I got my first ‘D’ in my first year at Mac.
Albeit, it was a ‘D’ plus, but that didn’t matter. It felt like everyone else in my faculty was kicking academic ass, and here I was, barely avoiding a fail. I was pretty embarrassed to tell my peers when they asked.
But I was terrified to tell my parents. I avoided it for as long as possible, dodging every question they left wiggle-room for dodging, changing the conversation oh-so-subtly when I felt they were straying too close to an inescapable course of conversation. However, despite my truly masterful avoidances, there is no escape from the Minivan Inquisition.
My parents were sitting in the front, facing the highway, and I was sitting behind them, facing disownment. When I finally managed to say it – in what I hope was a nonchalant but formal tone – I held my breath for their response.
My mother, a two-time university grad woman who prizes reason, intelligence and hard work, turned to my father and said, “I remember my first ‘D’.” My father, a double-degreed man with a sharp wit and voracious appetite for books, nodded and said matter-of-factly, “Everyone should get a ‘D’ at some point in their life.”
I don’t know why I was so surprised that my parents reacted so calmly: they’re very reasonable people who have been around for a few years. Long enough to know what is and isn’t worth freaking out about.
That moment in the minivan reinforced a message my parents had taught to me throughout the years, mostly by example.
Learning from mistakes, not dwelling on them, is the best way to keep moving forward. I know I’m not saying anything new, nothing earth-shattering and monumental, but I thought you might need to here it now, near the end of the term.
Maybe you bombed a test you didn’t study for. Maybe you got a bad grade on a paper you wrote during an all-nighter. Maybe you tried to learn all of Personality in one weekend by listening to the podcasts while you slept, and for some reason still did poorly on the midterm.
It happens to everyone. We all slip up on our studying schedules, or go out on nights before midterms, or convince ourselves that starting an HBO series three days before a paper is due is totally fine and you’ll be able to get it done anyways.
Learn from that, don’t do it again. But don’t beat yourself up for it. Regret is useless. It’s too-little-too-late unproductive.
I think this is something we’ve all heard, and most of us practice anyways. But harder even than getting back up and brushing ourselves off after a mistake is doing the same when we haven’t made one.
Maybe you bombed a test you did study for. Maybe you got a bad grade on a paper you wrote over two months of hard work. Maybe you tried to learn all of Personality by attending every single lecture, listening to the podcasts to beef up your notes, doing the practice sets, and for some reason still did poorly on the midterm.
This too happens to everyone. And it’s so much harder to deal with this. Maybe because you can’t just learn to blame yourself and move on, lessons learned. But when there are no positive lessons to learn, you feel like all you have are the negatives.
Take a bit to be sad. Curl up in blankets. Eat something because of the way it tastes. Get a good, tight, warm hug.
Yeah, it is disappointing.
But it’s not the end of the world. It’s not even the end of your world. Remind yourself about the things you’re good at, whether that be chemistry or a video game. Do one of those things. Talk to someone who knows how rad you are, and reminds you of that.
And then keep on going forward.
When I was in the fifth grade, I convinced my parents to let me get an email address. I thought long and hard about what I wanted this address to be. It had to be cool, obviously, and it had to be me. A difficult dichotomy to negotiate, yes, but it finally came to me. I told my father who wrote it down so he was sure to get it right, and later that night he showed me how to log in to my first email account:
If I can live with that, man, we’re all going to be okay.
Take a nap. Eat a cookie. Talk to a friend.
You got this.