When I failed the driver’s test at 16, I cried for hours.I couldn’t even talk about it for months afterward. Two months ago, I wept because I made a 98.5% on an assignment. I felt it deserved a 100%. I was heartbroken. I was also a complete pain in the ass to anyone who would listen to my “woe is me, I”m 1.5% less than perfect” rant. So… take that and imagine my reaction when I “did not pass” my End of Program Assessment for graduate school yesterday. “Fail” is too negative a term for graduate students, which I swear have some of the most delicate selves-esteem in regards to their intelligence. Ironic huh? Following is a dramatic retelling of yesterday’s ordeal.
The committee sat with bated-breath, awaiting a presentation on the depth of my learning experience during my last two years in graduate school.
I entered and promptly presented to them… an orange.
That’s pretty much exactly what happened. I had the complete wrong idea of what was expected of me. My original advisor was a woman constantly being encouraged to retire. She rarely responded to e-mails and gave me a pat on the back and a thumbs up each time I presented her with what I’d accomplished for my portfolio. Then she retired without telling me and I had to acquire a new advisor the summer before presenting. My new advisor is kind and gentle… too gentle. She didn’t tell me that what I had sucked… and was a fruit. So, as I started speaking and saw the committee member’s faces, I knew I had it wrong. I was presenting an overview of what I thought would make me a good librarian, not an in-depth presentation of my learning experiences in relation to YALSA approved standards and objectives. I’m talking about how working circulation has helped me to put a smile on my face when this guy’s acting like a dick, and they’re wanting to hear about the Public Relations tactics I’ve learned in my Public Relations course. I knew I was screwed and just became more and more flustered to the point that, when asked what the purpose of a Reference Collection was, I actually said “I don’t know.” No. Fucking. Joke.
As I stood waiting while they convened, I began to think up other possible careers. I texted Gail and told her it was all over. She told me to relax, I probably did fine. I didn’t respond, knowing very well this was bad. I was going to have to change the name of my blog. “I don’t know.” What the fuck? I do, too, know! A Reference Collection houses Almanacs and Encyclopedias. I just didn’t know I would be asked that or that I’d show up to the singing competition with my prized dancing mule.
I sat down as they opened the door, shocked that I was intuitive enough to recognize the body language and energy of someone who was about to announce that I had cancer and had taken a shit all over the presentation podium.
My first thought was “But can you pass me anyway?”
I pretty much just heard a roar of white noise in my ears after that. I remember blaming my advisor situation and then trying to simultaneously say that I wasn’t trying to blame my advisor situation and telling them that I just didn’t understand the portfolio requirements. I truly didn’t. I’m not going to lie. There a lot of readings I didn’t do. There were times when I zoned out during lectures or participated minimally during discussions and that is why I couldn’t talk about these things at the drop of a term. Call it a curse of online learning, but you don’t actually have to know what anyone is talking about when you can just Google the term to remind yourself before responding. However, had I understood the requirements of the portfolio, I’d have brushed up. I’d have known the term and realized that when I was asked how my searching techniques now differ from when I began the program, they weren’t talking about my ability to use the word “and” in the search box. They wanted to know what I’d learned in my Knowledge Management course.
At this point, I’m pretty much just proud that I didn’t beg them to pass me or burst into tears about how “I do, too, know what a Reference Collection is! I promise! IT’S BOOKS! IT’S ALL BOOKS!” and then run out of the room crying. I kept my big girl panties on and I asked questions while three people told me how much I sucked. I made arrangements with my advisor for the 2 hour Directed Reading course that will help me focus on my revision and re-presentation of my portfolio in March. I walked to my car and called my Gramma and assured her that I was not joking, I had actually failed. I called my dad and told him that I was the slow child and I was sorry I’d disappointed him. He told me I was being ridiculous. I went out with Gail and I wallowed and made jokes about how they kicked me out of college and made me ride the short bus home. I talked about how if I fail again and I don’t get my masters degree, I’m going to have to build a rich life in the World of Warcraft, because my life here is over. She laughed and told me that at least I’m still funny. I went home and I cried. I canceled work for today (substitute teaching, which can actually be canceled the night before and no one cares) and slept restlessly. My prayers last night were along these lines.
“Thank you Lord for all you’ve given me and please help me to move forward. [tearfully] Please, please let me pass next time and give me the motivation to work for it. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me for my sins. Thank you. Amen.”
In the night, my pain eased. As I tossed and turned, I’d wake up with a little less heartache, the pit in my stomach a little softer. I woke at 7:00 and knew that I could still accept a sub job, but decided I’d rather pout. Thirty minutes later, I got out of bed and grabbed my textbook for my current class. I began to read from page one, highlighting for notes. I ordered the textbook from the last class I breezed through as well. I messaged my advisor telling her the times we could meet and that I was rereading my old texts. I went grocery shopping and bought note cards and pretty pens for color-coding because I’m insane. I called my manager and secured every Wednesday off for the next semester. I explained I had two more hours I had to take, knowing full well that she’s a librarian and knew I had my presentation yesterday and failed. I put the embarrassment aside, because that is one of the worst parts. I hide behind a different persona at work to a psychologically unhealthy extent anyway (another entry for another time). Why should this be any different? I went to lunch with my dad and he reassured me I’ll pass.
I love my dad, but he doesn’t know me all that well. Gail is the person who knows me best in the world and she didn’t know if she should leave me alone last night, because she thought I might hurt myself. I’m not saying it was rational, but yes, that was a valid fear. My dad, however, felt he should begin sentences with “… and if you don’t pass…”
NO! Shut the fuck up! I WILL pass. That’s the only thing I want to hear. I’m not saying I’ll pass by fate or magic. I’ll pass because I spent the whole day reading and ordering textbooks. I’ll pass because I have six months to learn the theories of information services inside out. I’ll pass because I WILL read a minimum of two hours a day on information theories and articles about current trends in the library world. I may still be the worst driver on the planet, but I will learn this stuff to the point that I have no fucking social life beyond this blog and text messages to Gail if that is what it takes. I will not get used to failure and develop better coping mechanisms than eating an entire Old Chicago, because I won’t fail.
And in the meantime, I will slip behind my work persona, Winifred, and tell everyone I have one more class to take, consoling myself with the fact that it is not a lie. They just assume… and eventually write the blog entitled “Winifred.”