Failures, Set-Backs and Resets
As I get older, I’d like to believe that I’m gradually doing a better job of handling failures and set-backs.
Life tends to teach you that as long as you don’t give up completely, you’ll recover, you’ll readjust and a new unexpected path may open up, leading you to where you were supposed to be.
The failure or set-back is actually trying to put you back on track. It’s sometimes intended to stop you, and give you a chance to reevaluate what’s important, reset then forge on.
It hurts to write this, but I was placed on academic suspension from my grad school program.
I’ve spent the last two years working extremely hard, while working full-time, fighting each semester to avoid academic probation. The times I’ve failed to do this, I always missed the necessary gpa by a tenth or two tenths of a single point. It’s a feeling akin to being an olympic athlete missing out on a medal or the difference between gold and silver being only one point or a fraction of a second.
I’ve heard the saying that when people fail they should “fail miserably.” They should put it all out there.
But how do you console people who fail when they come really close to winning?
I’d already completed more than half of my program requirements.
Three math-related classes, one of which I had to take twice (which resulted in a B+), one of which I got a C+ and finally the last that I’ve failed completely was keeping me from my Master’s degree.
In my heart I hoped that I’d squeaked by.
But the reality was, taking two classes while working was too much for me. An hour commute each way, was taking its toll. The burn out was real as other projects for work began to increase and deadlines loomed.
I found out this information only a day or so after being shaken from a car accident, during which I was not injured or my car damaged.
I attempted to log into my new class that just began and I was locked out of the system.
After making some phone calls and finding an email from my advisor, I was given notice that I was suspended and dropped from my current class.
The feeling was overwhelming. The tens of thousands of dollars in debt that had already accumulated felt like the weight of several large rocks on my chest. It was hard to breathe, the backs of my eyes began to warm and sting with salt-laced tears.
This degree was supposed to be my victory lap.
It was supposed to be my fuck you to the depression I felt in previous years, and the sense of accomplishment I was longing for.
This degree and program represented me returning to a person I once knew. A woman with purpose who was motivated and could face any challenge.
I got used to this identity and the way people would express their admiration for my ability to juggle work and school and go after a dream.
And it felt like it was all taken away.
I do have options. I can and will appeal to the dean and if my appeal is accepted, I could be back in class as soon as the summer under the academic probationary conditions. I probably would not be eligible for financial aid, because I’d been on probation before and was granted an appeal on the condition that I wouldn’t be placed on probation.
Or, I can wait the entire year-long suspension period and reapply to the program only 15 credits shy of graduating.
I was also told that I could try to transfer to another program.
Failure hurts. There’s no getting around it. But being an adult, you don’t have much time to lick your wounds. You have to get creative, and figure out alternative ways to reach your goals, or understand that circumstances may delay your desired outcome. Above all else, you have to protect your sanity and your health.
I’m very disappointed, and I’ve been spending the last few days wondering about what it is that required this abrupt halt in my plans. What is it that I have to reprioritize and reevaluate? What do I have to go back and learn or do just for me?
I asked myself if I deserved to be in the program or if I reached too high. I didn’t study any of this stuff in undergrad, and yet I had the audacity to pursue a Master’s degree.
But I had to stop myself from that level of thinking. I did deserve to be in the program, I did deserve to pursue a masters level degree in this area. But it did make me think about the school and the feeling I had been feeling along the way.
Is this abrupt stop a moment to let me figure out if my current institution really fits me or was I more concerned about the brand name? There were some things about the program and about the lack of connection I felt between myself and the faculty and students due to the nature of it being online and a highly competitive program.
Is there another place where I could transfer and get the type of education that I really wanted and the connection that was important to me, that I thought I could do without? I still have a lot to think about. A lot.
You all know me. I’m not a quitter. But on the other side of 30, with bills and debt, how you execute not quitting, has to be realistic and strategic with self-care at the forefront of every decision.
It was hard for me to write this post, because I have an image of me that I like to present to the outside world. It’s an identity I’ve shaped for myself, that I’m proud of. And in most cases, I’ve always been able to back it up.
I’m still me. And if anything, what happens next will be more of a testament to my true identity. And at the core of everything I am, there lies and will always lie a woman of resilience.