“Failure is not an option,” or is it?

Spiders, snakes, critters and crawlers, the dark, ghost, heights; is  your skin crawling at the thought of any one of them?  Does the thought of a snake or spider on you or even near you make you scream or screech horror movie style?  Or, do you have other more deep rooted fears?  Maybe, you are hard core and fear nothing, lucky you! But I doubt it, did I say that?  Maybe,  you have yet to identify what truly causes you to get weak in the knees and that’s OK.  But, it does make life easier when you can name your demons and strip away their power.

I have a deep-rooted fear, nothing that the physical world could alone invoke.  Because my fear was so hidden, it took another to guide me to it. For the longest time I could not understand why?  Why would anyone expose you to a spider if it caused you intense distress and angst?  Seriously, back off.  What if you you were not even able to recognize why you felt such distress but another provided you a serving in disguise?  And, how the heck did they know before you did?  For years I was baffled as to why and how?

The college years supply potential opportunities for personal growth and self-awareness. These opportunities may not always present themselves as you would envision. They may actually seem quite the opposite. I have always been motivated by my academic performance.  For me, school was very straightforward unlike the unexpected twists and turns of life. There is no study guide for life and the instructions can come from unreliable sources. In a classroom,  the expectations and the results are generally very clear.  I thrived in the rigor and rewards of academics.  It was and still is my little niche.  Of course, as an adult I have accepted life itself as a teacher.

Freshmen year in college is universally a challenging time for students.  For me, it was particularly challenging as I was coping with personal losses, namely a relationship with my biological father.  I was also adjusting for the first time in my life to not having my twin brother near me.  I can recognize these more clearly now, years later. Despite these challenges, I was able to maintain my grades to my satisfaction.  So…it’s all good right?  As long as I could perform, there was no need to dwell.  At least that is what I naively thought.  As long as I focused on my studies, nothing else could hurt me.

It would be mid-way through my Freshmen year that I crumpled.  It seems so trivial now, but at the time it was if a snake was around my neck and spiders of all shapes and sizes where crawling up my legs.  I cried for the first time, sober I should clarify, in years.  The most independent of a child always, I uncharacteristically turned to my Mom.

“I don’t understand what I did so wrong that she would give me an F?”, I sobbed to my Mom.  I was in shock, never had I failed (since first grade, another story) in school.  It was my sanctuary.  The shock subsided and I turned to correcting whatever vital flaws this Professor imagined in my paper.  But, I still did not understand the significance of this particular grade or why I was so upset by it.

Now, please let me clarify.  This is like trying to rationale with an individual with a spider phobia that spiders are generally not harmful and not being able to empathize with the fear they are experiencing.  If you have identified your fears, those that truly initiate freight, you may understand why this one stupid F made me respond so irrationally.  If not, trust me…it was not a rationale response but one that would allow me to eventually grow.

Days later, I met one on one with the Professor.  She was a beautiful sister with clear blue eyes and bouncy brown hair that I actually envied.  I sheepishly handed to her the revised paper.  We barely spoke, after all I had minimal experience on discussing what I perceived as failure constructively.  She gently responded,

“It is OK to fail, you need to know that.  Failure is part of life.”

I kindly nodded, completely baffled and left her office.  What in the world was this lady trying to sell to me?  My instincts told me she cared, but on the surface I felt as if she failed me on purpose to teach me a lesson.  Seriously, who does that? And, at the college level to a student in a very competitive major.

 I was a seemingly strong draft horse making distinct footprints in my wake, but blinders shielded me from recognizing such an authentic truth.

It would be years and years later, after I experienced failure in its rawest form, that her voice would graciously come to me again. And yet again, in those moments that rendered me utterly stripped without my approval, my silly ego and I  managed to get back up again and again. Each time, life rolling nonchalantly along…whistling I swear it. I took notice. 

Failure had been my personal demon, the mere thought of it driving me to extremes both in and out of academics. 

Today, I envision my Professor with her beautiful, clear eyes and I genuinely thank her for caring enough to expose me to what I truly needed to learn.  I am grateful to her for delivering this lesson; in a safe manner, under her watch and with her wisdom as the ultimate guide.  I only wish life would be so generous, or maybe…just maybe, it is.

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