A+.  So I survived, because I accepted the simple fact that sometimes, I'm going to fall short of what I think I should be.

I think that's part of being human.  Even when we don't like it.

This lesson draws from a bunch of others, some I haven't written about yet... forgiveness, perspective, planning... but all I'm going to say is, that if I can accept that sometimes I will screw up.. sometimes, I will fail, or fall short, or not measure up... then I'm better prepared to learn from the experience and move on.  Life is too short to get caught up in the failures of the past.  Hopefully I can learn from them, and change, so I won't repeat the same failures in the future.

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