First of all, let me say this: Failure is never a beautiful experience. Especially when it’s still fresh and you can literally taste it in your mouth. It is a horribly bitter pill to swallow (I hate pills).. Anywho, this post is not about pills, but about failure. having dealt with failure before, you’d figure this time it would be better. But failure is like death, the more you experience, the less you get used to it. More so because every fresh experience is never exactly like the last.
So, this year was supposed to be my graduation year. I looked forward to that wonderful celebration ceremony in December.. But the thing is, the way my degree is setup, it takes just that one random course for your one major to mess up your whole degree. Just one! And it did. Just like a major loss, the experience of failure follows the same logic of certain steps in the grief period. The first being Denial. When I got my June results, in my heart I expected at least a pass of 50 across the board for my psychology courses. However, in my heart of hearts I was afraid I would fail all three and consequently get excluded (That did not happen, thank God!). Someone might say, well surely you’ve failed before, what makes this experience different or unique? Well, for starters, those failures I experienced in the past could be fixed within the same year and did not threaten my whole degree and my ability and hopes to graduate in record time. Secondly, the greatest insult is knowing that you were 2% away from a pass! Knowing that only 2% stood before you and being capped by Max Price (Or Graca Machel if you’re lucky) in December and thereby declared a UCT graduate. That is what made this experience unique and therefore much devastating. Therefore, when I got the results, and realised I had passed all my courses except one, I thought “surely this can be fixed, with enough luck and a little dose of grace, hopefully before I have to tell my family the devastating news.” (Negotiation stage). Well, it turns out I was wrong, at that point in time, it was already too late to fix anything. Then I became depressed about it, like seriously depressed, especially when I finally realised that actually, this is happening. My degree is being extended and I have to graduate in June next year. Notice that I did not go through the stages in a linear or successive manner, but I assure you, I went through all, if not most of them.
I finally realised that I had to accept the situation as it is. I had to own up to the fact that I contributed to my own failure. Sure, I mean I had gone through a hard time during first semester, gone through the most emotionally trying time of my life. But in the midst of all that, I also contributed by not handing in my tutorial submissions on time, if at all at times. However, playing the blame game either with myself or the circumstances I went through simply wasn’t gonna cut it. I had to recognise what had happened, accept it and plot a way forward. That’s exactly what I did. Now came the time to tell my mother, who by that time had already been planning a trip to Cape Town for my graduation. It wasn’t easy. I wasn’t prepared to hear the disappointment in her voice, so I sent her an sms. She took over two weeks to reply… I could sense that, not only was this a sense of loss for me, but also for her as well since she had been making all of these plans, but eventually when she called, she sounded fine. That was good enough for me.
The point of this blog however, is to encourage anyone who is going through any form of failure, even if it’s not academic. The point is to basically show that it happens to the best of us. I come from a background where almost everyone thinks I’m invincible, especially when it comes to academics, however, the fact is University and school are two different environments. That’s the first point I want to make. And secondly, EVERYONE fails at some point in their life. It’s a normal part of life. It’s a normal occurrence. But because we live in a society that is obsessed with perfection, excellence (not that there’s anything wrong with excellence) it becomes a tragedy to fail. Some have taken much more drastic steps and actually ended their lives. And I honestly understood how they felt at that moment it hit me. I really understood what would drive someone to actually end their life, because what goes through their mind is that, they have disappointed their family, their community, sponsors, and the list goes on and on. At that moment the person is not thinking, “My life is more valuable than this, I am bigger than this” and all those positive affirmations. What is going your mind when you fail is that “I am a failure, a disappointment and therefore maybe it would be better for everyone if I wasn’t here. I actually considered suicide, for like 5minutes, then I thought better of it. I decided I am not gonna go out like this. I am not gonna be a statistic. I am not going to form part of “Another UCT Student takes own life” headline on the side of the road on Main road on the Cape Argus or Cape Times mini billboards. I just want to take time to demystify this whole notion of “mature Christians don’t have problems because they are so cool, calm and collected”. That’s a total myth, if not a lie straight from the mouth of the father of lies himself, the devil. There’s also a myth that has trapped most Christians that promotes the idea of not discussing your problems in public. Well, how do we then hope to help others if we don’t have problems? If we don’t have challenges, how do we then hope to help those who have challenges? If we don’t fail, those who fail ultimately become hopeless and cannot relate with us because we are so perfect and without blemish, therefore they feel the constant need to come up to our standard. Christ is the standard, and no one else!! If we are not real humans with real problems, then we become abstract ideas that only a few can dream of attaining. But if we are real humans, with real problems, then we become approachable and therefore useful in people’s lives.
Lastly, I want to stress this: Failure is painful, it is real and it is depressing. However, it is not the end! It is not the final determinant of your life. It is just a minor setback, but not a hindrance to God’s plan for your life. You may not reach your goal in the set amount of time that you want to, but it doesn’t mean you will not get there. Therefore, above all, just remember one thing: Jeremiah 29:11 God says “For I know the plans I have for you….” Those plans don’t change just because you’ve failed one course or two. or even three. You may even face exclusion or become excluded from university even… But that will not prevent God’s plan for your life. I have couple of friends who can testify to that effect. Sometimes when we even pray fervently to God, sometimes He does not give us the answer we expect or what we want, but He definitely gives us what we NEED! Therefore, don’t allow failure (in any area of your life) to hinder your vision of the ultimate goal you and God agreed upon. Most importantly, failure does not hinder God’s plan for your life.