After completing second year of Medicine you would think that I would have learnt a hell of a lot and I sure had- from complicated biochemical schemes to the origin and insertion of several muscles. However I had learnt something far more important – that it’s completely okay to not succeed the first time round.
Thanks to the efficient academic system in Czech Republic, you find out exam results almost immediately. This is in sharp contrast to the UK where you pretend to have smashed the exams, only to be shocked come August time. When I found out that I had missed out on the passmark by just one mark, I was devastated. It felt as if the whole world had come crashing down and all because of that one word – fail. The language barrier doesn’t help either; with two exchanges of glances and one stern look, no other feedback was given by the professor. He just stood there quietly, as if a coma had settled over him. There I was, eyes like a puppy, gradually filling; secretly I was hoping that my tears might impact the professor’s mind, remind him of his own time as a student…no chance!
In this situation, it is natural for most students to get onto the phone almost instantly in order to avoid human contact especially down that red corridor, which seems to last a lifetime especially after exams. But thanks to Giff-Gaff, I have to wait until I get to my flat before I can turn to mum for words of wisdom! This also means that I can’t avoid human contact.
After one particular exam, I remember coming across a student down that corridor and yes they asked that one dreaded question that all students feared – how was the exam, did you pass or fail? All these thoughts started flooding into my mind – should I lie, maybe I should just tell the truth, it’s so embarrassing though, maybe I should just lie but what if so and so tell them the truth, this means I have to lie to that person too…aaaahh so much tension and pressure, I didn’t feel this much pressure in the exam itself!!
Lo and behold, I finally plucked up the courage and told them the truth. The student’s reply to my immense relief was simply “better luck next time, it’s not the end of the world” and that was it. Unfortunate for me, that day I met several more students but it was getting easier and easier to say that I hadn’t passed and more so, I started noticing that other people had also not made it and their reactions were quite calm. Maybe it wasn’t such a big deal after-all.
In hindsight, I have come to realise that failure is life’s greatest teacher; through its life-changing lessons it makes us become better individuals. Essentially, it is nature’s chisel; stripping away all the excess whilst simultaneously remoulding and shaping us. Of course, failing hurts; it cuts deep, right through to our inner core. Yet, it’s completely necessary.
Moreover, failures are critical for development and growth. The result is irrelevant, it is the process that is crucial; having to pick up the same books again, re-revising the same material, re-evaluating your strengths and weaknesses and devising new revision strategies – this is what matters, not the final result.
Another aspect that almost every student experiences is the feeling of embarrassment; no one wants to be a year behind, no one wants to admit to failing, everyone wants to sail through those five years of exams. However I want to emphasise that Medicine is a field where you are dealing with humans – one mistake and you’re out..actually no, no mistakes are allowed whatsoever.
So, after four blog posts it’s obvious that I love my ‘moral of the story’ conclusions and the one here is really quite clear – don’t be afraid to make mistakes, don’t be afraid if you fail an exam and please don’t give up if you don’t succeed the first time round! Failure is not the opposite of success it is a part of success, a steppingstone. And as Messi quite rightly says, success certainly doesn’t occur overnight, it’s one-hell of a long process!