On failure…

I related well with a recent episode of Parks and Recreation, and not only because it takes place in Indiana. Leslie Knope, the show’s main character, has been working since she was a child to become a City Councilor. She finally did but was recalled and booted out of office in this episode. She summed up my feelings lately by saying, after her friends tried their best to cheer her up,”I’ma go fall asleep on a bench.”

Most of you who know me well know of my recent failure. I studied for the GRE, not since I was a child but for what felt like a life-consuming amount of time, and did not do nearly as well on the math as I had hoped. I panicked halfway through the first math section (always helpful), staring at the clock tick down and foreseeing my future destroyed, ruined, never to be recovered. It was ugly. The worst part of the whole experience was that I was not sure which scores correlated with which percentiles. In other words, they throw a number that is a score immediately in your face after the trauma of that test and you’re left asking, “Wait, is that okay? That looks like a number. Like a real score. Maybe I pulled it off.”

After feeling relieved that I had simply received a score and that it was over, I left. Shock set in and I wandered the street brainlessly for 20 minutes. I ended up in the back of a restaurant typing like a mad woman on my phone trying to figure out what these scores meant. When I finally did, I found my verbal score first and my hopes raised. Then came the math and my whole heart and soul was crushed in the back of that Le Pain Quotidien. I actually sat and cried behind a pillar. Luckily the waitress was the only one who noticed but she probably thought I was nuts.

The next weekend (thank god this test was on a Friday) I laid on the couch and watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All weekend. I also baked a few things but that was it. When I told my friend Blair this, she had the most amazing response of shock and amusement and said, “That’s when you know it’s bad.” Although Buffy is a great show, it’s true, that is when you know it’s bad. I don’t do that very often, and in the subsequent weekends I’ve been feeling similarly and just wanting to lay around a lot.

Leslie Knope summed me up well in this episode, and it’s good to see my favorite character go through something similar. In the end, Leslie’s friends reminded her that she is “an unstoppable force of energy” and that she still has one month left in office. They told her to use that time as best she can and to finish her ongoing projects. While I am no Leslie Knope and can’t drag myself up out of the depths of failure in the span of one 30-minute episode, I do now, a few weeks later, feel ready to have energy for something again.

I still feel a bit unstable and burnt out, but I want to put my energy into a different project. I have been so focused on going to graduate school that I’ve let it take over my life and so many other parts of it have suffered. It is a wonderful feeling to have time again for things I enjoy. Also, don’t think I’ll be going to graduate school next year. I’ll get it the next round, or maybe realize I don’t even need to.

It sucks to have failed at something that I really tried for. There’s no way around that. I’ve planned for the last year to do this one thing, and now that it’s gone, I’m left looking around asking, “Now what?” All I can do is trust that something better will come of it even though I can’t see it at all. It’s only a year. Ron Swanson says in this episode, with his usual wisdom, “There’s no shame in failure if you gave it an honest effort.” God love you, Ron.

I think I’ll finish that novel.

Another nice resource on embracing failure:



4 thoughts on “On failure…

  1. I’m sorry you didn’t do as well as you liked, but maybe it’ll lead you in a better direction. I almost wish I’d bombed the LSAT because law school/practicing law turned out to be negative experiences for me. They got me to where I am now and I really like where I am right now, but I sometimes wish I’d slept through my alarm that day.

    • Thanks so much for the nice words. I almost want to ask you whether you think you could possibly be where you are today without law school but I probably already know the answer. It’s a strange stage to not know what I will think when I look back. It could be the best thing that ever happened to me. I suppose at worst it could be a stumbling block that I have to overcome. For myself, I’m choosing to go with the hopeful thought that this small thing won’t lead to my certain doom, but it’s still good to know others share the feeling.

      • While I don’t necessarily think I would be in my own exact job without a law degree (my employer wasn’t really looking to hire, but since my firm didn’t have a J.D. on staff, I was too good to let go), I could have absolutely gotten into my field without law school…of the four other people I work with at my firm, only one has a masters.

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