On the 9th February 2015, I officially dropped out of my Law degree. With a heavy heart and a battered bank account, I packed up my belongings from my Talybont North squat and reluctantly moved back into my family home, resigning myself to the fact that I simply wasn’t destined to be a lawyer. I spent the subsequent months in a state of turmoil, unsure if I had made the right decision and wondering what my future would hold. Three years later, I am now entering the final semester of my English and Journalism degree and am five months away from graduating. However, despite thoroughly enjoying my current course, the feelings of self-doubt never truly diminish. Learning how to cope when things don’t go to plan is a skill, and one that I am still in the process of mastering- but where do we begin?
In truth, even the most successful people must fail in order to progress. It’s just a fact of life. I’m sure many of you will have seen the #inspo posts on Twitter which contend that even the likes of JK Rowling and Ricky Gervais only achieved success in their field after turning thirty, but that still doesn’t give me peace of mind after I’ve done particularly badly in an assignment or failed my driving test. In cases such as this, it is natural to want to panic, cry, or throw the towel in, but you must soldier on. It is also paramount to ensure that the source of your misery is not due to comparison with others. The biggest piece of advice I was once given is that people will always naturally shout louder about their achievements; but you won’t always be aware when these people don’t do as well as they expected. The larger-than-life character who talks the loudest in your seminar group may not always be achieving the best grades. Similarly, the person with a picture-perfect social media output may not always be reflecting the true reality of their situation. Don’t get me wrong, competition is healthy, but university culture can pit you against your peers in the hunt for academic and professional success, leaving you feeling deflated if you fail to achieve what you hoped for.
Since 2018 began, I have been rejected from countless job applications, failed to get to the next stage in a graduate scheme interview and failed my driving test after three minutes (which must be a record). In situations such as this, it is very easy to start doubting yourself and your capabilities. Just yesterday I said to my personal tutor in a fit of panic “It’s just been a fluke that I’ve made it this far in university. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life”. However, there are always ways that you can help yourself. If we were all more open and honest about our failings it would encourage others to know that it is totally okay not to always get things right the first time, diminishing a certain level of social pressure. And besides, if we were to always achieve things first time around, how would we know how to improve ourselves? Life would be pretty boring. Even those born into privilege will experience times of frustration and failure – it’s what makes us human.
As many of us embark upon the minefield that will be our twenties, it important to keep this sentiment in mind. I know I speak for many when I say that as a child I held certain expectations of this decade; I thought I would get married aged twenty-one and have children when I was twenty-three just like my Mum. I genuinely believed I’d be settled with three children by the age of thirty. The reality is that I’m now twenty-two, I live back at home and my Mum does my ironing for me, so things thus far aren’t exactly going to plan. However, that’s life. Like I mentioned in last week’s column, the goals that we set for ourselves may not always be met, and that’s okay. Sometimes we’ll get a disappointing mark in a piece of coursework and be tempted to sack it all off and head for the hills. But you must keep calm and carry on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly fine to be sad if things don’t go to plan, but after a while, make sure you recuperate and come back fighting. Work out how you can do better next time, and put all of your energy into trying again. If you’re open to the idea of change and don’t put yourself under pressure to achieve a strict criteria, you will undoubtedly live a more content life. However cliché it may sound, you can be safe in the knowledge that if you do your best, failure can pass you by and you will know how to deal with it. If in doubt, however, take advice from Ronan Keating.