ALEX LY

 
 
 

My relationship with failure has always been complex. Since I was a kid, I was surrounded by older family members that would speak of all the great things I would eventually achieve and like any other Asian Canadian kid, I was expected to be a doctor, a musician; essentially they wanted me to be a genius. I was put into competitions, expected to bring back first place and was told to get good grades, all while never saying I was struggling. Of course there was also the constant comparison with older cousins or family friends, telling me that there was no real excuse for not succeeding. I constantly worried about upsetting my parents and grandparents if I failed to come back with anything less than what they wanted. It didn’t help that both my parents came from humble backgrounds and I grew up watching them struggle and worry about finances, schedules and more. As their child, I thought it was my duty to never give them something to worry about. Somehow I had internalized the pressures of succeeding inside me and became private with what was stressing me at school. I believed that silently dealing with school and extracurriculars was the best way to help them so I only show them my achievements and bring home my best marks. In the eyes of my parents, my failures didn't exist. They would say "I never worry about Alex", or  "I never stress because of Alex". The pressure to succeed only grew as time went on. And as I grew, so did my ambition to succeed and to the pressure that came with it.


However, university had other plans for me. The second semester of my first year was the biggest slap in the face, but it was probably greatest thing that could have possibly happened to me. That semester, I failed my first exam, my grades were in the toilet and I was barely scraping by. I started to sleep later, my health began to deteriorate yet I believed as long as I just pushed myself, I could still achieve the success I wanted. I believed if I sacrificed my relationships, friendships and a good chunk of my mental health, I could get high final grades and I wouldn't have to show my parents the failure that I feared. The mindset of “no failure” had embedded itself into my identity and I began to compare my failures to the students who were still excelling around me. In the end, I still brought back awful marks but when I had gone to my parents with my lower grades, they didn't yell, or cry or act like their world was going to end like I had expected. Instead, they reassured me and said "it's ok, it happens. Life moves on, you tried your best and that's all that matters".


I came to the realization that my failures weren’t as serious as I made them to be. My comparisons to other people had made me unhappy and had become toxic. Although I’d like to say I don’t do it anymore, I still do, but I’m slowly making my way to accepting my failures and not placing so much importance in them. I’ve also learned that failures are bound to happen and that all we can do is try our best, and although I’m still struggling with pressuring myself too much, I’m working on bettering myself and accepting me for who I am, failures and all.