Story Corner: Failure

In an effort to get away from a list this week, I wanted to share a story. This is one of the first BIG things that happened to me post-grad & how that set the stage for the next year of my life.

I failed my boards.

It was pass/fail and I was on the latter half. The heartbroken half. The half that had to wait 30 days & pay the fees to take the test again.

Let’s rewind a little bit: I was never the kid who knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. From a young age, I remember wanting to be a princess aaaand that’s about it. No other career ambitions come to mind.

On a whim, I chose nursing. It allowed me to challenge myself with science, while still having a people-centered life. So, off I went to school in Ohio, not fully convinced that this was the career path for me.

Travis Essinger.jpg
My college years looked at lot like this.  We loved making jokes about living in a cornfield. (Travis Esslinger via Unsplash)


That “AHA THIS IS WHAT I’M MEANT TO DO” moment never happened to me. My final semester, I was placed in an ICU [because I had no other preference] & I knew that was it. The staff there pestered me every day to bring my resume to the manager, and I was so excited about it!

I took my boards [the NCLEX, as it’s more commonly known] 3 weeks after graduation. Despite four years of studying nursing, I managed to throw all my good habits out the window.

My review book was open on my lap while I rewatched How I Met Your Mother.

My mother tried to quiz me, but couldn’t pronounce the words, so we stopped and went out to the movies instead.

And in the blink of an eye, it was test day. In a storm of anxiety and stress, I collapsed on my bed after it was over. The uneasiness sat in my chest, but I assumed it was because I just took the biggest test of my life. When results were posted two days after testing, my whole world paused.

I felt that I had let everyone down: my professors, my parents, & myself. Everyone in my life knew when I was talking the test. How was I going to tell them?

Elizabeth Lies via Unsplash

Over the next two days, I turned my room into a cave where I binged Daredevil because I needed a show that was as gloomy as my mood. But then, real life was calling. My test was rescheduled, a study schedule was drafted, and support was gathered from others in the same scenario.

And as hard as that time was, I’m writing this as I am recovering from working 3 days in a row. Most people at work have no idea I failed, but that’s because it doesn’t matter. It was a test to prove my knowledge, not my compassion or communication skills. Failing on the first attempt taught me to take nothing for granted. Now, I pounce on any learning opportunities at work. I want to be the best nurse I can be. Without that shadow of failure, I’m not sure I’d have the same drive I have today.

Now I’ll talk about it anytime. Let’s go. It’s part of me. Some words that came to me at the right moment were, “Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo”, and I couldn’t agree more. I learned, I grew, and now I am who I am because of it.

You may have expectations for your post-grad life. I shared this story to provide an example of how life can go awry. My first few months post-grad were centered around passing my boards by a certain date. After I failed, those months looked nothing like I’d planned. I urge you to take life one step at a time. It’s great to have plans and goals and dreams- just know that life doesn’t yield to them. Having flexibility & being able to adjust is a skill that will save you some heartache.



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