Even though everyone experiences failure, nobody wants to broadcast them. And it’s definitely hard to talk about them at a competitive school such as U of T. When you’ve experienced academic setbacks at a high-achieving school it’s hard to convince yourself that you can bounce back from it. At least that was the case for me. I saw the ‘failures’ as now-permanent features of my character and less like ‘stumbles’ or ‘setbacks’ (which, in the grand scheme of things, they actually were).
So what’s important when you’re trying to bounce back from setbacks?
When I was legally allowed to work and ready to become a contributing member of society, I applied to be camp counselor for a kids’ summer camp. Although I was practically a child myself and the only knowledge I had of summer camps came from an old Scooby Doo episode about a haunted campsite, I was offered an interview.
When I stepped into the interviewer’s office, he jumped up from his chair and pointed at me. “Is it really you?” he asked, in awe. “Are you the genius who put down Microsoft Word as her special skill? I’ve never met anyone so qualified and so accomplished. You are now the CEO of the summer camp. Wait, scratch that. I now dub you CEO of summer itself.”
Needless to say, my first interview for that summer camp job did not go quite as smoothly as this scenario (I never heard back from the interviewer), but it did teach me a few lessons about myself and my career aspirations, as well as the surprising benefits of failure. Of course, my experience also taught me about the dos and don’ts of interviewing (come prepared, know about the company, rehearse questions beforehand, etcetera—you’ve heard these all before), but the most valuable lessons I took away from the experience were about myself and my career explorations.
It’s tough to feel confident when you’ve had setbacks. Very few of us can immediately bounce back after some kind of a failure without feeling burned for a little while.
For me, returning to school after a few years away proved to be a bigger challenge than I had thought it would be. I bit off more than I can chew in an attempt to make up for lost time and ended up paying the price for it—academically, mentally, physically.
But what good is it wallowing in past failures? Starting this school year as a full-time student again, I try to keep in mind the things that I learned from my disappointments and the mindset and new habits I want to try to stick to going forward. Here, I present some of the “tokens” of my learned lessons.
Happy end of October! Hopefully many of you have reached the closing round of midterms and are either eagerly or miserably anticipating your grade. While studying for U of T tests is stressful, getting your mark back afterwards can bring on its own type of stress.