Success. Success. Success.
That’s usually all we hear. It’s what our society whispers in our ears everyday. Everywhere we turn, we are told to strive for success. It starts early in our childhood, in our schools. They say that we can become anything that we want. That we should reach for the stars. Our society’s obsession with success is deeply integrated into our cultural values. We see it in self-help books lining the shelves of bookstores, promising the secrets underpinning a successful career, a successful marriage, and ultimately; a successful life.
But what happens when we fail?
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 80% of post-secondary students change their major in their post-secondary career at least once. And five years ago, I was determined that I would not be one of them.
Or so I thought.
Unlike most of my high school peers, who were clueless as to what they wanted to do for post-secondary, I confidently told my friends and family at the ripe age of 16 that I aspired to be a nurse. The idea had begun in a conversation with my friend, who was also looking into becoming a nurse. The more I explored the career, the more it seemed like a good fit for me. By the end of high school, I settled with the idea of nursing as my career.
After graduating high school, I went to a community college to complete my prerequisite courses for nursing school. I had it all planned out. I would get into nursing school within two years and finish my undergraduate degree. Then I would finally become what I’d envisioned for myself for all those years: a nurse.
Fast forward two years and many nursing school rejection letters later.
The over-the-brim confidence that I displayed two years ago had completely vanished. Shame and guilt were some of the many negative emotions that gripped me. I felt like an utter failure. There I was, repeating the same courses again and again for two years as I watched my peers move on to get hired for co-op positions and make other amazing achievements in their academic careers.
It was time for me to move on. I decided to take a leap of faith and let go of pursuing life as a nurse.
This was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. Not only was I giving up on a promising career that I had pursued with countless all-nighters and volunteer hours for the past five years of my life, I worried that I would also have to face the judgments of my peers, my friends, and my family. Yet, I knew that time waited for no one.
With no clear career prospects in mind, I transferred to SFU, fearful, yet, hopeful for the future. I began sampling different academic disciplines by enrolling in a variety of courses. I took everything from psychology to computer science. I was determined to try everything.
It was around then that I discovered my passion for communications.
Having bought my first DSLR camera recently, I began to volunteer for a sports league to photograph their events. It was here where I discovered my talent for photography, and made connections which eventually led me to a position with a photography company. Through volunteering, I had allowed myself to explore other career paths and discover a new passion for digital media and journalism.
Three semesters later, I declared my major in Communication, and it is a field I can see myself flourishing in for the next five years.
While I can’t guarantee that I will stay in the field of communications for the rest of my life, the biggest lesson I learned is that stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new is the best thing you can ever do for yourself. Volunteer. Pick up a new hobby. Meet new people. Join a club. Do anything that allows you to discover who you are.
More importantly, this experience has taught me so much about handling failure and learning to let go. You can remain devastated and crippled by failure, or you can choose to use it as an opportunity to make changes and improve. If I never had the courage to stop pursuing nursing and transfer to SFU, I would have never discovered the world of communications.
Most of all, don’t be afraid to fail. Embrace it and grow.