Thursday, December 1, 2016

One of my failures

I feel like this is a college application essay question or a job interview question. "Tell me about a time you failed and what you learned from that." It feels like a chore to answer. Who wants to voluntarily be reflective about bad stuff? I don't. But today I will because I don't know, it's been awhile.

A few years ago, I volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club doing one-on-one tutoring with an underprivileged girl in high school. We met every week for a semester. Part of my goal was to help her with her academics. Another part of my goal was to use tutoring as a way to develop a good, personal rapport with her so I could be a mentor or guide to her. I may not understand the struggles that underprivileged kids go through, but I do understand struggle, and I also feel like I have experienced many positive things, in a world that underprivileged kids don't know, which I can share with them.

I succeeded on the academic goal with my student. I did not succeed on the personal goal with her. I wasn't even neutral. I failed.

My student didn't respect me. Basic respect, on some level. It finally clicked one day, when she refused to refer to me by my name. She kept referring to me as "her." She had an underlying attitude problem that I couldn't fix. When I realized this, I quit, almost right away. I couldn't work with someone who was so disrespectful, and with someone whose attitude was beyond my skill to improve.

I've been afraid of volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club since then. I've been avoiding it. I still have the same goals, especially the second one. But to go back means to face and admit my failure.

This is my realization about failure. If I do go back to volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club, or something similar, I will fail again. This is practically inevitable and guaranteed. And that's okay. Failure is probably a bigger part of the journey than success is. The important thing is that I confront my failure, instead of denying it or running away from it, so that I gain all the valuable insights from it that I can.

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