"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

eating a very, very humble pie.

I have absolutely no problem in saying that I am cocky. I know what I am good at, and I'm damn proud of what I'm good at. We all have a right to be so.

However, I'm not too proud to concede defeat. I'm not the sort who cannot fly a white flag. I'm not scared of admitting that I've stuffed up, and asking for a second chance. I know my faults, and I know where I go wrong. My ego's been deflated but it's a learning experience.And now I am eating a very, very humble pie.

I remember vividly the very first essay I got back when I first skipped a grade. I was fresh out of primary school and I had no idea how to write an essay, no concept of academic writing. I gave it my best shot and prayed for the best. At that time I was a very cocky kid, terrified of failure. At least, that's what I thought.

I must tell you that I set very different standards for myself than other people, and I have very different standards for some subjects than others. For example, for all of my subjects I am perfectly happy with 70s and 80s, and so are my teachers. But for English and Lit I will fight tooth and nail to get 90s. It's just how I work.


I got this first paper back, and it was a 73%. 22 out of 30. This was a top class where a good half of them were getting 31 (English teachers are not known for their mathematical skills). An utter failure for my standards. Even now, I still cry a little when I don't get a 90. But back then I didn't feel shocked, or sad, or try to justify my failure with 'I've just skipped a grade'. I had lived for eight years getting nothing less than perfect for my reading and writing. It made me restless - knowing I wasn't yet a good writer, but not knowing how to make myself better; knowing I didn't yet deserve perfect scores, but getting them because teachers couldn't be bothered, or simply couldn't, dig deep and pull out some flaw. I had lived for eight years helping teachers mark work, helping teachers mark my own work, writing and working without a single praise or critique. And here was a teacher willing to scribble out page after page of what I didn't do, what I did wrong, and what I could do better. Nothing was harsh or cynical or judgemental. It was you suck the big one, but in a nice way.

I left year nine, as a year eight, a perfect 30 student. Every essay I got back that wasn't perfect, there was always help and guidance, and more importantly, an internalized drive to do better.

I realize now that I have lost this. I'd gotten lazy, overly confident that I wouldn't slip too far even if I didn't put the work in. Don't get me wrong, I did work very hard on this particular disaster, but hard work is futile if you haven't got the bitterness of failure on your tongue. I was fighting against failure, but I had forgotten what failure was like. I'd forgotten what it was like to fall short of my own expectations.

I could have endless, perfectly-valid excuses as to why I had missed the mark. I have skipped a grade, after all. What I did end up getting is more than most people dream of. It's not such a bad mark, and, in the grand scheme of things, English isn't going to count towards anything, Yeah, that's true. But I didn't take English so I could flunk it, and waste my time. I took English because I love it, because I'm good at it, and because I grow and learn so much in English. And yes, the mark I did get isn't so bad. In another subject, I'd probably very happy. But I have my own standards. I know what is good and bad for me, and state averages aren't much of a comfort to me. An Olympic swimmer isn't going to be satisfied with what I would consider a fast lap time, but he'd probably take my essay scores, even my 'bad 'ones, anyday. All I know is that I normally do better, and now I feel bad. 

So I'm going to do it again. I'm going to take a break, catch my breath, and throw myself into it. Just like I did, a long time ago, as a scared year eight girl out in the big world.

But for now, I have to finish my very, very humble pie.

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