Hi all! Welcome to my blog! I’m not sure if many people will read these posts but I figured it would be a fun way to document how my life as a grad student is going. I titled it “Memoirs of an Ambitious Grad Student” because as, I’m sure many (and by many I mean, hi Mom) of you know my life is consumed by grad school and I’m honestly not sure how often I’ll get to post on here. But here goes nothing…
For this post I wanted to speak about something that has been weighing heavy on me recently and, upon further research, apparently weighs heavy on a lot of grad students—failure. Failure according to Merriam-Webster has two interesting definitions. The first is “omission of occurrence or performance”. What?? I’m sorry, this is the best the dictionary can give me for a thing that causes me so much stress, panic and many, many tears. This definition seems so vague for something that I feel so intensely. How can this be? In my opinion this definition makes me upset that I have ever let myself be so negative after I felt like I failed. No matter what, I’m still “performing” in some way, am I not? Have I failed at interpreting failure????
Before I spiral into that wormhole, I glance at the second definition and it gives me some comfort. Merriam-Webster says failure is “a state of inability to perform a normal function.” Well if that’s the case, Merriam, then I must say, I am KILLING it so far—and I’m sure many of you are too (good job Mom!). Personally, I think many of us in grad school are so pressured to be the best, to be the most employable, to earn the most research awards that we forget about the minor accomplishments we complete daily. Think about it, anytime you have a guest speaker in class or are attending some type of professional talk—what are some of the first things you do? In my case, I look up the speaker’s CV, compare myself, and try to analyze how much more work I need to do to make sure I am on “track” for a successful career. But what does that even mean? If failure is the antonym for success than apparently being successful is just being able to perform a “normal” function. Wake up in the morning = SUCCESS. Make yourself breakfast = SUCCESS. Write a couple pages of a paper you’ve been procrastinating = SUCCESS. And in my case procrastinating is pretty normal, so procrastination = SUCCESS.
What I’ve come to realize, that I think I had forgotten the last two years of grad school, is that failure and success are very much subjective words in my life. Only I can decide what makes my life a successful one and, in turn, only I can decide what I’m going to label as a failure. Sure, there are career standards that I might want to follow, but I figure if I’m in grad school I’ve got to be on the right path already. Ultimately, what I’m saying is that I think we all deserve to give ourselves a break. We don’t need every award, or every paper published. Of course, that doesn’t mean don’t try for that. But when we do try, we should try our hardest, and if we “fail” we need to pick ourselves up and try again tomorrow. We shouldn’t stress that we’re falling behind or not cut out for grad school. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here in the first place.
Of course, I know this doesn’t fit everyone’s perspective of failure in grad school but I know just by writing it out I have gained a new perspective. It has reminded me why I wanted to pursue grad school in the first place and it wasn't to win the most awards or publish the most papers. For those of you who might feel the same way, I hope I have helped you do the same. Thanks for reading.
Until next time,