It is not uncommon, according to my understanding of these things, for people to have dreams in which they forgot to complete an assignment for a class and are now thrust headlong into academic failure. Naturally, of course, these dreams haunt those for whom school is just a memory. I have never suffered from such nightmares and would like to share the secret to my peaceful slumber.
My education has taken place in several school settings that include home, private elementary, public secondary, private college, and public graduate. If I ever share opinions on education, chances are I have some insight on the topic from a student’s perspective. All that aside, the setting of one’s education is not really the important part of this. These nightmares are about performance, right?
When I was in early elementary school, I scored in the 36th percentile on a standardized test for one of the math sections, because I struggled with it and was too slow to come close to finishing within the time limit. A few years later, I won second place in an ACSI math competition, and then proceeded to medal in district math competitions all three years of middle school. On various standardized tests in high school, college and beyond, I’ve always finished the math segments well under the time limit, and with much better than average results. Failure lesson number one: Failure now does not guarantee failure in the future.
One year I received a failing grade on a progress report in spelling. Failure in this case was quite simply because I could not be bothered to do my spelling homework. Please understand that I do not usually check my spelling. It bothers me to no end if a word exists and I do not know how to spell it. Being unsure of spelling is a waking nightmare, that terrible moment when the mighty fortress of language begins to crumble around me. This brings us to failure lesson number two: Failure is not always an indication of inability.
I successfully completed high school and college and then took a three year break from school, during which time I did boring adult things like working a full time job. I was quite convinced that academia was the ideal career path for me, and I found myself enrolled in graduate school, once again living the life of a full time student. I hated it. I hated living off of student loans. I hated feeling guilty every time I spent time with friends because I had homework I could be doing. I hated the negative, critical and hypocritical atmosphere in a program that heralded open-mindedness, when the only open thing I saw was mockery of any ideas with which they did not agree. I hated the thought of spending the rest of my life in such an environment, so I did the best thing I could do in such circumstances. I dropped out. I didn’t complete my assignments. I never turned in my final papers. And here we arrive at the most important lesson on failure: Choose failure, yes, even embrace failure, and it will lose the power to haunt your dreams.