Homegrown Agile: “M” Writes Back!

Well, it has finally happened. My family has decided to take up pen against me! Well, not really – I’m being a tad dramatic. However, my oldest, “M,” who is a Junior in University has decided to write her own take on the blog that I wrote about her here months ago. I hope you enjoy this installment!

For most of my life I was the choir teachers preached to. The theme of their songs mainly consist of “get into a good college, find a career path you are passionate about, and the rest of your life will be a success.” I was an excellent choir member too; I graduated with honors, accepted into a reputable university, and rewarded with generous scholarships. I even finished my first semester with a perfect GPA, and on track for the next ones. However, some things are not what they seem. Sometimes reputable universities are not the right fit for you, no matter how reputable they may be. Sometimes, you find a flea infestation and mold growing in your dorm that most likely has yet to be fixed. Needless to say, I might have had perfect grades, but I was not perfectly happy. 

Naively, I thought the transfer process would be easier. After all, I had all of those attributes of a fine high school student. Instead, the local university I chose to transfer to flat out rejected me because the math portion of my SAT scores was just a few points too low. I was, to put it lightly, devasted. How do you move on from what the world has taught you is a failure? If my hard work did not make up for my failings, what would? I thought about what I hear my dad say when he is on those strange-sounding phone calls with companies – “fail fast, fix fast.”  

The answer, as it turns out, was more than just hard work. This time I had to change what exactly I worked hard on, and unlearn what counted as success. In that process of unlearning, and subsequently relearning, I discovered three truths. One, that life is not as simple as teachers and school programs make it out to be. Two, connections matter. Three, I learned how to look at things from different angles. 

A phenomenon I find interesting about life is that a lot of the human experience is shared. What I mean is, just when you think you are completely alone in your terrible, horrible, no good circumstances, someone comes around and tells you they’ve been in a similar situation. When my transfer to my second college was rejected, I found out three other people I knew or just met were also rejected from the college of their choice. This situation repeated itself. From my freshmen year to now, all I hear about is how others in my life had an “unconventional” college career. Many people I know did not graduate on time. Others did not finish college, or attend one at all. All of these people are successful and happy with their lives. This not only proves that you are never alone, but it also proves that there is no one “right” way to do anything in life at all, especially not where success and happiness is concerned. Once again, I hear my dad’s voice talking about how every team is different and how measuring and comparing the success of team to team not only leads to failure but leads to a drop in happiness.

The second most important truth I learned from rejection is to never take for granted what you have, who you know, or even who you have just met. Collaboration and relationships matter (as my dad says). My best friend’s mom, for instance, was essential in helping me get into the college I was rejected from. I was never expecting the help, but I just so happened to tell my best friend about what happened when her mom overheard, and her mom just so happened to work at the college I was trying to get into. Not only that, but she personally confronted the head of the Appeal’s Office so that I had the opportunity to appeal. She gave me a second change because of the relationship we had. She knew more of me than the college did; I am loyal, trustworthy, and more than just my terrible math skills. 

There is a poem I once read that said “the most beautiful part of falling down: it gives you a new perspective, forcing you to look up at things you once only looked down on.” I can no longer find the author, but I have had that quote written in the notes of my phone for years. This is the last truth I learned. When I took the leap – when I decided to make a huge change in my life – just to be rejected and fall flat on my face, I thought I would never recover. Not only was I wrong (and a bit dramatic), but I also gained a new perspective from the experience. I thought the only way that the school measured if I was a valuable student was SAT scores. No, the test scores were not great, and not something I am proud of. But what I found was that there was another way and that WAS something I can be proud of – the essay I sent to the Appeal’s Office, and what made them eventually accept me. Pivoting and finding a new perspective on your situation gives learning from your mistakes more meaning. 

So, you don’t get accepted into a college or you fail in another way. What do you do next?  Do you keep going in the same direction, measuring success the same way or do you unlearn and focus on what is really important?  Do you cherish relationships and collaboration even when they seem accidental?  And finally do you let that failure stop you from learning or do you take time to check your world view and grow?  I know that my complex and “unconventional” experience helped form how I would approach my 20’s – what will your experience do for you?

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