“That is what science is about, you have to be willing to get it wrong! Einstein worked on his theory of relativity for forty years before he got it and he had it long before that, he just followed a different path that took him away from the answer. Calm down Jen, it is about the practice, not getting the answer right the first time. Keep doing the work, you’ll get better at it.” Professor D.
Struggle doesn’t begin to describe my experience with a recently dropped college algebra class. Little did I know during enrollment that I mistakenly signed up for the STEM version: aka – college algebra on steroids! When I started writing this entry, less than ten percent of my homework was completed and I was failing the class. While I am not a 4.0 student, I certainly don’t fail classes!
I made idle threats of withdrawing and I whined on social media. It was like an abusive relationship where we would fight, argue, and call each other names. But, just as I would pack up to leave, algebra would tell me how pretty I was (meaning – I would get a decent grade) and so I made a resolution to stick around a bit longer; you know, just to see if things would change. Be that as it may, I finally ended up dropping the class, but not before I learned a valuable lesson.
I wish that I had the forethought to record my professor’s response when I initially expressed the desire to drop the class. It was profound and applied not only to the class but to the sum of my life. At some point in the not-so-distant past, I can recall making the decision to buckle down and finish my associate’s degree. In doing so, I’ve come to the awareness that my life consists of a bunch of ‘If, Then’ statements like, “If I do x, y and z, then I can finally set a graduation date.” Wouldn’t that be nice? After all, I’ve been going to college for over five years and have yet to receive a degree! But, I digress. In making the decision to buckle down, I entered the realm of perfectionism and in my mind, dropping the class was out of the question. I had to stay on track. As I mentioned before, failure was not an option!
Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on your point-of-view) life had other plans. In the matter of two weeks, I had been launched from my ordinary world of work, school and hosting Halloween parties, to an entirely new planet where I was talking with a real-estate agent about listing my house. Stress levels had surged and I needed to take something off my plate. Algebra was about to get the boot!
For all of the problems I experienced with the class, I departed with a profound life lesson. The more I meditated on the willingness to be wrong, the more my life seemed to open up. One conversation with my professor allowed me to re-frame my entire approach to life; such that, if this would be all the class would teach me, it would be worth the time, the money and the drama. As the result of a ten-minute conversation, I received one of the best tools of my life. Any action taken, preceded by the willingness to fail could not help but result in success! How freeing it was to realize that I no longer had to meet a mark, or finish first, or get straight A’s, or pick the right career. I have finally come into full realization of the paradox: to be successful, one must be willing to fail.