I’m a failure. I’ve always been a failure. I’ve never been, and I never will be good enough. Even after writing this post the first time, it failed to upload and I lost it all. I’m going to try and write it again, but it’ll never be the same the second time around. It’ll never tell the same story, and now that I’ve taken time to think about it, I probably wont tell the whole truth this time. I guess that it’s another story to add to the archives for a ‘3am, curled up in the duvet, teary eyed in the pitch black darkness’ night. The irony of a post entitled failure failing to upload is huge. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing it at all.
As a kid, I always came last in sports day. I dropped out of dance and horse riding classes, and I was behind my peers in my flute lessons. I couldn’t see the normal line guides when doing neat work in class due to my horrendous eye sight and very high prescription glasses, and so I had to have special extra bold ones made so that I could write in straight lines and see them through the plain paper. I wasn’t perfect. I didn’t do everything that I was asked to do first time. I was weaker than my little brother and lost in fights. I didn’t change things that I could have changed, or stop events happening that I could have stopped. I couldn’t just fix things straight away, and I couldn’t improve the situations and things that happened around me. I was always ‘it’ in tig because I couldn’t run fast enough. I didn’t move up classes in swimming at the end of every single term, I couldn’t spell to save my life, and I used to have extra spelling classes. The only thing that I was ever really good at was academics: reading, writing, and numeracy. Despite my spelling issues, I got the highest grades you could possibly get at primary school, and an award for outstanding achievement when I left. A similar theme resonated through middle school. I’d set an expectation for my parents that I would academically always be the best.
This was an expectation that I found I couldn’t live up to. As I got older, things got harder, and people got more clever. Moving to upper school meant the start of my GCSE’s and a whole host of new, and much more talented people. Although I made it through those exams with a set of A’s and A*’s, passing the boundaries of my parents expectation, things began to change when I got to A Level.
I realised that I’d gotten to a point where unless it was academic, my parents didn’t care, and they weren’t proud of me. I got a B in one of my subjects at the end of AS, and my parents then began to take even less interest in my extra curricular activities. I began to achieve things outside of academia. Some of those I didn’t and still don’t think much of because my parents didn’t either, even though people around me commented on how good they were. But as with everything, there were some that I was proud of, and it destroyed me a little when my parents weren’t proud with me. The thing that has always stood out the most to me was my grade seven flute exam. I’ve always struggled with my flute, and been entered for exams with a previous teacher too early, with little practice and guidance. I feared them. I feared them because I always failed or nearly failed, and my parents knew that. I don’t think they ever understood why I used to still take them. That’s easy, and I know the answer to that one, but they never asked. In the early days, I was afraid of my teacher and did exactly as she said. When I got my new (and may I add, amazing) teacher, things changed. This time, when it came to my grade seven, I wanted to prove a point. She’d built my confidence block by block, and while the thought of failure still ruled me, I didn’t want to scrape through, a few marks above the pass boundary, I wanted a merit. For any decent musician, a merit isn’t much to be honest. If anything, they’ve probably grown to expect it. For me, getting that merit was absolutely everything, and I worked and I worked and I worked. I’m sure that my best friend can still remember my reaction the day that my flute teacher rang with my result, for she was sat opposite me in the corner of a little coffee shop in our home town. I was speechless, but when the information sunk in, and I got my merit, I danced and I jumped around, and nobody could stop me. I was beyond happy, and I was extremely proud of myself. I did it. I’d achieved what had seemed impossible to me. My hard work had paid off, and as soon as I got home, I ran through the door and screamed about my achievement. Neither of my parents even said well done.
I cried in my next flute lesson as I told my teacher that story. I was heartbroken. They both knew how much that exam had meant to me, yet they showed not even the tiniest bit of happiness or joy for me. It didn’t make them happy that I was happy, and that hurt. It tore a little part of me away that I know I’ll never get back, regardless of how much I try.
