Tag Archives: failure

I am woman.

Let it never be said that I didn’t walk into the lion’s cage.

Broadly speaking, Spain has been a wonderful experience.  Academically, it’s been a never-ending crockpot of failure.  And furthermore, so unfun, except in the two classes I am doing the worst in (ironic, isn’t it?)

So on that note,  let us recognize that which the rest of the world so vehemently seems to profess and I have adamantly denied since kindergarten   Grades matter, but they aren’t always the best measure of improvement.

I think I’ve always rejected this claim on the basis of the absence of objectivity.  I’d feel better with myself if I upright faced failure rather than rationalizing it away.

In my father’s words, “You can either use it as a kick in the butt, or you can whine about it.”   If I pretended falling short of my goals was okay, then I was tricking myself into feeling better.

We are suppose to fail, right?  (hence the fall first)  So aren’t we cheating ourselves out of something if we call failure anything other than what it really is?

Spanish is not something that I’m good at.  I think I’m not good at it for the same reasons I could never get good marks on Strunk & White Grammar tests in high school.  I stink at grammar.  I can’t put raw language in lists and make a story about it (how I passed AP bio).  I study in CSS, because it all is a story–history, where ideas comes from, how ideas form governments, etc.  This stuff excites me.  I just have to think about it and apply it.

Anyways, I think there is real merit to studying outside of your strengths.  Unfortunately, outside of your strengths, stuff is a lot less fun.  Maybe because, I don’t know, you can’t/can barely pass your tests.

All to say, this semester is open range shooting on my GPA, but at least I can take pride in coming here anyways.  Doing it in spite of knowing how hard it would be.  And what’s a couple numbers in comparison to all the other experiences I’m getting along the way?

on the river, Valencia





What goes up

This post was originally titled, “Please don’t say I told you so,” but it no longer seems a appropriate.

I’d been looking forward today by pretending it didn’t exist.  Tests are hard, and I knew I would probably be getting the two tests I took last week back.

I busied myself with chintzy grammar exercises while I waited for my law professor to arrive this morning.  He is always at least 30 minutes late.  When he came in at 9:30, I knew the exam return was for real, because he never carries anything.  Clutched in his left hand was a small folder.

After dolling out the homework for next week, he pulled out a sheet with all of our grades.  I thought he was going to post it.  When it became obvious that he wasn’t, I thought he was going to call out our grades by our student ID numbers.  Nope.

He just yelled out our names and grades, in front of everyone.

I don’t know how Rowe ended up at the beginning of the alphabet, but I was one of the first grades he called out.  My heart practically melted inside me.

Before I can say what I got, I must explain how grades are given out here (at least as best as I’ve been able to understand it).  It’s on a scale of 1-10, but  nobody gets 9s and 10s.  A 7 is good, and anything above 5 is passing.

Recalling that this is the class that I was literally incapable of reading the textbook at the beginning of the semester, I wasn’t hoping for much.  But somehow I cranked out a 5.3.  My slow, deep exhale was much akin to the involuntary sigh I gave out after my oral comps exam last spring, to which the history examiner smiled a little and said, “Relieved much?”

I thought for sure the professor must have smudged my grade a little, but it was a straightforward 20 question multiple choice test.  There’s no way.  I just passed it on my own.

Imagine my surprise when the professor continued to yell out the scores, and mine, that of  the befuddled and practically-formally-illiterate foreigner was higher than almost a third of the class.  Guess effort counts for something, though as my next class proved, it offers no promises.

Commence language class.  This course has actually been the best, most valuable class I’ve taken here in Spain.  As opposed to inane theoretical legal concepts cheaply rooted in philosophers we barely even study, I literally use the concepts I learn in language all the time, and it’s actually fun.

Unfortunately, enthusiasm and inclination to talk in class does not transfer to five page exams.  It wasn’t disastrous, but it was still pretty darn ugly.

But the hard thing is, I really have no idea what else I could have done.  I started studying early.  I asked questions.  I met with the professor one-on-one.  I wrote a custom study guide.  I sought out online resources.

It wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that the first test really was disastrous.  I was counting on this one to work its magic grade raising capabilities.  And now, all that’s left is the final.

I hate it when you get evaluated and people say, “I’m sure you did better than you think you did,” because they have no idea.  When you get the test back, you can say in the long run it all doesn’t matter, but that depends on what long run you are talking about.

If you’re talking about law school, it all means a lot. (Side note: I’ve been having a lot of developing thoughts about law too; expect a post on the topic soon)  In the long run very little matters, but does that mean we shouldn’t care about it now?

Lesson from all of this?  Wish I could tell you.

