the art of failure
October 8, 2010 § 1 Comment
I don’t remember when I became a grade nazi. I can’t pinpoint the moment I realized I was able to earn perfect scores, or more importantly, the moment I felt the lasting satisfaction that excellent grades — not just good grades — could afford me. Ever since, I’ve been addicted to the feeling.
Hopefully without seeming like “that girl” (you know the type I’m talking about) over all these years of study, I have been the kind of pupil that grade grubs the life out of an exam, and even when my average boasted a strong, proud, perfect 100, I’d be the first in line to do the extra credit anyway.
I don’t know where it comes from. My parents, outliers of the Asian parent stereotype, always encouraged me to work hard and do well, but they never pressured me to be perfect. Today, my mother said, “I will always love you, even if you get bad grades. Don’t be too hard on yourself.” Never pressure. Always reassurance.
I know that, to my mother, if I can manage excellence in learning while also being a happy, healthy, and good human being, she will be satisfied. And I hope she is satisfied.
Because right now, I’m not. I’m a type A personality, and type A folk like the letter A — followed by a plus sign. In all my years of undergraduate study at NYU, I received only two grades of B, and the rest of the time I floated in a sea of A+, A, and the seldom A-. Those Bs weigh on me to this day, stick my sides like thorns, and it’s stupid.
I know I’m ridiculous; my standards are too high. My boyfriend reminds me daily about how nerdy and outrageous my standards are. He’s mostly right. I almost cried today because I sit at the lower spectrum of A… on my first exam in this strange, frightening world of science. My first exam. An A-, and I’m freaking out, on the verge of tears, ready to scream.
It might sound like a bad thing to have, but at the end of the day, I have a feeling my standards will take me further than they will ever bring me back. What I’ve got to do is not only learn to love the feeling of success, but to also harness the effect that (relative) failure has on me and to translate that into a passion for the challenge of overcoming what I view as failure. I can’t get wrapped up in the pain that failure gives me. It should make me want more. More chances to prove I can do this. And I can do all of it.
At Columbia, I’m learning bit by bit. I’m building for myself a solid foundation for the rest of my career. I’m learning more about myself, my strengths and my limitations. I’m learning when those strengths happen to also be my limitations, and I’m figuring out how to put all the pieces together to make a better me.
Stepping back into life as a student, type A and all, I’m growing up.