Reaching Standards and Falling Short (or Does Failing Require a Standard?)

Grade 5, circa 2002 – I flunked my Music final examinations. I got 26 out of 50. I was totally devastated. I cursed myself for not knowing what adagio and pianissimo are. I did not mention a thing to my parents. I said, “I’ll get out of this myself.” That was my first taste of academic failure.

3rd year college, 8 long years after, circa 2010 – After a gruesome semester of failing and hanging on to the half mark of my Accounting requirements, I got my first ever 70+ grade. I scored a 77 and another 78 in my two 6-unit major subjects. I could not tell a thing to my parents. I could not say a thing to myself either. They soon found out. And they were devastated. I felt like I was a failure.


I was an achiever. Or so I thought. Constantly, I would cheer my parents up for getting good grades. Not excellent grades, but good ones. The kind that would make everybody say that you’re intelligent. The kind that placed me on the upper echelons of the academic rankings. The kind that gained parents’, the Alma Mater’s, and believers’ pride. The kind I got used to having.

It was my standard. Getting something below 85 was below my average mark. This may sound arrogant and self-conceited. But people who have lived a life of endless expectations will understand with no explanations needed. I know it’s not low – my arithmetic knowledge is not faulty. But the standard has been set. Falling below it is a disappointment. A failure.

For years, I managed to surpass the limits. My parents had come to believe that I would carry on. They looked at me like I was the Pope. Like I was infallible. Like I don’t commit mistakes. Well, I tried. I thought I could because I know I could. I have always believed in my capabilities. I know, with the right push, I can make it. And I have the dream, the dream to excel. Not against anybody, maybe; but excelling my own personal limits. I needed the fuel to pursue the dream, and believing that I could was the most potent.

But I fell short. I failed. I am not a Pope. I stained my almost immaculate transcript with grades of doom that screamed of mediocrity. (My mom thinks otherwise. She terms it ignorance, the sloth style.) And though I know better that there’s no way anybody could carry the weight of the earth, it felt like such a huge mass crumbled over me like an avalanche. Years of glorious academic successes revisited me like memories of the good old past that would never be relished again.

For a while, I resulted to blame and finger-pointing. I blamed my teacher for the Board-like examinations and all those nasty near-death experiences fulfilling his requirements. I blamed the school for employing such heartless educators and making us pay for them. I blamed my course for its excruciating nature. I blamed the books for not teaching me enough. I blamed my parents for the expectations whose heights surpassed Everest. I blamed Luck for not siding by me this time. I blamed my neighbor’s canines that would howl like demons during the wee hours of the morning. But most of all, I blamed myself. For the standard I placed upon me. For the inadequacy and incapability. For expecting too much of myself.

I’m in grief now. It approximates the grief people feel when something real valuable had been lost. It feels like a bit of myself died. Though I know I can still revive that dying part, I also know that whatever I do now would not bring it back unscathed. I can make myself pledge to do better next time, to never take left turns that distract me from following the path, and to keep an eagle’s-eye focus on my prospect but my Fate would still be left like it is now – hazy and undecided. I could devise a plan to bring it all back but then a break from impressing everyone sounds more appealing to me now. All I wanna do is to take the standard out of my system and play my own game. And be left in it alone that I may win it my way.

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