October 12, 2023

SENZON | Why Failure is Underrated

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Life is full of challenges and unexpected hardships. More often than not, we find ourselves failing. Failure is relative, we each individually have our understanding of what it means to us. One thing is abundantly clear, however: The word failure is often spoken of with a negative connotation.

Why do we have to fail, though? It’s so much easier to avoid unwanted circumstances otherwise.

I know I may sound delusional when I mention my positive feelings associated with failure. As the fall semester continues academics have most certainly picked up. Around this time, every semester, we find ourselves in a state of crisesThis is a repeating pattern that I’ve noticed with myself. It’s in our nature to take on an arduous amount of responsibilities and let it overtake our lives, especially at a place like Cornell. This semester, I experienced my first anxiety attack in several years..  Up until that moment, I had amended my lifestyle: I meditated; I exercised; I was taught to regulate my emotions. But as work and the burden of responsibilities — the desire to succeed and go above and beyond — shadow over our healthy structures, we crumble. 

That said, it’s inevitable that life will throw unexpected curveballs at us. The only solution is to face them head-on.

I tend to make elaborate game plans. After all, how else am I going to graduate on time? The same can be said for my three preliminary exams, three events for my pre-law fraternity and several research shifts that needed all tending to. The insidious amount of work I’d left myself to handle started to freeze me; I didn’t know what to do with myself. Spending many mornings staring blankly at the wall had become a scene set frequently. 

I know: I’ll break the exam up into three-day increments where day one would remain creating study guides, the second day would be dedicated to practice exams and the bulk of my studying, and the final day would be treated as an overall review day. To my dismay — this didn’t happen as a homecoming weekend and Apple Fest had plans of their own.

I had roughly two hours a day to study inordinate amounts of content, most of which sounded like gibberish amid a lecture hall of students, all of whom seemed to be following along quite nicely. I felt like I was the only one lost. t I entered panic mode.

My first two exams had come along nicely with me taking them in full and walking out knowing my areas of weakness and mess-ups on each exam; equally, I was happy to know that I had a good enough understanding of the content I had learned to know where I encountered mistakes. The worst feeling is when you don’t know what you don’t know.

When the day of the last exam came around I was quite numb. I didn’t feel positively or negatively about where I was at in my familiarity with statistics — despite my awareness of my ineptness in the course. I moved through the exam with anything but ease. Let’s keep it simple and say that I was made a fool out of the exam, never in my life have I felt more incompetent. 

I took a look at my circumstances from a bird’s eye view; the key act of zooming out helped me by heaps and bounds. I set up not one, but two, appointments with academic advising to iron out the details of what I needed to do to get out of the course and better position myself so that I don’t make repeated errors that permanently affect my future. In expecting failure I found myself closer to my goals, it also challenged me to think more about whether or not my goals were in line with my intuition. 

Post-grad was always: apply to law school, get my J.D., become an attorney and achieve my lifelong goals. I’m growing more of the idea of keeping my story open-ended and am quite looking forward to letting these events unfold as I set my intentions and keep approaching work with a forward-thinking attitude. I presume that this will allow for no more than just one more anxiety attack. But of course, there are many more to come. We must do our best to healthily resolve our issues and we must be proud of our skill to identify them and overcome the barriers to learning. Thus, you should treat failure as an opportunity for growth — only then will you find yourself getting closer to achieving your goals.

Adam Senzon is a second-year student in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. His fortnightly column My Two-Sents covers a plethora of topics ranging from advice on navigating life challenges to more complex topics of injustice within the law, labor and sustainability. He can be reached at [email protected].

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