Well, it’s taken me over a week to write this. Let me start by saying I’ve never failed a test – ever.
So, when I got my first Trig test back last Wednesday, and I got an F….I went in to shock! My first thought was, “This grade is out of 60, right?” No – it’s out of 100. The professor was going over the answers on the whiteboard, and I could clearly see every sloppy error I made. Forty-three of them, to be exact.
I was trying with all my might to squash the onslaught of feelings: vulnerability, rawness, insecurity, embarrassment beyond imagination, and the desire to flee the room so I could properly burst into tears. Instead, I mustered the best iron-clad expressionless-expression I could, and sat there, tortured, for the remaining hour of lecture. All I could think was – ohmygod, I straight FAILED that test.
In that moment, I remembered a Winston Churchill quote from a recent Instagram post I made, “Success is walking from failure to failure, with no loss of enthusiasm.” I kept repeating it in my head, the drone of the professor’s lecture in the background…”no loss of enthusiasm…no loss of enthusiasm…”
Walking from failure to failure, with no loss of enthusiasm…can I do that? This is pretty early on in my new education path to get a smackdown. Am I ready for this? Can I really do this? (Hello, self-doubt, my old friend.)
As I drove home from class, I wondered if I could get away with not telling my husband about this. Maybe he’d forget that I took exams this week and not inquire about it…which led me to the question, why would I keep this from my best friend/partner in life/husband/person-who-is-supposed-to-love-me-no-matter-what? Why hide?
But I desperately wanted to hide my failure, from my husband, from my friends and family, from the world. When I decided to write this blog, I promised myself that I’d include the ups AND downs of this journey. Well, not this one. No way. I’ll skip over this mortifying moment.
This is our human nature. Share the things that make us look good; hide the things that make us look bad.
Our instinct is to present our best side to others, always. We want our peers to see our successes, not our messy, behind-the-scenes crap. Our inner voice says, don’t show that dirty mess to anyone, how shameful; you’ll be judged, unloved, and everyone will know you’re a fraud.
So, I decided, after I was done licking my wounds, I would do the opposite of my instinct. I would tell you all that I failed. Big time. Like a big ol’ F. It happened! There you go.
They say we learn more from our failures than from our successes. When we fall, we have reason to reflect and thoroughly examine what went wrong. When we succeed, there’s less incentive to take a hard look at what went right. We just know we won, and move on.
I certainly learned a few lessons from this. Surprisingly, the main thing I learned had nothing to do with Trigonometry (ok, a little to do with Trig, like, don’t try to work out problems in your head, ha). It had to do with the experience of sharing your fails with people who love you.
When you can get up the courage to come forward and say, hey, I totally screwed up, I feel like the lowest of the lowest humans right now, the people who love you and root for you will surround you with a boatload of kindness and support. You can cry about it if needed, and laugh about it later. They’ll say, this is a bump in the road, not a stop sign. Gather yourself, and move forward.
Hiding your failures gives the failure power over you. It says, you should be ashamed; you’re a terrible person. You aren’t worthy.
Bringing your screw-ups to light diffuses the hold they have on your psyche. Friends will share stories of their fails, too, that might not have been revealed if you hadn’t had a big F of your own. Commiserating about our set-backs with each other can deepen our relationships.
Failing sucks; it’s painful. But, it provides a time of growth, stretching your limits, personal examination, re-evaluation, and recommitting to your goals in the face of adversity.
Without a doubt, this won’t be my only “fall on my face” moment on my path to med school. I won’t let that deter me, though. I promise myself to work hard, be prepared, show up and do my absolute best, and continue to move forward, with no loss of enthusiasm. And, with the support of my loved ones to prop me up, I totally got this.