Graduating with a Pass: A Lesson on Personal Victories

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Before I’d started my dissertation I had told my parents that once I’d finished I would be taking 3 months to myself to just do nothing.

In those 3 months, I read fiction and I started cooking I again.  I sang, I started writing again and I experimented with fashion. I made chokers and up-cycled clothes I’d bought from charity shops.

I’d put my adult life on pause and rediscovered my lust for life. I kid you not colours seemed to be brighter (glasses might explain this but let’s pretend it was the post dissertation euphoria.)

Life was good until I was hit with one of the painful realities of the adult world. The simple fact that sometimes your best is just not good enough.

This time last year I’d just found out that I would be graduating with pass. My overall result was 59.4% I’d missed a merit by 0.6%. Outside of bereavement this was my first experience of heartbreak in the adult world.

I’d worked myself sick and I felt like a pass wasn’t worth the insomnia, the stress and the emotional breakdowns. I wept because despite knowing I was worth more than a pass I still felt like a failure. For the first time in my life I was below average. A pass.

Rediscovering my lust for life then losing it again broke me. I spent 3 days in bed. My friends and family congratulated me but I still felt like there was nothing to celebrate.

I retraced my journey and remembered that my first essay grade was 48%. A fail. I Facetimed my Dad sobbing and I was ready to give up. Academia was the one thing I was certain I was good and that grade shook me.

After that result, I had 3 submissions and a total of 15,000 words to write over the Christmas holidays. I read essay writing techniques and researched diligently until I had 60% + in all but 1 one of my modules.

My academic journey was moving along smoothly until I received yet another setback.

I received feedback about my work that made me question whether academia was the right path for me. It wasn’t so much the grade but what was said. Implicit in the feedback was the idea that I wasn’t a serious academic and once again I started to doubt myself again.

I look back at how I’d fidget as I attempted to do an assignment. How my thoughts would wander and how I’d find something wrong with my environment that stopped me from doing my work.

For example, taking out all clothes from my wardrobe and colour co-ordinating them or cleaning the entire communal space. I used to get really anxious and do all of these unnecessary things because I was nervous about confronting my work. I realise that I went through my post-graduate journey unaware that I was struggling emotionally and still made it to the finish line.

This experience taught me an important lesson about personal victories and the importance of celebrating all achievements.

Personal victories exist within those moments of perceived failure. Ambition often blinds us from seeing just how much we have achieved.

We set goals that make sense in theory but we don’t account for the obstacles life throws at us and when things don’t work out as we planned we deem them failures when they are in fact personal victories.

I passed despite all of the obstacles thrown my way. To see that as failure is a failure in and of itself.

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