Failure: it's O.K. to not be O.K.

It was the day my LSAT (law school entrance exams) scores had arrived. The unread envelope sat ready to burst at the seams in my e-mail inbox, highlighted with an exclamation point next to it ... as if the subject title did not make it important enough: Your October 2008 LSAT Scores.

My palms and forehead immediately flooded with a panicky sweat. My stomach flopped like fish out of a pond. I felt cold and clammy. In my head I imagined myself to be a helpless frog in the middle of a swamp, about to be devoured by the merciless predator that was My Unknown Future
"OMG Your scores come back today right?? Omg. How did you do??" Online my friends were IM-ing me. For the past few days I had been on edge and they were all well aware as to why. Their flashing messages did little to distract my attention from the unopened message in my inbox.
"I haven't opened it yet. I'm nervous. I can't do this right now." I typed back to them. 

It was junior year, my third year of college and like so many other students I was thinking about what I wanted to do after I graduated. I knew I would have a year to prepare and give more thought to it, but I wanted to get all the annoying grad school tests out of the way. That summer I had taken one of those LSAT test-prep courses. While many of my friends were enjoying easy summer jobs I was interning and then after work forcing myself through mundane exercises and rote practice sets. For six weeks I sat in a blue colored room that had no windows, in a classroom set up in rows, holding a number 2 pencil... trying to remember reading comprehension tips, and how to find the assumption that sentences were making. It was painfully boring and if you know me, I am not one who is able to learn for the sake of learning. And when you study for a standardized exam, that's really all that it comes down to. Studying strategies for the sake of strategizing. At the end of the summer I finished the course and had taken the 6 practice exams that came bundled in that package; my instructor said that I was doing well and I was scoring in the range that I wanted to. Though the class was boring, at least some semblance of progress was being made as I darkened bubbles and gnawed at number 2 pencils.
During college, despite the shenanigans my friends and I were up to -- I was able to hold my own. I did fairly well academically and was involved in student clubs, was a leader and was more or less confident with the brains I was building upon. Going into the test I knew that this was only one piece of the package to my law school acceptance. I was confident about my grades, my internship and work experience, and I knew I would shine most on my essay/writing ability. Thankfully, the exam had an essay component to the test.

"Okay. So take a deep breath. Grab a beer from your fridge. Drink a big gulp and then just open the email. Also, remember, it's just a test. You have a year to take it again." One of my friends had messaged me back online. I did what she said and opened the email.

The LSAT is graded on a range from 120 - 180. I got a 154. I was somewhere in the 50th percentile mark. Angrily I gulped down the rest of my beer, and stormed out of my dorm room. I slammed open the front door and sat in my wheelchair on the porch of the dormitory. Outside, it was pouring rain. I am supposed to be better than average. The score I got was unacceptable. I failed. No good law school is going to accept that. In my mind, I failed myself and there was nothing worse.
My entire life I was raised with high expectations, this was especially true when it came to school. Even when it came to subjects my parents knew nothing about my brothers and I were expected to do well. There was no exception and no other options. That night I drove around town in my wheelchair in the rain. I felt miserable, angry, and disappointed in myself. The last six weeks of the summer seemed useless and a total waste of money. I began crying and at some point between the self-disappointment and the pressure, I talked myself into believing that those 3 numbers would be the end of the world for me.

That night my friends became worried. I showed up at the dorms drenched from the rain, my eyes blood-shot from crying at 3:30AM. They didn't have to ask to know that I didn't do well.

Looking back at it now it seems silly to me that I allowed 3 numbers and my first try at something determine so much of my future. I struggled with it because I had allowed those 3 numbers to be the lens in which I viewed the world and my life. I forgot who I was and had completely lost perspective on the situation. I was too seeped into the academic world that I had become so involved with. I was surrounded by classmates and professors who all believed that I would do well. The implications of those numbers was difficult for me to swallow because people expected me to be the student who always did well. People knew that I had a reputation for getting work done. People assumed that I will do incredible things with my life.When I finally calmed down enough to be able to think straight I realized people came to that understanding not because they know about my GPA or test scores. It's because they saw me live every day. Day in and day out I didn't let other people's expectations or assumptions determine my future. If I had done that I knew I probably would never even make it out of bed in the mornings.
To this day though it's still hard when I don't meet my own expectations. But I have gotten better about keeping my perspective and reminding myself how I got to where I am today. I have long accepted that it's going to be an ongoing struggle for me but oddly enough, this is a struggle that I am thankful for and continually humbled by. 

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