All of us want to be the person who sits in the front row of class with a detailed planner and color-coded binders, but as the first full week of classes comes to a close, it has become abundantly clear that with my messy checklists and scattered syllabi, I have already failed in that respect.
And of course, I’m writing this at the last possible second before it’s due, but I’m here to tell you that the occasional failure in college is no big deal.
We’re getting to the point in the semester when the reality of homework, classes and extracurriculars is starting to set in. It’s probably worse for all the freshmen who are experiencing their first headlong dive into college education. For those freshmen, it’s all too easy to allow feelings of panic and fear of failure to grow.
But the good news is that we’ve all failed and we’re all still here. Every one of us has misread a syllabus and not done an assignment for the day it’s due. We’ve all turned in work we know isn’t our best or neglected to do anything but skim the readings. We’ve all skipped an event we really wanted to go to because we felt exhausted. It can be tricky to learn what classes to prioritize, what events to go to and how to spend time with our friends. On top of all of that, it can feel like the end of the world when something slips through the cracks.
My personal Gonzaga experience began with a whole lot of failure. I felt lost when it came to my major and what I wanted to do. That showed in my coursework. I tried out for a couple of athletics teams and didn’t make the cut. I auditioned for a show with the theatre department and didn’t get cast.
It felt like failure after failure, all at a really formative time in my college experience. It was easy to believe that all of college was going to be like this and that I should just quit or lower my expectations.
What I wasn’t told was that almost every other freshman was also experiencing different varieties of my stressors. We were all top dogs at our high school and all had to deal with the growing pains of swimming in a much larger pool. For many freshmen, it’s the first chance to make your own big life choices and be independent. Sometimes, when given the opportunity to choose, we make dumb choices. We fail.
What’s really important is that every time we fail (and we all inevitably will), we learn.
We learn how to ask for help. We learn how to give ourselves time and space to experience our own emotions and grow for them. We learn how to seek out resources, like the center for Cura Personalis or the free counseling services at the Health Center.
No solution is one-size-fits-all and it’s necessary for us as students and as independent adults to take responsibility for own mental health. At GU, there can be even more pressure than normal to be successful and to know how to cope with our mental health. Because we are a campus that puts such emphasis on Cura Personalis (caring for the whole person), there can be a damaging expectation that if someone fails, it’s entirely their own fault for failing to take advantage of the resources on campus.
It’s one thing to know the resources exist, but it can be incredibly difficult to take that first step to getting help you need. I’ve scheduled and canceled counseling appointments multiple times because I was too scared to go through with it.
I’ve walked into the Academic Advising office and walked straight back out because I didn’t feel ready to deal with the uncertainty of my future. But all of that is OK. Because eventually I walked back in, sat down, laid out the shambles of my four-year plan and asked for help. You can fail big and fail often, as long as you get back up and fail again until you succeed.