Is that a thing? Can you intend to fail? Is failure what happens when you try with all the passion you can muster and then fall on your face? Or can failure be a choice? Can you choose to fail? And if you do, what does that mean?
Or when you intend to fail, or decide to fail, is that just quitting?
At the end of my senior year of college, I was accepted to the graduate program I had chosen. It was a specialized degree, and due to the fact that I was soon to be married and had just bought a home, the program needed to be tailored for working professionals, and likely online.
I was studying environmental science with a speciality in language and literature – I thought it would make me more marketable in the higher education field with such a distinct literary specialty. After months of parsing through geological studies and reporting on rock formations in central New Hampshire, I withered. There was little literature. Little interaction. Little garnering from the wisdom of a respected professor. I read alone, wrote alone, and responded to carefully worded forum posts rather than the quick thinking musings of a heated in-class debate.
I scorned online learning – I didn’t want a means to an end. I wanted to learn, and to learn and understand deeply. I wanted to analyze and debate and feed off the insights of my peers and professors. So I opted for failure. Not academic, flunking failure, but rather I chose to fail at online learning. I made an investment of time and money, and I failed.
I wouldn’t say I quit – I view quitting as something you do when things become too hard to surmount, when the odds of success dwindle and walking away seems easier. By all other accounts, I was succeeding in this program – academically, I had a high GPA and immaculate ‘attendance.’ But it didn’t fulfill me. It didn’t nurture me in the way I wanted it to. I didn’t quit – I failed. It was a calculated decision based on experience and evidence. It was intentional failure.
I didn’t regret it for a moment. I still don’t. I took a few years off and made money, and a home.
I’ve now been accepted to an English Literature program that, by all accounts, is just what I need. Classes in old stone buildings with talented professors and literary enthusiasts a handful at a time.
Thank you, failure.