Failing Is Never Final

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My first time around in college was straight out of high school.  The year was 1975 and I had just turned five years old 18 years old three weeks before starting college the first week in September of that year.  I did fine in high school, but college challenged me.  In hindsight I was not truly ready for college straight out of high school but, in a way, it did work out because those 52 credits that I earned at Brooklyn College cut in half the time I would have to spend earning my BS at SUNY Empire State College.

Anyway, when I first went to college I was burned out from going to school for years.  I was thrilled when I graduated from high school, and even though I could have used the break, I decided to go straight to college to “get it over with”.  That was not the right attitude and I was not really focused on academics.  Additionally, I was mostly lazy to spend sufficient time to do my homework so that I handed in quality work.  My grades were nothing to write home about.  I got a few B’s here and there, but mostly C’s and a few D’s.  I never received an A in any of my classes my first time around in college.  If your GPA falls below a certain level you are dismissed from the college, which is disgraceful.  One day I received a letter from the registrar’s office informing me that my GPA was below acceptable and that I was officially on academic probation.  The letter also warned me that if I did not improve my GPA within a certain time frame that I would be dismissed from the college.  I went through another semester and then left school on my own to take a break that was only supposed to be for a year.  I needed to regroup.   That year didn’t end until April 2013 when I applied to SUNY Empire State College and was accepted.

I was very excited about returning to college, but nervous because of my previous academic record.  I was really embarrassed about my faculty adviser at SUNY Empire seeing my transcript from Brooklyn College because of my less than stellar grades.  I also wondered if I was smart enough to get through college.  Something was different this time around though, and I could feel it.  I was more focused and truly wanted to do well.  I eagerly applied myself and found that writing papers actually came very easy to me.  It was just the heavy school work load that I had to balance.  At the end of my first semester at SUNY Empire I received two A’s and a B+. My second semester I received three A’s and an A minus. I finally realized that I wasn’t stupid or even an average student.  I was brilliant and I never knew it.  I was also receiving top grades for the papers I wrote with great comments from my professors.  One professor called me a star student.  For my third and fourth semesters I received more A’s except for one B+. Unfortunately, SUNY Empire does not give out honor distinctions and I was very disappointed to find this out during my second semester there, but if they did I would have graduated Magna Cum Laude.

I was a very thin line away from being dismissed from school in disgrace many years ago.  I have been embarrassed by just the thought of it for years.  I actually never told anyone in my family about that warning letter from Brooklyn College, and for years I convinced myself that I didn’t need college anyway.  Over the years most of the people I knew who graduated from college were not working in jobs that they majored in in school, so I often wondered what was the point.

College can be a very enriching experience if you take it seriously and apply yourself, and that is what I did for my second chance.  I was frustrated about the critical thinking part of it.  In college, no matter what you choose to study, you have to prove that you have critical thinking skills.   I am not a fan of that skill, but I know how to do it to pass college courses.  My personal belief is that you can expand your world, embrace new ideas, reach for the stars, spread peace and love, and be the best person you can be without “critical thinking”.  It is just highly overrated to me, but I know that many people thrive on it.  This is a world of human duality after all isn’t it.

I am happy to be a part of the class of 2015 and an alumnus of SUNY Empire State College.  Past failures are never an indication of who you really are and what you can do tomorrow.

This entry was posted in Xenia.

5 comments

  1. RAFrenzy says:

    Thank you for sharing this experience.

    “Past failures are never an indication of who you really are and what you can do tomorrow.” It can’t be said enough!

    • Xenia says:

      Thank you Frenzy. It is so important for people to never give up or judge themselves so harshly. These two years of college was indeed a journey of self-discovery.

  2. Servetus says:

    The reasons universities emphasize critical thinking is to expand the student’s capacity for identifying and solving problems (usually in the workplace, but elsewhere as well). I agree that it is not necessary to be a critical thinker to be a good person, but it is a useful skill if effecting useful change is an important value.

    I’d have been hurt on your behalf if your adviser had made any kind of negative remark about grades you got 40 years ago! We often find that mature students are our best students because they’ve learned something about the world and what is necessary for success in the meantime. Congratulations on overcoming your reservations.

    • Xenia says:

      Using critical thinking skills to solve problems is great. What I find is that this skill is often taken to levels that unnecessarily complicates life. I have witnessed critical thinkers create problems where none truly existed in the first place except in their mind, or if there is a problem it becomes bigger. The altered ego loves critical thinking because that way it can wreck havoc everywhere it goes.

      My adviser was encouraging to me from day one and never mentioned my grades from 40 years ago. I miss her already. My goodness, has it really been 40 years?????

      • Servetus says:

        I try to avoid saying that something that one person thinks “unnecessarily complicates life” is an absolute. For instance, lots of people say the kashrut rules of Judaism would unnecessarily complicate their lives, while others see the rules as absolutely necessary and not complicated at all. I think that the question of what is a necessary versus an unnecessary complication is something that we negotiate between each other as humans and not something that’s absolute. Some complications that we don’t necessarily embrace at first end up being absolutely worth it, so I try to keep an open mind when someone tells me that we need to consider a complication that is raised by critical thinking. For instance, my father would say that referring to black people who want not to be called black as “African Americans” is an unnecessary complication. I think that position is wrong and disrespectful of people who want to be called African Americans, and I got there via critical thinking. Sure, it would be simpler to do otherwise. But it wouldn’t be fair to those people. I may ultimately discard a complication that someone raises as irrelevant after thinking about it, but I’m not going to dismiss it out of hand simply because it is a complication. And I couldn’t consider it without critical thinking.

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