Failing Forward & functions
Like it or not, being at C4Q is forcing me to think more deeply about failure than I would like. But perhaps that's true when attempting anything worthwhile? Well, that said, I'm pretty sure I goose-egged today's test.
So I seem to have the "failure" part of #failingForward" down. How does one check that the second part of that hashtag is actually happening? I'm serious, now. How? Because I'm new to the failing forward concept and new to not measuring myself by someone else's metric, whether that be a grade or a performance review.
(Random aside/David Foster Wallace moment: Maybe another, less-catchy-but-therby-illustrating-the-whole-point-really name for Failing Forward would be Ruining Perfect. Or Repeatedly Ruining Perfect. Or Breaking Up with Perfect. Or Realizing You're Just Not That Into Perfect (so sorry for bringing that phrase back into your life... that one's for a mid-30s reader out there).)
Perhaps more useful right now would be the concept of the Growth Mindset. One of the phrases that repeatedly shows up on charts comparing a Growth vs. Fixed mindset is from the Fixed Mindset side of things: "Will this make me look smart or stupid?" I think I've finally figured out that looking stupid or slow is a fixed mindset trigger for me. By which I mean, having the feeling that people are seeing me as slow to catch on makes me insecure and defensive (true fact: I had to take a moment and breathe after typing that out) which makes me want to engage in fixed mindset behaviors like: comparing myself to others (compare & despair!), deciding I'm a failure, and giving up.
Illustrative moment from today: we originally had until 1pm (or 1 hour) to finish today's assessment. I think by 12:20pm I was pretty sure I was in the deep weeds and by 12:35 I was sure of it. At 12:45 the weeds were not only deep, but on fire, and somehow taunting me. So by 1pm I was quietly biting back tears and doing my git stuff to submit my mostly empty test file (with a really sad/apologetic PR title that I forgot everyone could see and now wish I could take back... #flawed). Then the teacher gave us an hour extension which almost everyone took except for what I'm guessing were the few quickest students who were already done with both halves of the test. And me. I felt like the biggest fraud ever, getting up to leave the room in front of everybody. I was not finished with the test—the test had finished me.
But I got up from the desk anyways. And I as I walked by some peers talking to one another, both of whom I was sure were done and had aced the test, I felt the dominoes fall: I "read their minds" and assumed they knew I hadn't successfully completed the test as they had (click), I compared myself to them (click), found myself wanting (click), decided I was a failure (click), and... went outside for a walk to clear my head.
That last move was an OK one, as it was beautiful outside and the walk genuinely helped get me back to neutral. Plus I didn't have to deal with conversations about the test I could in no way participate in, unless it was about linking up labels and buttons from the Storyboard or choosing a color scheme for your screen in XCode (FYI: I think Dusk is nice. You?).
Point is, that moment walking by my peers who had presumably aced the test was excruciating for me. I'm tearing up just remembering it. I honestly didn't realize until now how much it hurts me (or how much I let it hurt me) to sit with the feeling that some people might consider me slow or simply not really a part of the quickest bunch in the room.
This is where it gets personal. I had many forms of privilege growing up (and still do). Two of them were: 1) I was in "small ponds" (relatively small, good public schools) in elementary through high school and 2) I had a parent who fought for me to get the best education she thought possible out of the public school system, which included fighting for me to get into gifted programs. As a consequence, I was used to running with a smart/gifted/talented/what-have-you crowd and thought that was a title I had earned. I was always middle of the pack (B+/Asian F students show me love) but I knew it was the middle of a smart pack.
This is all a long walk to say: I'm not used to failing. For me a C was failing.
'nother true story: I came home with a 99 on a test one day in junior high and proudly announced it at the dinner table. My (NOT AT ALL COINCIDENTALLY ASIAN-AMERICAN FATHER) literally asked me, "What happened to that one point?" Being the level-headed teenager I was I promptly and purposely failed all of my classes (even my "gifted" one) until the end of the year. To prove... a point? I don't know, I was 13. I didn't need a point. Ultimately, my (white) mom said it didn't matter as long as I got my act together in high school, since that was all that colleges looked at. Mom was cool like that. She was right, too. #rebellionQuestionMark
So yeah, I still carry my dad's voice in my head.
And I grew up thinking failure was some kind of reverse magick tantrum spell I could perform at will to try and make my dad fight (love) me. And I kind of always had this cushion of "smart" in my wheelhouse for when I was down.
Neither of those things feel all that true anymore.
Failure happens to myself and loved ones outside of my beck and call. In the real adult world I do not get a "smart" cushion to fall back on—or get to throw a tantrum—when things get hard for me.
But I also get some time (5am on a Saturday) and a place (blog!) to reflect on what I can do. I can talk back to dad's voice in my head (which I'd better start doing now or else it'll outlive him, like I'm sure his father's still lives in his). Despite the fact that it feels true that if people don't think I'm quick on the uptake, no one will ever want to work with, hire, or even talk to me... none of those things are true; they're not facts, they're just (say it with me) feelings. I have more to offer than my brain or whatever hidden talents I snuck through the gate. I can learn things slowly. I'm not in danger of thinking outcomes and results don't matter.
I also can't control whether people see me as flaky or fly-by-night or only semi-committed because I'm not yet an A or B+ student at C4Q. Other people's thoughts on my progress are for the most part not my business. God, I hate the idea of being seen as flaky, especially about work. My family may be mixed but when it comes to religion we had One and it was Work. Not sacrificing everything (e.g., my social life, dating, mental health) for work feels like what I imagine breaking the Sabbath would for someone observant. Weirdly. You get it. It's hard for me. Getting my entire identity and sense of self-worth from school or my job is my default case (seriously, my life was like a Swift switch statement with no other cases, especially in my 20s).
Funnily enough, though C4Q is structured like a lot of my 20s (almost all-consuming work/studying), there are two important differences: 1) a built-in support system of peers, tutors, and teachers that I know how to access and 2) I am no longer in my 20s. Praise be. So while I'm not smart at Swift or building apps with Swift yet I do know myself a little better, and I know I don't have to do it like I've done it before. I'm doing better by myself than I have done before. I'm grateful to be learning how to learn at a slower pace. I'm grateful that I know how badly I want this and how much I enjoy the coding I can do, and I can let that be enough to keep going for now.
The image associated with this blog post is my answer for the Three Fictional Characters That Describe You meme. You'll notice they're all pretty single-minded and persistent. Fingers crossed that works out for me.