Failure and success are intrinsically tied to how we perceive ourselves in Australia. Our national narrative is seemingly permanently linked to tales of daring do and sporting prowess. We think, or at least hope, that our success will follow a clear and easy linear path. But, the reality is far different.
We stop off on the way to ‘success’ to look after sick or dying family members, to have children, to take long needed sabbaticals from corporate careers, and a myriad of other reasons. Somewhere, particularly since the second wave of mass migration hit Australia, gaining a tertiary education became a key stepping stone on that road to success. University education became less about learning for learning’s sake and more about making new achievements and connections.
Our ideas of success place us under more and more pressure to be something other than ourselves. It is a bright shiny light that beckons us to follow its path. But, the quest for success puts our mental health, our wellbeing and even our family at risk.
I’m what would be considered a failure, by these standards. I am now finishing off my capstone subjects but once upon a time, I failed two years of school. That was crushing. Almost soul-destroying. As any failure can be. Year 10 and 11 have been permanently been etched on the list of things that I sucked at.
I didn’t do the dot-to-dot connecting key stones of the path to success. I’ve walked away from toxic corporate environments and have rebuilt and reinvented across a range of occupations. In my opinion, I’ve had far, far more successes than I’ve had failures.
So, why am I telling this story? For some of us, failing the first year of a subject or a course is a reality of University life. Student life is a lot to take on board and process. We have picked subjects we thought we’d enjoy but didn’t. We underestimate the financial struggles of being university student. Enjoying our youth and exploring life whilst needing to put in dozens of hours into homework to succeed is a complex conundrum that pulls us in different directions. But, the thing is don’t let ‘failure’ define you. Don’t hide from it. Don’t run off and go AWOL on your studies. Check in with someone. Student Wellbeing, a staff member, a friend, anyone. Who you are and what you do or didn’t do as a 20-year-old does not define who or what you are as a 35-year-old. University is not a life or death situation. Don’t destroy your chances of happiness by hiding. As you move through life, you won’t regret your failures but, you will regret the times you didn’t ask for help when you needed it.
Claire Kearns is a third year student who returned to study in 2015 as a mature-aged student and is hoping to undertake her Honours in 2018. In her spare time, Claire is just a bit obsessed with Star Wars, writes poetry and is a passionate advocate for single mothers & their children. You can follow her on Instagram @ballerinapiratesmile.