I used to think failure would bring calamity to my reality.
After I moved away to school, I was placed in an entire new realm where failure was seen as almost a criterion for success. I listened to countless speakers share their own declines. I heard from my peers about their need for redirection in terms of their major and I read a good few essays from some of my personal heroes who’ve come face to face with failure at some point in their lives.
I gained a new perspective on the idea of failure, one I thought helped me to overcome my fear of it.
But I was wrong. That’s because up until three days ago, I didn’t know how true failure felt.
I chose my career path to become an accountant when I was sixteen. I created a five-year plan when I was eighteen that ended with me passing my CPA exam and landing a job with a respected firm in the city.
I was headstrong. I didn’t care how many times I heard, “Accounting? Well good for you.” or “I just couldn’t be cooped up in a cubicle all day for the rest of my life.” If anything these comments only enflamed the spark inside me to be proud of that cubicle waiting for me.
Becoming an accountant meant a future with security which made myself, and my parents, thrilled. I’m not the biggest risk taker. I’ve been told I’m a safecard, but I never really minded. At the age of sixteen, and again at eighteen, this was my reality.
But recently, my vision of reality has been turned upside down and on its side.
Three days ago, I failed an accounting exam. Now, this one exam is not what conjured up this slump. While failing any exam you’ve studied hard for sucks, thankfully it’s not the end all be all for whether you receive your degree or not.
But it wasn’t the horrifying, red-colored sixty percent that scared me. It was the numb feeling I had sitting at my desk while my professor lectured on about inventory accounts and the FIFO, LIFO and weighted average methods used to allocate costs to them.
It was the same numb feeling I had earlier that morning in my intermediate accounting class as we discussed the present value of a single amount and an annuity.
And the same numb feeling I had when I had to tell myself that my job as a social media journalist could wait until after my accounting exam study guide was finished.
It wasn’t that I didn’t care about my test grade, because if there’s one thing you should know about me it’s that a “B” in my eyes is quite unsatisfactory; but as I sat at my desk all I could think about was the dying flame of passion inside of me. I was letting that sixteen-year old girl with a dream down.
Then I started to panic. I had failed her. My best quality of work was interfered by my lack of passion for the job.
I realized now, at the age of twenty, with the opportunities I’d received and the experience I’d accumulated, my wants were nothing alike those of that sixteen-year old dreamer.
Again, I felt like I failed her, but I also felt as if I failed to work for the happiness of my future self because I held on so tight to this dream.
I told myself for a long time I was holding back in fear of disappointing others. I thought if I wasn’t an accountant, I wouldn’t be the kid my parents didn’t have to worry about. I thought if I wasn’t an accountant, I’d let my high school mentor, who taught me everything I know about bookkeeping, down. I thought if I wasn’t an accountant, I wouldn’t be able to do any of my family or friends taxes.
In actuality, I was holding back because I was scared to disappoint that sixteen-year old girl who sat at the dining room table every day doing her math homework.
By doing so, I’d failed the twenty-year old young woman who sat at her dining room table during the late hours of the night struggling to get her accounting and finance homework done.
In the moment following that emotional class period, I felt like a complete failure who no longer had any idea of what I was doing or a plan for the future. I was so afraid of change, I’d confined myself to a glass box for a long time. Finally I had let the glass shatter around me.
The build up of numbness took over. I felt lost in this new territory. To be honest that feeling hasn’t quite gone away yet.
The one thing I thought I was supposed to learn and know, is not for me anymore. I have to be okay with the things that I want now, even if it means changing my major two semesters before I graduate.
I have to learn how to accept that changing my mind does not mean that I failed at a past goal. It means that I’m open to working towards a new one–a goal I’m passionate about.
The point of this post is to encourage readers to want change. It is easy to point the finger at issues outside of us or to friends who seek our advice. But what about us? There comes a time when we have to start listening to ourselves. What do I want? Am I happy?
That change may come from switching your major, from moving away, or from deleting people or accepting people into your life.
Regardless, we cannot be afraid of the growth within ourselves. We cannot hide from it. It may turn your world upside down and inside out, for a moment, but it will lead you to the path you’re meant to be on.