I’ve been a wreck this last month. Worrying that any poor performance in my upcoming technical courses would instantly compromise my honors and scholarship standing, shooting up the price of my education and effectively barring me from a bachelor’s of science before I’ve even begun. This past year I’ve been surrounded by so many successful and talented young people that I’ve become increasingly self-conscious about starting over and getting a bachelor’s so late. Here I am, twenty-six, (“practically a fossil,” she said with sarcasm) going into a major I have no experience in, becoming a novice amid people who can’t legally drink or rent cars.
I had never once considered that when I spent my first two years in college meandering through different departments, taking pointless courses with no clear goal, I got one thing right - good grades. Without knowing it, I wove almost seventy credits worth of an iron-clad summa cum laude safety net. I’ve now established with mathematical certainty that even if I completely fail both calculus and physics - never even show up for a single test - I will still have an honors-level GPA.
By no means does this entitle me to slack off my first returning semester. It’s much more valuable than that. What this academic safety net truly provides is the confidence to fail in small ways. I can forget about the pressure to be perfect and focus on catching up. I am liberated to take risks, ask stupid questions, get some answers wrong, and struggle without shame. I have years of scores behind me that give me the self-respect to admit I am a hard-working, intelligent student, and I have earned the privilege to take a risky plunge into the unknown.
When the numbers came back in my favor, my man looked at me and said, “This semester is a gift.”
I instantaneously burst into tears.