Energizing Failure

You know that kid in high school that has an audible and physical negative reaction to the idea of skipping class? That one kid who equated missing a homework assignment to losing a limb? The one who had an identity crisis if they got an A- or lower? I know that kid. In high school, I was that kid. I got a little crazy in my senior year–I got B+s, that’s right, B+s! I mean not like overall, but on individual assignments or tests. God. If one of my overall grades had been a B+, I…Ahem. I was that kid. I did not strive for perfection. I expected myself to be perfect.

Now some of you are saying, “Shit, Knights, ain’t you a theatre major? How the fuck do you deal with the expectation to be perfect if you’re an artist? That makes no earthly sense!” Honestly, I think some of the reason that I was drawn to theatre was that I knew I would always have to improve, but that I wouldn’t be able to exactly quantify my failure or success. I could just grow comfortably, learning more and more without being penalized for being a beginner. Theatre was freeing in that sense; I didn’t have to be perfect–and partially because of that, I wanted to be. Practicing theatre was and is fun and exciting because I knew I was taking something imperfect and improving it. I love that.

When I came to college–NU 2016, go Wildcats!, etc, etc, etc–I knew I couldn’t expect all As from every class all the time, or at least not right away. I expected to be shocked by some of my grades. I expected to get–gasp!–Bs, maybe even B-s! But I knew that I would immediately work those back up to As and then feel better about myself. I was excited about that, too–again, the potential to improve. But I still expected the alarm, the full out breakdown I would always have in high school if I got an A- or lower. I was dissatisfied with the Bs I received in Linguistics and Japanese, and started improving them immediately. I got a 79 on a Gender and Society test, but the median grade on that test was 74, and she was planning to curve it, so I thought “Great, all I need to do is improve on the next test and I’ll be solid!” Last week, I took my second Gender and Society midterm. I got it back today.


I actually laughed when I saw it. 53! Hilarious! Me, the straight-A kid, the smart-aleck, here I was getting a 53! I had failed! I was an actual failure! How–how, how…

How great.

That’s the exact thought that I had. How great! What? That’s the exactly the opposite of what I expected from myself. What the fuck? And then I remembered a conversation I’d had with a friend of mine right before getting the test back. I had told him that I was going to have two tests on the same day when we got back from Thanksgiving–one of which was the Gender and Society final–and his reply was, “Ooh, good luck–maybe.”

“Maybe?” I pretended to be offended. “You might not want me to succeed?”

“No,” he corrected me. “You might not need luck.”

I don’t. Fuck it, I don’t. I’ve done all the readings for Gender and Society, I’ve been to all the lectures, and hell–I know all the terms. I wasn’t properly prepared for my midterm because I’d had four other tests that week, and the format is something I’m still getting used to. I don’t feel lost or stupid or unsure. I just didn’t do well on the test. That was it. I wasn’t properly prepared and I didn’t do well. All I need to do well on the final is study correctly, study for more than an hour right before, and go to my teachers’ office hours. I started getting energized thinking about it–I could make charts and notecards and I could use my hi-lighters and I could become a fucking expert on the text and the test format. I didn’t need luck. I just needed to work, and if I hadn’t failed this test, honestly? I don’t think I would have done it. But a 53–when I do well on this test, and I will do well on this test, I will have almost doubled my grade. Doubled. My. Grade. I can think of few more motivating phrases.

Cliches about failure always used to bother me–“Oh, failure is important, oh, you learn from it, oh, it’s how you grow–” it honestly pissed me off when I was younger, because I knew I would be in deep shit with my parents and with my grades and with my possibility of getting into college and with my trajectory in life if I failed. But this is different. This is the shit I always read about in books. This is energizing failure.

I love it.

justagoose replied to your post: my friend just asked me if it was true that asian…

one time he asked me if steamed rice was the white rice and i said yes but he didn’t believe me so he go fried rice instead and was disappointed. he just does not know much about asia in general it seems.

I mean it’s not just Asia; he thought until a few weeks ago that lambs and sheep were entirely different animals, so…he just doesn’t know much about anything in general.