on courage and failing and never being good enough

Today’s challenge is something that I don’t know how to talk about. Something about writing about the three most important songs in your life. As if I could just pick 3 songs or any song for that matter. But I can do the twist: create a writing habit. At least 15 minutes a day. I can do that. But by the time my fifteen minutes are over it’ll be past midnight and into Day 4. That’s okay, I don’t care. I technically started this on Day 3. Except let’s do 20 minutes of writing per day. I liked that the first day, so let’s see how long I can keep that up. It usually takes me longer than 20 to write a decent post anyway.

So this has been on my mind for a while now — courage and failing. I just didn’t know how to phrase it. It’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life. I could blame it on the fact that I grew up in an Asian household and their standards of excellence and expectations are higher than most. That definitely instilled my perfectionist tendencies, but to be completely honest, I’ve struggled with expectations and self-confidence for as long as I remember. Maybe it was because I was constantly compared to friends and family on not scoring high enough on a test or playing an instrument as well as the others. I never felt good enough. I know I’m not alone in that thought.

I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by people who do have confidence in me and in themselves. My best friend is incredibly confident of herself and her standards and values and what she wants out of life. She’s gone out and accomplished her goals. She’s got a great job, she’s married to a great man and they just recently bought a house. Life is looking up. I see on Facebook (the few times I do log on and check it out — I’m more of a Twitter girl myself, maybe because I lack concentration and I like instant gratification) lots of my friends from high school and college being all successful in their budding careers as doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, what have you. When I was trying to figure out what to do with my life, I hated seeing all that. I got jealous, I was angry at myself for not being successful like them, envious of them for figuring out their lives before me and being able to start right away. I had to dig deep, slug it out through trial and error, go back to school to get my GPA up before I finally landed in grad school.

It wasn’t easy. It was frustrating, it was annoying. I didn’t have direction for a while. For a long time, I felt like an utter failure. Here I was, mid-twenties and still had zero idea what to do with my life. When I started applying to grad school, I got rejected three times from all three schools I applied to. That hurt. I won’t lie, it really stung. No one wanted me. What I had to offer wasn’t good enough.

Then after hating myself for a while, I just forced myself to keep going with the motions, go attend classes, continue getting As, maybe it’ll pay off. Then I started believing that it would. That maybe I had a glimmer of a chance to get to grad school and pursue being a PathA. So I applied again, second round, second year of applications. This time, it was only two schools. Drexel and Rosalind Franklin. Drexel got back to me quickly, had a phone interview, then put me on the wait list. Rosalind Franklin never got back to me even after I got accepted into Drexel. But I won’t lie, getting put on the wait list was worse than being rejected the first year. It nearly destroyed my will to keep going.

This past year I was the best I could possibly be. I did everything — took lots of science courses, got As, wrote killer essays to the best of my ability, shadowed 3 pathologists for seven months. I mean, how could I NOT look good on paper? Didn’t I do everything right? What more could I possibly do other than redo my entire undergrad career? It felt like the longest rejection ever. I almost wished it was a straight up rejection just so I would know right away and could move on with my life. They left me hanging for a week. It was the longest week of my life, let me tell you. Took a week to tell me I was on wait list. Then another week to tell me I got in. But I kept reading online that wait list was basically the long way of telling you no. I kept trying to put a positive spin on it by saying that there’s still a small chance of yes, but as every day passed, that hope kept dwindling. I kept going to school, but I didn’t know how to put on a brave face and tell everyone it was okay, yeah. No biggie if I don’t get in. Which was a complete and utter lie. I needed to get in or else. Finally, I just accepted the fact that they would reject me and decided that I would start another application for another school on the east coast since their app was still open. The next day, I got the glorious email.

The whole point of this incredibly long story is that no matter how much you fail, there’s always hope. But in order to do that, it takes a small bit of courage to keep on hoping and keep on fighting the fight. It didn’t hit me so much until I read this quote by Maya Angelou:

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.

-Maya Anglou

Maybe this isn’t quite a virtue, but keeping on, fighting, takes courage. I wanted to quit so many times. So, so many times, I just wanted to say forget it, it’s not worth it. No grad program wants me. I need to find something else to do. But there wasn’t anything else I wanted to do, and I had no other option job-wise, so I stuck it out. Thank God I did. So maybe it doesn’t have to be a huge leap of faith, but maybe a bit of courage might get somewhere. Maybe it’s just waking up in the morning and driving through traffic to a job you hate. Or maybe it’s picking up the phone to call someone, or opening up your email to send a note to someone. Or maybe it’s even just starting a conversation. But with every little bit of courage to do something that you’re not comfortable with is a step in the right direction. You might make a few missteps and maybe you’ll hate yourself for a bit if it doesn’t go your way, but you’ll get there. As long as you keep on pushing. Just like Colin Kaepernick said on his Instagram today after his mega deal (6 years $126 million, $61 million guaranteed!):

Chase your dreams hard enough and you just might catch em!

So get up, even if you don’t want to, and have courage. I know it’s something I’ve had to work at, and continue to work at until I can reach my goal and gain my confidence.

(That was longer than 20 minutes. Oh well.)

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