Exorcising Failure


I don’t know what to write today.  Fridays are when the week catches up.  It was a long day yesterday, with good and bad things interspersed enough that I can’t decide if it was a good day or a bad day.  I have my favorite classes on Tuesday and Thursday (N. Ren. Art, Vampires, Brit Myth Lit).  I finally got my Shakespeare paper back, which was humiliating and painful.


I had to stop there for a bit.  Here’s the thing.  I am a writer.  When people ask me how I feel about writing papers, I snort.  Reaching page minimums has never been a problem for me.  Staying under maximums is usually the issue.  I’m not bragging.  That’s just usually how it works out.  But sometimes,  get stuck.  I don’t know what to write, I flounder and swirl, grasping for something profound to say.  This effect, though rare, only seems to happen when a) the paper is on a subject I like in a general way (I like all of it, not just some aspects) or b) the paper is for a teacher I really want to impress.  Shakespeare is a subject I’m interested in, but not in a specific way.  I acknowledge that he (if he existed) is a big deal.  He had a huge impact on everything.  So finding something specific to write about was very difficult.  And it was for a teacher I have a lot of respect for, is well-known as a tough grader, and teaches just about every subject I’ve been interested in (Shakespeare, Vampires, Brit Myth Lit).  Just so we’re clear, when I say “impress,” I mean that I need said teacher to like me.


Yes, I have an ego problem.  When I get a bad grade, my knee-jerk reaction is not “what did I do wrong.”  It’s “why don’t they like me,” despite every logical argument to the contrary.  This is soon followed by a deep, seething, burning shame.  I failed.  I don’t fail.  I can’t fail.  What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I do anything right?  Oh, I should be writer, sure, this clearly what I’m good at.  These thoughts have nothing to do with reality, mind you.  It’s just what goes through my mind because I simply cannot stop it from going through my mind.   I just have to let this stage run it’s course, eat my humble pie, and continue to tell myself that I made mistakes that were preventable (so I must work to prevent them next time) and it will be okay.


This sort of thing always brings me to perception.  If I were to tell my you what grade I got for the class (a B), you might say that it is still a good grade, to which my inner voice replies to by spitting venom (which you haven’t earned, so I won’t repeat it).  From my perspective, I had an A, then I effed up the one thing I’m really good at.  I put it off, I procrastinated, I didn’t take it seriously enough, I didn’t turn in a rough draft when I could have, etc.  I focus on this black hole of self blame, which will suck me down into depression if I let it.


It will take time for this wound to heal, for that sick feeling of shame to quit burning my stomach when I think about that paper.  Eventually, I’ll get to a point when I can fight the shame with sarcasm.  I’m sure by the time I have grandchildren, I’ll have the strength to laugh about my former failings.


My day ended with dying my hair.  That made me feel a little better.

Ready for my Vampire Class

Ready for my Vampire Class




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