Just over a week ago now I failed 2 exams. Not just the 1 I figured would give me some trouble, but the 1 I thought I’d cope with too. To put them into context, they’re exams 10 and 11 out of 16 I have to take to become a qualified chartered accountant and it’s the first time I’ve failed.
Queue the middle-of-Sainsburys-chocolate-binge-buy-tear-streaming-call to hubby.
Failure does not mean game over. Failure does not mean you can give up. Failure does not define you. I’ve had lots of ‘failure’ over my life and it’s taken a long time to figure out how to deal with it properly.
1. Were your expectations realistic? It’s ok to say no.
We give ourselves these horrendously high targets to achieve in every aspect of our lives. Social media quite often boxes up the idea of perfection in a little square frame and sticks a pretty filter on it. So it’s sometimes hard to admit that your life isn’t actually a colourful menagerie of neatly lined nail polish and that you can’t take on everything at once because you’re not super human and have some very human flaws. In truth I’d given myself 4 weeks to learn 2 modules worth of material. Sure that might have been possible if I didn’t work full time or if I’d given up all contact with the outside world, but hindsight as always was a little late to the party.
I’ve been in a bit of a rush lately to try and finish my exams as quickly as possible for various reasons. But I’ve ended up with a one step forward two steps back sort of situation. So I’ve made some new goals which I hope are much more realistic this time around. At the end of the day I have nothing to prove to anyone except myself that I’m not a quitter and I can achieve what I set out to do.
2. Surround yourself with people who inspire you
If you train for a sport, you want to train with people stronger than you to challenge yourself and make you stronger. The same principle can be applied to everyday life. If the people around you are motivated, inspiring and high achieving, you naturally get to share a bit of their energy and zest for life to help fuel your own actions.
John Green explains this much better than I can in his Ted talk from a November 2012 where he talks about the community of learning.
I have people who inspire me everyday with their strength, their humour, their gentleness and their perseverance. Try and keep your eyes open for them, they’re not always the loudest or outspoken in the room, but they tend to have the greatest impact on your life.
3. You don’t owe anyone anything
Coming from an Asian family I was surrounded by certain stereotypical requirements to get top marks, get a good job and earn lots of money. Failure and anything less than perfect was not acceptable. Just saying now, I had an amazing childhood and love my parents dearly, this is just how they were brought up and what was also the norm around them so I begrudge them not for trying to pass this on to me. But I slowly came to realise that I should really be achieving for myself and not anyone else.
I dropped out of reading engineering at Uni in 2005 because I realised that it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. I couldn’t see myself as being an engineer for the rest of my life. I was doing it to please other people, to make other people proud of me and because it was seen as a more ‘prestigious’ career option. But you know what? The people that love and respect you will do so whatever you do. My parents have both since softened up quite a bit about such things. Yes my mum worried about me when I was earning pittance and eating out of Sainsburys basics cans of tuna as a self-employed musician, but she knew I was happy and was happy for me. She also happened to have a lot of faith in hubby’s (then, still a little wet behind the ears boyfriend’s) common sense-ness about everything so she probably figured I’d be ok either way!
So I failed an exam (or two). Life isn’t all about exams. I’ll figure it out one way or another, then recoup and retake. Going to long way round doesn’t mean you’ve failed and doesn’t mean you’ve given up. You’re just taking the scenic route and it’s just as beautiful.