Failure: Let Go, or Try Again?

In the second installment of our advice column, "Dear Monster," medusa speaks on failure, societal expectations, and following one's heart.

Someone said...

I don’t know what I’m doing. What I do know is, I’m failing. I’m failing at everything: being a daughter, a friend, maths in high school, clearing the college entrance tests, at life. Right now, I’m at a terrifying crossroad. I have choose a career, or rather a path that would lead me to a career. Some context, I suppose: I stayed at home two years to study and get a med degree. I attempted the tests 3 times and each time, I couldn’t clear it. My high school grades are crap. My parents wants me to get some obscure degree so that I can attempt the medical entrance tests again next time. I’m conflicted. I can get admitted into a private college and study psychology like I have always wanted to but the job scenario in my country is terrible, and the financial crisis it might send my parents it, and the overwhelming sense of guilt at being not good enough, of once again wasting thousands on my education, on not being the Perfect Daughter they have always assumed me to be. Of always, always being a failure. All my friends are at college, all my relatives talking behind and sometimes upfront on how this is sad, isn’t it, but she was always going to fail, anyway,

At this point, I’m not sure what I’m trying to say or ask, but, is this it? Do I join an obscure college, try again for that medical college, and wait for it to begin again? Or do I go to that private college, waste resources, and maybe, I won’t like or maybe I will, but what about the jobs, how will people react, what new vicious insult will they throw at my parents, because being an engineer and doctor is the only acceptable profession here, unless you are a high ranking officer and bring home a check with at least five zeroes? Because after so many failed attempts, what even is the point? Do I give in, or do I give up? Those seem like the only option, somehow.

(I’m sorry if this was entirely pointless. I run and talk in circles. I’m not trying to be annoying—I just don’t have anyone else to talk to about this—but maybe I have been. Annoying, I mean. I apologise. Sorry. Thank you.)
— Anna

The monster said...

my dearest anna,

it sounds like you are having an incredibly hard time of things, struggling through the battle of what you want vs. what your society expects of you. you really don’t need to apologize—i would first like to make it clear that with everything you are doing, the last thing on that list is failing. you are not failing. to clarify that: you are not failing! the type of culture you outline is one i am all too familiar with, as i’m sure many of our readers are too, so in that sense, you are not alone in what you are having to go through & feel. you are never alone & i’m proud of you for reaching out.

the standards set by these sort of cultural expectations are based on a very ‘black & white’ thinking pattern & are impossible to reach for the majority, both practically & emotionally—it is not the people that fail, but the society. it’s unfortunate that the people in it (especially the elders) are heavily influenced by what others will think & do. people seem to put opinions over their happiness—& when you put it like that, that sounds ridiculous, right?

i cannot offer you any concrete outcomes of either path, but what i can say is, you are good enough to do whatever it is you are passionate about. you wanna do psychology? then do psychology! so what if it’s not medicine? at any rate, it’s still a profession that involves understanding & taking care of people, & is inherently more rewarding. i suggest you lay out all these fears & dilemmas in front of your parents—perhaps talking to them directly is out of the question or is too daunting, so write them a little note or letter. tell them how you feel. you don’t deserve having to live this conflict. i have known people in the same situation, one person in particular, who has done & redone this test & they don’t even know the direction of their life anymore. i know of people who have gotten into medicine with no problem, but are absolutely hating it—they are depressed because it’s not what they want to do, but what they were propelled to do by societal/cultural expectations. this may be a cliché, but money cannot buy happiness in its purest form. practically, you could explain to your parents that continuously redoing the test will be more costly in the long-term—i mean, only you yourself know the extent of your abilities & whether or not you can pass—but what’s more important is whether you want to pass or not. sure, being a doctor or engineer or lawyer gives you a ‘great reputation’—but if everyone aspires to be seen as this greatly educated figure then that actually makes a very limited society. everyone having supposedly professional & advancing careers is actuality very dangerous for the progression of society in general. it allows stigmas & stereotypes to breed relentlessly, & if your parents/other adults can’t or won’t understand that, then that makes them the failings of modernity. plus, y’know, someone’s gotta do the other jobs, right?!

by giving in to what your parents & society are pushing onto you, you are setting up more unhappiness for yourself. if you have a dream of your own, pursue it. it may disappoint your parents & other people around you, but that doesn’t make you a disappointment. remember that. you can be a very professional psychologist, earning more than enough money, even if it has to be abroad. you deserve what you want & that doesn’t make you a selfish person. it makes you honest & brave to rally against other’s expectations of you. you are better than what you think.

i hope my ramblings help. please don’t hesitate to get back in touch if needs be. i pray it all goes well, whatever you choose to do.

best wishes!
— medusa