For the very first time in my life, I failed a subject. I felt I was a failure, until I realised that the failure was the subject, not me. Our educational system is quite unfair. After 3 months of hard work, if you have a bad day on the exam day, bad luck, because your mark in the exam will be 100% of your final mark.
Last December, after weeks of studying really hard in order to get extraordinarily high marks, I had my last exam on a Monday. It was one of those "easy" subjects, just 2 hours a week, but during the weekend, I couldn't concentrate. I was done with studying. During the exam, my brain was on holidays, and I failed. My report card was undoubtedly interesting: great marks in every single subject, especially languages, and a fail in that one "easy" subject.
I could talk about how unfair I believe our system is, about all the things that upset me, but I'm tired of complaining. I'm tired of complaining because my voice will be lost among the other millions of Spaniards that claim to know how to fix everything.
Instead, I will talk about failure.
I failed a subject in my last year of high school, after a lifetime of good marks. The day I was told I had failed the exam, I was also told I had gotten the second prize in a short story competition. You win some, you lose some, right? But I saw it as an even bigger failure. Two years ago I had won the first prize in that same competition. Why had I gotten a worse prize? Was I a worse writer now at 17 than when I was 15? Was I getting worse, was becoming a writer a hopeless dream? I went to bed with a feeling of failure, of double failure. And it felt really bad.
Now, a few weeks later, I see it from a different perspective. I hadn't lost that first prize from two years ago, I had just won one more recognition, this time a second prize. I was told about the great increase in participation in the contest this year. I was congratulated much more than two years ago, for whatever reason. And, going back to my other failure, the failed exam, I realized that, although I failed that one exam, by now I must have passed hundreds of exams. Since I started school, I've written hundreds of exams and I can count how many I've failed with only one hand.
The first one was in Grade 2, I remember it. It was a Math exam, all about divisions, and I was really slow in Math at that time. My teacher talked with my parents, trying to convince them that I was too slow, too easily distracted and too shy. I wish I could talk to that teacher today and tell her that my only problem was that I had a creative mind, too much imagination for her Math problems. Later in life, I started getting great marks in Math, and I never failed a Math exam ever again.
My second "failure" was in Grade 7 with the most close minded teacher I've ever had. It was a Geography exam. My third failure was a Grade 8 Science exam I hadn't studied for because I had had a track and field competition in the other side of the country. One of the best weekends of my life.
4 failed exams out of literally hundreds of passed exams, most of them with good marks, and I still remember better my failures than my successes. And I think that's a problem. Society tells us that we have to be beautiful, fit, smart, sociable... We have to be perfect! But nobody is perfect! If you are an outstanding student, society will tell you to join a sport team in order to be fit, even though you hate sports. If you like arts, you should get a "real degree" such as medicine or law and once you've graduated with good marks, then you are allowed to express what you've always wanted to do.
I knew that J. K. Rowling's books had been rejected by a lot of publishers before somebody thought it was a good story, but I almost gave up on writing after not getting any of the numerous prizes in a short story competition in Grade 8. Since then, I have already won 5 short story competitions and most of my Spanish and Galician teachers have recognized my writing abilities. Yet I'm still aware of the fact that any relatively big failure today could make me feel like I was in Grade 8 again. Misunderstood. Unwanted.
And this brings to my mind one big question: Why? Why can't we see failure as the part of success it is? Movies wrongly taught us that if you don't success at something overnight, you're not good at it and you should quit. But movies are two hors long, while our lives last for many years.
Our lives last for so many years, there aren't any due dates. It's okay to be 17 and still not have a clear idea of what to study (yeah, that's me). It's okay to fail a subject and get the credit whenever you have the chance to try again. It's okay to quit your job and get a new one because you were not fully satisfied. It's okay to keep pursuing your dreams when you're not young anymore.
And stop thinking so much about being criticized because if people want to criticize you, they'll find the way. You'll always be too short, too tall, too smart, too dumb, too serious, too funny, too liberal, too conservative... Follow your dreams, you'll be fine, because those who care don't matter, and those who matter don't care.