If just one teacher in the history of my life had said “Yo, honestly, fuck this class! It is arbitrary, and if you fail it won’t hurt either you or me on a personal level!” I believe I would be a more psychologically stable person today.
Firstly, the profanity would have resonated because I’ve had a strong connection with the word “fuck” since 3rd grade. But more importantly, it would have opened a life changing door… giving me the opportunity to grapple with and accept failure.
To this day, that door has not been opened. As a junior in college I struggle with fear of failure and sometimes debilitating daily anxiety about school. Sophomore year proved almost impossible to get through, with my stress becoming so chronic that it deteriorated my health. On multiple occasions I was so sick that I had to seriously consider options for discontinuing school. Ultimately, I didn’t drop out. For fear of failure.
This vicious cycle is not new to my life. It is an unfortunate repeat of what happened in high school, where the fear-mongering tactics of my elitist and excessively prestigious school turned me into a burned out, insecure graduate. Yes, Davis High, I am giving you a shoutout even though you don’t deserve one.
Back to my original point. I am so afraid of failure because it is the great unknown. My rational self longs to say “Yo, honestly, fuck this class! It is arbitrary, and if you fail it won’t hurt ANYONE on a personal level” but my rational self also doesn’t know what would actually be the result of tossing my papers into the air cathartically and walking into a test unprepared; an action which would have been a great decision on multiple occasions. I have no accctuuaal idea. Would your professor yell at you? Cry, perhaps? Would you leave the lecture hall in handcuffs?
What would it feel like to see the letter D on a paper with my name on it? Since elementary school, I’ve imagined it would feel kind of like the mouth sweats you get right before you throw up. It would feel like getting demoted to the “dumb” section of math class with the other brown kids I tried so desperately to avoid. At North Davis Elementary it would have meant being stripped of my social status.
If only I had been allowed to get the D.
Hehe. But seriously, if only there had been some teachers who didn’t teach their class as if it was the New Testament of the Bible, and their final test was Judgement Day. If only I could have felt safe in looking stupid, instead of morally obliged to reach perfection. Ultimately, stupid is an okay thing to feel. And fail is not the appropriate word to describe an increment of academic achievement.
Editor’s note: Josie no longer has shingles and is probably not going to drop out of college.