Trying. Then Failing.

The end of this month marks two years since we acquired Z’s standard transmission Kia Soul. Guess what? I’m finally comfortable driving it. My car is a reliable little Corolla. Snowplowing in Syracuse is serious business, so it doesn’t matter if you have a front wheel drive compact. But this winter the plowing hasn’t been consistant, particularly on our street. Driving T to school in the morning has been downright treacherous on several occasions. Z suggested switching cars and much to my surprise I felt in control driving standard even when the streets were terrible.

And now everyone can be all, “I told you so!” about the stick shift situation. Although it is pretty pathetic that it took nearly two years for me to really learn. My spine still tingles when I think about the drive home from down south at the beginning of ’12. Yeah, we’d had the car for 9 months at that point.

Because of my terrible self image issues I decided long ago that I’d value smarts over looks and just be really smart instead. Being my learning curve for, oh, everything is as steep as Mount Everest it kind of gets in the way of me feeling smart. Learning something new paralyzes me with fear. Or takes me two years. I want to pursue new things but the act of learning and fucking up over and over makes me hate myself even more. If I can’t be pretty and I can’t be smart what am I? Of course, this exposes my pathological need to be somehow “special” and that need makes me feel even worse about myself.

Wow mental illness, you are a convoluted, self absorbed, pain in the butt, asshole!

It took me nearly three years to sign up for a class at SU. And another semester to sign up for a graduate level class.

Folks, I am struggling. It is the first time this class is being offered and eventually prerequisites are going to be required in order to take it.  Um, I would really benefit from a prerequisite. The class applies a human rights based approach to food security. I know nothing about that approach and its development through the UN over the second half of the last century. I mean, after 7 weeks in class I know a little about it. But I have not been able to rapidly memorize and synthesize a dense and overwhelming amount of material. It has been a demoralizing and humbling few weeks.

If you don’t try and you fail it’s one thing-that just means you are lazy. But if you try and fail? That means you are stupid. For years my anxiety and fear have won out. I’d much rather people think I’m lazy than stupid. Hell, I’d rather them think I’m lazy than mentally ill! I finally overcame the fear enough to challenge myself and it turns out my worst fear might be true. My best isn’t good enough.

The midterm did not go well.

We’ll probably get it back on Tuesday. There are only 7 of us in the class. And misery does love company. During a quick postmortem yesterday it sounds like no one did well.

entertaining the boys

As long as the guy with the stack of cups on his head still loves my stupid ass I’ll be ok.


T carefully stacked the cups up by himself.


4 thoughts on “Trying. Then Failing.

  1. Long-time reader here. I love your writing and have been lurking, but I had to comment on this post because it took me right back to grad school. Trying and failing is what it’s all about, or what it was all about for me anyway. It was really overwhelming and demoralizing at first, because it’s such a different feeling from being an undergrad.

    Something that helped me was figuring out that there are lots of different types of intelligence and not all of them are measured in the same way. Grades feel objective/definitive/etc. but they really only measure how well you did with that material at that moment, which is just a tiny fragment of the overall picture.

    And if you try and fail, you aren’t stupid, because you’re better for having made the attempt. Spoken as someone who has tried (and failed) to sort out the difference between combinations and permutations a million times, along with a bunch of other basic math concepts that have failed to stick. But as the saying goes, “You cannot win, if you do not play.” (You also cannot loose, but loosing really isn’t that bad most of the time as long as you’ve got a net) Because smart isn’t a thing you are: it’s a way you are. Or maybe a constellation of qualities (like contemplative + inquisitive) that add up to smart, which looks different for everybody.

    For instance, I had one really bright friend who struggled in grad school (in a different way from me) because she had a terrible memory (like, “What’s the name of that character in the book we’re reading?” “You mean Jane Eyre, yeah? It’s Jane.”) but she would make the most insightful comments/write the most awesome papers because she was really good at making observations, as long as she had all the material in front of her. As you can imagine though, tests were a nightmare. Every smart person that I’ve met has an Achilles heel or two.

    Lol, started to ramble. Just wanted to cheer you up!

    • Thank you for the comment, Laura. You’ve given me a lot to think about. It really is indulgent for me to be so obsessed with failing or being perceived as intelligent. And you are right. we all have our Achilles heel. My memory is about as sieve-like as your friend’s in grad school. I agree that putting yourself out there is the important thing. Even if you aren’t able to achieve what you expected. Thanks again for the comment. I do appreciate the feedback. Especially when it is this thoughtful.

      • Because smart isn’t a thing you are: it’s a way you are. Or maybe a constellation of qualities (like contemplative + inquisitive) that add up to smart, which looks different for everybody.

        Laura! Great comment – well worth reading & pondering.

        And Karen…you may be sick of hearing how well worth reading I find your thoughts

        but as I appreciate your Karen-ness, endowed with a “constellation of qualities,”
        it bears

        Write long and prosper,


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