Lately, I’ve been struggling a lot with my lack of success at applying to graduate school. While I was in college, grad school seemed not only like the logical and manageable next step, but like something I felt called to (a buzzword that leaves me more and more bitter as time goes on); now it seems so far away that I might not make it. I thought my experience and skills made me desirable to programs, now I feel washed-out and obsolete. I worry that my chance to do what I’ve dreamed of doing for years is slipping away without course to pursue it. And that’d all be bad enough if I’d only been out one year. Being rejected a second year in a row dealt a critical blow not only to my pride but to my sense of purpose.
Now I wonder if it’s even something I’d be good at, or if I’ve just been wasting my life for the past six years chasing cosmic windmills. I wonder if the energy I’ve expended toward various other pursuits like working at the SB Museum of Natural History, tutoring, and working at my church have been signs that I’m not committed enough for grad school. If maybe I never would have made it anyway.
If maybe I am a failure.
And yes, I know the answer to that question. That is, I know the answer that I’m supposed to arrive at. Mike,you say, don’t you know that you are worth many sparrows? That God doesn’t judge you based on your worldly successes and failures, but by your heart?
Screw that noise.
Ask anyone who’s ever grappled with insecurity whether an academic understanding that he’s being irrational has helped him overcome that insecurity and I guarantee the response: What, are you an idiot? or something even less savory. Even for people who generally succeed, feeling like a failure is inevitable. It’s only made worse when we’re confronted with actual failure, and on those occasions no amount of platitudes or well-wishes or cheery reminders can ever mean anything worthwhile.
In the midst of failure, God himself can even seem silent and absent. The feeling of peace at having been called somewhere suddenly evaporates, leaving in its place only abject terror: What do I do now? This was supposed to happen! Where are you? Nothing. No explanation. No reassurance. No next steps. You’re on your own.
You probably can tell from the title that this short series isn’t complete, but until the next post, I’d like to ask you, the readers: What do you do when you meet with failure? What do you do when insecurity begins to overwhelm you? How do you keep yourself moving forward when it seems like every step leads nowhere?