C’s Get Degrees, but D’s Get Decrees—of Failure

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Standing in the face of failure, I experienced my breakthrough moment. It’s common for college students to question their path in life at one point or another because we never expect negative events to positively contribute to our future (and sometimes they don’t). Rather, each experience teaches about who we could be.

Life became rough at a point in my life. As a B average student throughout high school with a full-time job at my uncle’s medical billing office, I didn’t think much would change in college. Even as a proud book nerd, exams and I never befriended (in fact, we’re archenemies).

Testing aside, I started college with the intention to learn, yet the daunting task to figure out a major left me stumped. My mother encouraged me to try nursing because it ensured a well-paid job and a successful future. However, poking people with needles didn’t interest me much, let alone spending my days in the presence of blood.

I passed biology and chemistry with B’s. My average grades combined with my mother’s continuous pressure ended with my submission. I took my first, hesitant step into my future as a nurse and registered for anatomy, a primary prerequisite.

A few weeks into the semester, I received my first exam score with a big fat D on it. Instantly, I hid the grade in shame, avoiding any confrontation from other students in the class, many of who felt destined for the medical field. I was in shock; I never received a D before and I’d studied tirelessly for the exam.

Soon after came the gut-wrenching panic—how was I supposed to pass the class? With only two exams, a midterm and a final, my first bombed test grade forged a path to failure. I frantically started rummaging through my notes and trying to figure out where I went wrong. With a hectic work schedule and 14-credit course load, I felt like I cornered myself into failure.

I remember friends of mine who skated through classes proudly promoting their new life motto, “C’s get degrees.” Personally, I couldn’t wrap my head around their logic; C’s allow you to pass but you can’t truly succeed.

Throughout my life my family held high expectations for my academic career. A’s were expected, B’s were okay, but anything below that meant I needed to try harder. I felt clueless on how to learn all the detailed material on a subject that really didn’t interest me. I mean, who wants to learn about angina pectoris and intestinal obstructions?

With my B average expectation, I pushed forward and studied as hard as possible. Finally the day came and I sat through my final, staring at my nemesis that would deliver my fate, and flipped to the first page of the exam.

The one thing I hate about scantrons is the impeccably quick turnover of results; AKA my grade was online by the end of the night. Consequently there I sat, in front of the computer screen, my mouse hovering over the “final grades posted” link. My stomach churned; I felt a warm, undeniable feeling of failure. Click.

Anatomy: D-.

Yep, end-of-the-world feeling right at that moment. Like the Green Arrow would say, “You have failed this city…college.” Eh, close enough.

Disheartened, I glanced over the rest of my grades. I passed both English and economics with A’s. It lifted my spirits a bit, and the daunting D- staining my transcript didn’t seem so bad. I enjoyed my other classes and in truth, I wanted to take more similar to them.

English alone had always been an interest since the first day I picked up a book. I never considered literature as a possible path for my future; I had no patience for teaching and I mostly saw it as a hobby. Economics led me to look into a possible business major which I previously imagined as a drone worker behind a desk 24/7. After a bit of research, I found that wasn’t necessarily true. In fact, I could combine my creativity and love for travel all into one path—International Marketing (with a minor in English).

Even now, I don’t look back at the time that I failed anatomy and think about the alternatives if I passed with an A. Rather, I’m actually glad it happened because without that critical moment of failure, I would’ve never taken an important step towards my future. Grades don’t mean as much as the lessons you learn from mistakes—rather, experience and passion matter more.

Nikki is a Senior at the University of San Diego and is a double-major in International Business and Marketing with a minor in English. She loves listening to music, reading and people watching. Her love for traveling drives her dream to someday live in the UK and see the world.

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