If you were to ask high-school-me to describe myself I probably would have said I was driven, humble, and, successful. Since I was a teenager, I believed that I was going to be widely successful in the future and that I’d be surrounded by people with the same mindset, but life after high school had other plans for me.
Entering university, I was so confident in my abilities that I decided to continue the job I had been working during my one-year hiatus from school. I entered the adult education system totally unfazed and admittedly unprepared. I was so convinced that I could learn in the moment that I showed up to my first day not knowing where my classes were, what books to get, where to get them, and how to make friends.
I told myself that it was just a bad first day. That bad day lasted until the end of the semester. My 30+ hour work weeks, paired with a full-time course schedule, were finally catching up to me. In December, I raced to an exam that I hadn’t even studied for. After that, I failed my first class.
I would love to tell you that I was able to turn it all around from there, but I would be lying. I failed another class and was put on academic probation. While all of my high school friends were enjoying their university experience with their new-found besties, I was at home—scared, lost, and alone. I didn’t know how to tell my family I was failing. I thought they would be upset about all the time and money I wasted, so I decided to hide it from them.
I knew that I had to quit my job, but I just couldn’t bear the thought of being in debt well into my thirties or forties. I had always envisioned a life where I was on my own right after university, able to fully support myself. I was currently living at home, so I could save up money in order to venture out into the world, without having student loans weigh me down. If I had quit my job I would have failed at being an adult, I would have failed at living out my dream.
If I quit, I knew exactly what my family would have said, “Your older brother worked his way through school, why can’t you?”
I was all alone, struggling to decide my future. I hadn’t made any close friends at university and my old friends didn’t seem to be going through the same troubles. I couldn’t shake the feeling of failure, it seemed like no matter what direction I took I was risking some dream of mine. I was torn between what I knew I had to do and what I thought I would be giving up.
After a while, I realized that it was time for me to be responsible and fix my mistakes. The first thing I did was quit my job. I had learned my limits. Yes, I wanted to have a good financial future. Yes, I wanted to gain experience in my field. And yes, I wanted to have a good education behind my name; but I couldn’t tackle that all at once. All those things take time and effort. I had to focus on what needed to be done now so I could have all those things in the future.
I started the new school year still feeling defeated, but I was determined not to quit, so I reached out to an academic advisor who gave me a list of goals I needed to hit to get back on track. After a quick trip to the Career Center, I started pondering new career options outside of law school. I had finally started to turn the tides in my favour, even finding a job that worked around my schedule.
One day I ended up browsing the volunteer resources section of the school website and found a local helpline in need of volunteers. This seemed like a great opportunity to gain experience in my field. But, did I know anything about loneliness, depression, and anxiety? I thought back to what happened last year; I would have given anything to talk to someone openly and honestly about my struggles. Still, I was just some first-year failure. Why risk the embarrassment of being rejected?
I reminded myself that I had overcome failing first-year, so I took the risk and put in my application. Failing didn’t break me then, so I knew it wouldn’t break me now. I got the volunteer position and not long after that, they hired me. I was given the opportunity to interview nurses, bankers, and executives all of whom were looking to gain crisis experience so they could enter the criminal justice field—my dream field. I was interviewing them for an experience I already had. How did I get here?
I went into university thinking I could have it all, and instead I just ended up a hot mess. I chose to pick myself up and learn from my mistakes. Rather than letting it define my future or keep me from chasing my dreams, I used it to better myself. We all fail at something at some point, whether it’s on that last test, or missing that last step on your way down the stairs. It’s never fun, but what comes of it might be better than what we had planned. Today I embrace my failure with pride, because I understand the struggles and lessons I’ve gained from it.