on disappointment and failure…

Posted by on Jun 24, 2013 in perspective | 0 comments

I reached the final screen of the test, and was faced with two options. Accept my score and receive the unofficial score report or reject the score, stand up, and walk out like I was never there. They give you two minutes to decide before they automatically delete your test, and I sat there for a good minute thinking about the past three and a half hours.

Essay…fine.

Reasoning…decent.

Quantitative…not good. Even with all the equations I memorized and scribbled in the margin of my scratch pad, I could not seem to wrap my head around question after question full of letters, exponents, and quadratic equations. Then, I didn’t realize how slow I was going, and had to guess at about the last 10 questions because time was almost out. Visibly shaking, I clicked through the last couple of questions, knowing that my score was trending down…down…down…and I still had one more section to complete.

Verbal…I knew that I needed to get a slam-bam score on my last section to salvage my score, so I buckled down and worked my way through it.

Back to the final screen. Accept or Reject. I thought maybe…just maybe…so I clicked “Accept”, covered my eyes, and then peeked out between my fingers. The score popped up. Not what I wanted…or expected…

Somehow, I made it out of the testing center and down the sidewalk to where I was meeting Ben for lunch without losing it. Then I lost it.

Disappointed. Frustrated. Mad. Sad. Irritated. All the feelings that come when things don’t work out the way you expected.

Today it was a score on a test, but it wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time that I fail at something. Not that it made today’s disappointment any easier, but it did make it more survivable. And I was able to eke out some perspective over the next few days, some lessons learned when faced with failure.

The first was how essential it is to have a solid support system when you are in a position where failure is possible. Something difficult, something new, something risky…if you don’t have someone who believes in you more than you believe in yourself, you might as well throw in the towel at the start. I couldn’t have asked for a better support than Ben throughout the whole process, but he was especially amazing afterwards, when I fell apart in the middle of the sidewalk.  He bought me lunch and we talked through all the possible scenarios (while I blubbered). Then he went back to work, dug up the admission materials for the school I’m looking at, printed it all off, and put it in a binder for me. How’s that for great support?

The next “must-have” is a healthy dose of reality. Is what you are striving for actually feasible? I remember saying to Ben the night before that I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull off the score I wanted, because none of my practice scores had hit that mark. Probably a pretty accurate statement, and I think that stands true no matter what you are attempting. Yes, miracles happen, but you still have to be realistic about your capabilities and your skill set. I have spent my whole education and career focusing on business and communication from a people perspective, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I wouldn’t be “up to speed” on math related topics. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s like expecting to catch a 100 yard touchdown when you have never even caught a 70 yard throw. Silly.

Lastly, I remembered once more how important it is to not have your self-worth tied up into things that are temporal. I found myself slipping into these awful feelings of self-doubt, and that’s definitely not where I want to be. It is so easy to only feel as good as your last accomplishment, forgetting that we are all more than our last test score, our last job interview, or our last work project. So much more. I think I need to tattoo it on the inside of my eyelids, “Rachel, you are more than enough”, because every time I forget, I find myself fighting insecurity and stalling out. Not a good way to live.

So, I didn’t get the score I wanted. It totally stinks, but life goes on. It doesn’t change who I am as a person or how competent I am. And maybe it’s plenty anyways…because I’m a totally awesome doctoral school candidate. Ben said so…

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