Get a Chocolate if you Fail the Tests — How I learnt not to fear failing.
When I was a kid, I was so scared of failing, I literately had nightmares about it. As an ambitious kid, I did not like failing in general, but failing a test was my worst nightmare. As a dyslexic kid you learn that struggle is part of life, but failure — not an option.
It might have been a combination of not wanting to disappoint my parents who spent their savings taking me to special education teachers, or an inherent fear of standing out as a failure among my peers at school. Regardless of the reasons, I remember the knot in my stomach, every time a test came through, or my parents came in to hear from my teacher about my progress.
One day I confessed to my mother that I could not sleep that night because I was worried about a big test.
“Well, that is enough, you need to learn to fail” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked suspiciously.
“What do you want for your next birthday?” she asked.
“You know what I want! That big box of chocolate that you say we can only afford on my birthday!” I answered.
“Well, what if I bought the chocolate for you this month?” she asked.
😲 <- this was my answer.
“But there is a catch — you have to fail in the next 3 tests. Do you think that you can do that?”
😲 <- this was my answer.
“And not just fail, you need to get an absolute zero — only people that know all the answers can get zero in a test”. She added.
“Well, are you in? do you want the chocolate?”
I really really wanted that chocolate, and my birthday was a long time away.
“Yes…” I finally answered.
It was not easy, my mother was right — just picking random answers did not yield a zero, I accidentally got some answers right. This was incredibly frustrating because I was failing and failing — but this had two positive side affects:
- I got used to teachers giving me the evil eye and telling me I need to do better (surprisingly, the world didn't shatter and swallow me, like it happened in my nightmares).
- I had to study really hard to truly pick the wrong answers. This was actually fun — I learned a trick I use till this day, that the longest answer was usually the right answer — so I learned to avoid it.
To tell you the truth, I did not manage to fail 3 tests that month. I failed 2 and the bloody teacher felt sorry for me at the last test and gave me 3 points out of a 100 for spelling my name. I came to my mother in tears with two zeros scored tests and one 3/100 scored test. I was sure I was not going to get the chocolate…
We sat there at the table, quietly reviewing the tests. It was judgment time.
My mother looked at me seriously:
“Did the earth swallow you like it did in your dream?”
“No..” I answered
“Did you friends think you were a failure?”
“No, none of them cared…” I remembered
“Did you have nightmares in the last few weeks?”
I thought about it..
“Actually no, I did not” — I realized how light and worry-free I actually felt in the last two weeks.
“Are you a lesser person for failing these tests?” — she asked (yes, she did tend to speak to me as if I was a full grown person)
“No! I studied more than all of my friends — it’s very hard to get zero in tests!”
“You are right” she said “You are smart and creative and wonderful no matter what your score is”.
“But I am not going to get the chocolate because I did not completely failed the last test, right?” I asked. “it’s OK, I can wait for my birthday”.
She reached to the drawer and pulled a big box of chocolate.
I can still feel the taste of that chocolate in my mouth every time I fail ❤️