Thursday Night Rush

I feel like it’s time to own up to something.  It’s something akin to that feeling I get on Thursday nights when I have a great idea for an essay, but no idea how in the world I’m going to defend it.  Usually, at that point I just have a fascinating, yet somewhat outrageous thesis that I picked just because it seemed fun to write about.  But here’s the secret: (shhh) I really just make it up as I go.

And that’s how I feel tonight, like there’s a thesis burning on my chest and I haven’t figured out how to articulate it yet.

I had dinner with an old friend a couple nights back.  We did a full year catch up summary of our lives.  I was astounded by how much has happened in the last twelve months.  I went so through much that life 1.5 years ago almost feels unrecognizable.

This year, I stood before an angry crowd and with softly quaking knees, and though I nearly feel backwards in sheer fear,  somehow my voice remained loud, steady, and strong.  Though I was intensely frightened in a way I had never known, my eyes were sharp and observant, instead of welling up with tears like they should have been.  I don’t think the feeling I had in my gut at moment will ever fully leave me.

I’ve had opportunity to freely disregard every principle and virtue that I cling to, and yet I still cling to them.  Sometimes I get so tired of fighting it and defending myself.  I know everything doesn’t have to be confrontational, but it seems as though there is so much in my face that necessitates a response, especially at Wesleyan.  I’ve been in so many situations were if I didn’t say anything, no one would.  Then there’s that whole actually trying to effectively communicate with people who aren’t always completely open to my ideas or just, honest to goodness, have no idea where I am coming from.

That leads into another important thing I’ve learned this year, how to pick my fights.  Maybe I should be more clear on this point.  I’ve started learning how to pick my fights.  In music, pianissimo often has a greater effect than forte.  The world is loud, which makes quiet stand out and the louds more meaningful.  And how you say something (definitely) matters just as much as what you say.  Furthermore, always fighting, especially when it includes some loosing, generally leaves one a bit exhausted, and I would hate to become a bitter old woman.

This year, I learned how to pray for who challenge me.  I’ve faced no real giants, so I’m not claiming to have triumphed over anything extraordinary.  I’m just saying that prayer has become my response to that “oh-my-gosh-I’m-going-to-burst-why-doesn’t-anyone-see-the-flaw-in-that-logic” reaction to something that seems to me to be extraordinarily nonsensical.  It’s how I’m able to keep from becoming a bitter old conservative at Wesleyan and actually learn to love the place despite its flaws.

I’ve learned how to recognize nuances and think independently of the people I look up to and admire.  It doing so, I’ve learned how to view my own accomplishments, mistakes, and failures a part from what certain people think, and while it means almost nothing to anyone else, knowing that I had the opportunity to sell-out like you would not believe and didn’t, makes me think that I might have the ability to successful in this area later in life too.

I’ve learned how reachable my goals are and committed myself to a defined short-term calling.  I’ve been pondering this whole goal-setting thing for awhile.  Some things I’ve wanted in life have been unobtainable, like the grade I wanted to get on Comps (epic 4 part, 8 essay, 7 day test) or getting into Yale as an undergraduate.  Not meeting these goals hasn’t done anything to to keep my mind from its task as a linear cartographer.  I set a path, and I see where I’m going.  Now, I’ll veer off that path if necessary, if I think God is leading me in another direction, or if I just fail, but that path gives me something to work toward.  To me, it’s like mental push-ups.  I hope to always have the courage to call the goals I’ve not met in my life failures, because that’s what they are.  But more importantly, I hope that I always have the strength of character to recognize that failure in meeting my trivial goals 1) by no means means my life is totally derailed 2) In no way changes my value as a person.  That comes from God and that doesn’t change.

So, with that in mind (failures and all) I’ve been awestruck by realizing how accomplishable certain goals I have for my life are.  I had the pleasure of being seated next to Chris Long, CEO of ISI, at dinner last week.  We had a great chat, but what was impressed on me the most was that I actually knew the people he was talking about — personally.  The world of American conservatism really isn’t unreachable.  I don’t know exactly where I’ll end up or what I’ll be doing (other than the fact that I am definitely going to law school), but I have some general ideas and realizing that this world that I’ve spend my whole life looking up to really isn’t that far away really means a lot.

My friend at dinner a couple nights ago, pointed out that I am an initiator.  Perhaps I should have been aware of that, in fact, I can think of friends who would smile at the obviousness of such a statement.  But I had never thought to describe myself as an “initiator.”  “Leader”, occasional “risk-taker”, “friend-seeker,” sure, but “initiator”, that’s a new adjective.

I guess initiator implies that I’ll soon be running head first into a fair number of big mistakes in the future, like those that lead me to grow in all the ways I have in the last year.  But at least it also implies that if I’m open to something, or maybe more importantly, if I’m open to creating something, good things will come.  At least that’s what I’m hoping for.