Finding Myself through My Failures.

Middle school and high school was a difficult time for me, academics wise. In South East Asian culture, it’s common nature for many, if not most, parents to push their kids to work harder for better grades. Better grades is almost synonymous with a successful future. Whether or not this sounds like a controversial thing to say, it’s relatively true and I think many people can relate.

“What are other people going to think of you?”

When I never did as well as my classmates on my math or science tests, my parents would sit me down, exam grades in hand and ask me this.

Locals always believed that getting placed into or pursuing the “arts” route of study in high school wouldn’t do us youths any good. Hence, taking the “science” route was the only option I had to ensure a better future for myself apparently.

This led to two years of trying my best to do well in classes I hardly enjoyed to no avail, producing only less than satisfactory results. While I excelled in other fields such as writing, athletics, and (to my surprise) physics, I wasn’t doing as well in school as I or my parents hoped I would.

After so many pep talks about my grades, it became completely discouraging instead because it was indirectly saying I wasn’t trying hard enough. It could have been the choice of words my parents used, that things might change if only I tried a little harder. Eventually, I grew to dislike school because despite the effort I was putting into my classes, even getting B-grades wouldn’t be suffice to please them. And if I wasn’t meeting their expectations, I wasn’t pleased myself.

At some point, I got into a row with my mother about one of my upper division math classes because I was doing so poorly. I remember telling her I was trying my best but she refused to believe me. It left me feeling like my efforts weren’t appreciated and I stopped trying to prove myself. Even though I wasn’t failing the class, I felt like a failure in my parents’ eyes.

After that, pep-talks would often turn into arguments with my parents and it created a lot of tension in the house because I felt so misunderstood.

Finally after graduating high school, I had no clue as to which career path I wanted to pursue. My passion was in writing, but my mother who was working in the newspaper industry at the time highly discouraged me from going down that road due to the stress, poor salary and our political situation that lacked any freedom of speech. Upon hearing this, I couldn’t shake the feeling that she only wanted me to follow her plan — whatever that was.

I decided immediately that instead of stepping into a specific field of study, I would explore my options. Getting into what many local high school graduates know as the American Degree Transfer Program(ADP), I found what I was looking for — a chance and a choice.

I had the chance to choose the courses I had an inkling feeling that I would excel in; a chance to prove to myself and my family that I cared about doing well in school. Even though ADP prerequisites included courses like Biology/Chemistry, Statistics, and History, I faired a lot better in college because I wasn’t trying to be put into a box anymore. I wasn’t trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

The goal shifted from striving to do well as a science student in high school, to striving in what I enjoyed learning in college. The motivating factor of that very thought is knowing that I was different from my classmates in my math and science classes, but it wasn’t something to worry about. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and I learned see worth in my own efforts.

I did what I did best. I challenged myself to put in effort into things I may have not enjoyed and the results proved to be worth it. Sooner or later, my parents caught on and became way more supportive of the change in attitude I had for education and my goals for the future.

Through all this, I’ve learned that people are bound say things that will discourage you but at the end of the day, only you can decide to try harder for change or to give up on yourself. I only hope you’ll choose the former; to change for the better. If you’re on the verge of the latter, I’ll tell you that life’s tough, but so are you. Don’t give up on yourself. You will fail, but don’t let that stop you from trying again.

“Because she competes with no one, no one can compete with her.” — Lao Tze
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