The long awaited A2 results day didn’t go much better, either. After months and months of expectations, pressure, stress, tears and genuine heart wrenching fear, I rang my dad to tell him that I’d gotten into university the second that I found out. I was extremely excited and couldn’t wait to tell him the good news. His response was ‘what grades did you get?’ When I replied that I didn’t know just yet, but I knew I was in to my first choice, he told me to hurry up and go and found out. My uni course needed me to get grades AAB. As it happens, I got A*AA. Of course, I was interested to see what results I’d gotten, but most of the excitement came from knowing that I’d made it to university. That’s the big hurdle of A Levels, isn’t it? They get you through to the next stage of your education, and then nobody ever really looks at them again. I cried with happiness when I opened this envelope. One, I was a little shocked that I’d managed to do so well, and I’d never have predicted such amazing results in my wildest dreams. Second though, I knew that those grades meant that not only had I achieved my dream of going to university, I’d satisfied my parents, too. There were no B grades, and so they had no reason to be disappointed in me. I knew that I’d get smiles when I got home, and that meant that I could at least pretend that they were happy about the university bit, too.
Of course, I probably shouldn’t care what my parents think, but I do. After all, they raised me. They taught me values and morals, and led me through the early stages of my life. I do care what they think, because they’re my parents. They’re important and they mean a lot to me, and as their child, I want to make them happy. I don’t want them to worry about me. I want them to be proud of me. I want to show them that their parenting has paid off, and that I’m the child that every parent wants.
Now though, failure and expectations rule my life, and I often feel like I define myself by letters on bits of paper. Teachers have always questioned why I put pressure on myself, but what they fail to understand is that actually, I don’t. It’s not a choice. Nobody in their right mind would choose to make themselves ill through stress in the way that I do. I just have expectations to live up to. There’s still a little child inside me that wants to please and make everyone around me happy, no matter how hard that is. One day though, I want to get past this. I won’t be able to do it on my own, and it’s going to take a very very long time. I know that I’ll have to change my thought process, my outlook, and both my physical and mental habits and behaviours. But I have to, because I don’t want to be ruled by a need to please, and a need to academically achieve. I don’t want to have to put heath-deteriorating pressure on myself to do well, in order to live up to the expectations that others set for me. I want to set my own expectations, and want other people to be proud of me for being who I am and doing what I do, not because of what’s written on a piece of paper. I feel like nobody is ever proud of the real me. Nobody appreciates my efforts, they just rely on the end result. Mostly though, I’d like to be proud of myself, and I’d like to be able to feel happy and proud without feeling guilty.
It’s going to take a long time to change the thoughts that I have with regards to failure, because they’re so engrained into me. It’s something that I fear, but it’s also something that I don’t like to admit that I fear. The fear of failing controls nearly every aspect of my life, from how well I do in my exams, to forming friendships, to being confident, spending too much money, getting ill and sick, not sleeping enough, not working enough, things not being organised and lined up at perfect angles to one another. I won’t stop working 12 hour days, because I will always over work, that’s just me. Just because I want to rid myself of this fear, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to achieve my absolute best at all times. What I’d like to be able to do is stop thinking ‘I’m a failure’ and instead think, ‘I didn’t get it quite right this time, but I tried my very hardest, and that’s all I can do.’
I won’t change who I am, because I’ll always be me. What I want to try and do, however, is change my attitude to success and failure. I’d like to not feel guilty about taking time out from my studies, and permanently have images swirling around my head, and a little argument in my brain about the fact that I’m not working enough. I don’t want to be so exhausted by the pressure that my life consist of only 12 hours of work, and 12 hours sleep, with nothing to break it up. It’s going to take a long time to change. I won’t be able to do it on my own. There’s so many things related to failure which I have to combat, and I can’t do it without someone to believe in me. Nobody has ever believed in me before, and nobody has ever been proud of me. I don’t care about that. Okay, that’s a lie. I do care. At least, I care right now, but I want to get to a point where I don’t. I can’t do this on my own though, because I’m afraid to fail at combating failure. I’m afraid to write myself goals, and to start working on this, because it could all go heads up. On my own, I’m not strong enough to make things better. Please help me?