Learning to Pursue Success Despite Failure

Author: Valery B.

Photo on 8-31-16 at 6.07 PM #3With summer waning down and the school year just around the corner, many students are anxiously awaiting and preparing for the challenges to come. Whether they are taking a plethora of difficult classes, managing dozens of clubs and after-school activities, or preparing for standardized tests, millions of children, adolescents and young adults find themselves stressing over very trivial things, which, frankly, do not have any impact on the qualities of their lives and futures. Even though failing a class, receiving an unexpectedly low score on a SAT or ACT type of test, or being unable to participate in a beloved activity due to a Mental or physical illness is not pleasurable, it does not, by any means, render a person as a failure. Everything is amenable and, thus, does not deserve to be stressed over; however, if something is just not working out – no matter how much effort one exerts towards it -, then it simply is not meant for one to do. And, that is OK! 

For me, understanding the concept of not being meant to do a certain thing was, perhaps, the biggest academic challenge I had yet to face. This came in the form of standardized testing. I spent roughly three years preparing for the SAT, spending countless hours studying by myself, with textbooks, and with tutors. Though my Writing/Grammar scores would improve periodically, my Math and Reading scores would not budge. Although I was not surprised by the adversity I faced with reading, my math trouble came as an utter mystery. All my life, math was my strongest subject and one that I particularly excelled at on every level; unlike any other discipline, math attracted me because of the creative logic it forced me to develop when it came to solving problems. I honed this creative logic as I passed from one level to another and continuously learned to build on it as the material became more challenging. The SAT Math section was, thus, a breeze for me – or so I thought. I would finish within 15 minutes of the time allocation and would feel confident with my answer choices. I had no problem scoring well on my own and with my tutors; however, when the actual test would come, I would not score anywhere close to how well I would think and prepare myself to do. My score would levitate around the same number for all of my three tries, and I would not be more disappointed. How could someone, with such a strong math background, have difficulty with a seemingly straightforward test? 

I would cry for hours on end. But, the crying was not because I was pitying myself or asking for comfort. Rather, it was because my scores simply did not reflect my capabilities. I knew that I was a good math student. I knew that math was definitely a subject I wanted to further inquire in college. But, how would others, knowing my scores, arrive at those truths? How would College Admissions Officers react to those numbers? Did this mean that I was a bad student?


It took me a long time to understand and accept why my scores did not reflect my strong suits. It turned out that when I would test, I would experience severe testing anxiety. I could not tell you exactly what caused it – whether it was the limited time or the pressure to receive a high score -, but my malfeasant feelings would build up so extensively that my mind would, subconsciously, stop working.

As I took more and more standardized tests, including the ACT and several SAT IIs, I realized that the anxiety was linked with the tests that I spent the most time studying for – those that I felt I needed to get “perfect” scores on. Conversely, on the test I did not study for – the one that I decided to take “just for fun” -, I did surprisingly well on. Too bad that was the last test I had yet to take!

My experience with testing unveiled a very important fact about me: I simply am not good at taking time-constrained tests. To my disadvantage, those tests will comprise my future; however, now that I know what to expect, perhaps the pressure, anxiety and stress that I feel each time will gradually alleviate. Perhaps, I will slowly learn to relax, breathe, and accept that a score on a test will neither diminish my qualities as a person nor dictate my future successes. 

I may not be a 2400 SAT or 36 ACT scorer, but I surely am and will be a successful, influential, and strong human being!

I recommend that everyone share this way of thought. There will be things you are not good at, things that you spend immense time working on and still reap poor results. But, that is OK. Why? Simply because for every one thing you may not be good at, there ten more things that you are good at. The beauty of life is discovering those “goods” and “bads” and acting appropriately upon them. It is, perhaps, far more easier to learn what you may not be good at rather than search for what you are good at. So, do not be afraid to test the waters or, even, go for a swim. You may be bitten by a little fish or lose sight of the shore, but you will not drown. You will learn whether the swim was or was not for you, and, that, my friend, is a beautiful thing! 

-Valery B.


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