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Define Yourself

March 23, 2010

This sounds like a kind of silly idea, but I think it’s really relevant, especially to anyone who has ever let their experiences in life define them.  I know I’ve let that happen to myself.  I’d love the extend this message out to anyone who has been through anything similar to what I have, and to anyone who feels limited by their successes and failures.

For example, during my years in high school, I was horrendous at math.  No matter doing all of the assigned work and more besides, studying every day and trying my hardest, I barely managed to scrape by with a pass.  Hell, I even got a tutor to help me, and that didn’t seem to work.  WhenI did experience a small success, the teacher assumed I was cheating, as this success could not have been my own. I felt like a failure, since everything else I’d ever done had resulted in varying degrees of success.  For the first time, there seemed to be something that I just wasn’t made to do.  And I made the mistake of letting this experience define me.  I just gave up on myself, and didn’t try anymore.  Looking for post-secondary education, I didn’t even consider anything that was involved in mathematics.  I thought that if I couldn’t succeed at it in high school, there was no way I could make it in college.  I just tried to ignore the embarrassment of failure, and pretending it never happened.

Well, life takes interesting turns, and it took me to college for marine engineering.  Which is a very involved course with lots of math and physics.  I wasn’t sure how I’d ever make it through.  From the progress I’ve made, how wrong I was.  Being in a different place in your life makes such a difference in your experiences, as does the environment.  Being taught by instructors who had the patience for me, who did not doubt success and indeed expected it, was what I needed.  I needed someone who had confidence in me, and believed in me and my success.  I’m learning things that my high school self never dreamt I would be able to grasp.  Oh, what I’d tell my high school self if I could write a letter to send back in time.  I’d tell her not to doubt her abilities, but to doubt the methods and teacher.  To have more faith in herself, and not count this as something that lessened her value and her skill.

If you’re in this sort of situation, in any aspect of your life, please do take heed.  Your apparent lack of success isn’t always your fault, so don’t assume necessarily that because you’re having a hard time now, that it means it will always be bad or hard.  I know I’ve learned that now.

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