Saturday, December 29, 2012

my (recent) story of failure.

at the end of february twothousand eleven i set some goals: i'd run a second marathon, i'd take my first mft exam, and i'd sing a song in public. i gave myself threehundred sixtyfive days, making the completion day march first, twothousand twelve. as march was approaching, i'd finished the marathon and the singing escapade but i'd neglected to study for my exam. i put it off and postponed the exam date until i realized i just needed to take the damn test, regardless of the amount of studying i didn't do. at the time, it was more important to complete the goal regardless of my preparation for the goal. i think this was symbolic of twothousand eleven- one of the most difficult years of my life; i needed to know that some of the central components of who i was were still deep inside me: courage, diligence and drive.

 so i went to the testing center on march first and took the first of the two exams. you learn the results immediately following the exam so when i read the big red letters FAIL i wasn't terribly surprised. okay maybe they weren't bigger than the standard twelve point font but they were red. either way, i failed. in that moment, and in the weeks following, shame followed me around like a rain cloud in seattle.

i began processing my failure in therapy where i was quickly reminded of all that i've achieved. we talked about failure and why it was so significant to me: it was more about letting others down with the perceived expectations people had of me than it was about my own expectations for myself. for some reason, because i didn't waltz into the test and pass without studying, i now would be classified as stupid.

slowly i told people here and there but the most monumental experience of sharing my failure was when i told my small group of high school girls. showing these four girls that i could fail and my life didn't come crashing to the ground and that i could even still be successful in my career was what we all needed to hear. i was humbled by their response, but more so, i was grateful to show them that attending a good college will still be an option if they don't have straight a's, perfect sat scores, and more extracurricular activities than they can count on their toes and fingers. we laughed and talked about ways each of us had failed recently. we talked about what it meant to be smart, what it meant to live for (the perceived) expectations of others, and what it meant to have expectations of ourselves. it was so worth it. i became a little bit more human for those girls in that day.

i went on to put in significant time and effort to study for the first test. i took it over again on november twelfth and passed, which opened up eligibility to take the second test. passing brought me a new confidence and i decided to put everything into studying for the second exam. december seventeenth at eleven in the morning i saw a green PASS on the screen. the feeling of completion overcame me; the journey of becoming a marriage and family therapist started in a classroom in august of twothousand seven and it was finally finished.

failing that first exam and bringing my shame into the light has been the most significant part of this career journey. i am grateful.

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