When I was in 6th grade, I failed something for the very first time. It was my science project that I had completely forgotten about— I had formulated a concept and idea, but then just left it at that for some strange reason. I guess I got started with “senioritis” early in my academic career.
Well, if you know anything about Chinese parents— especially the ones who were immigrants and grew up part or most of their childhood in China— they don’t accept failure very well. You get an A- on something and they’ll ask why you didn’t do well enough to earn an A+. The stereotype is there for a reason.
So, as I came home with my first F in hand, I thought I was done for: fin, finito, D-E-A-D.
I remember standing in our backyard the following Saturday morning, helping with some chores around the garden. Pretty sure my mom had given me a stern talking-to, either the day before or that morning. My dad joined me after a little while. I thought he was going to tear me a new one, and I braced myself for the worst.
Instead, he just said, “You know, you failed today. It’s okay that you failed today. That doesn’t mean you have to fail tomorrow, too. You take your failure, you learn from it, and promise to do better.”
Then he put his arm around me and gave me a hug as I promised him that I would, in fact, do better.
My dad didn’t condemn me for my F, but he didn’t condone it, either. Failure still wasn’t an option, and never will be. He wanted to teach me how to best handle my failure, how to cope with it, and how to move past it. Considering his rough childhood in China, he was an expert on turning negatives into positives.
I’ve carried my dad’s words with me ever since. It came in handy during the next school year when I was jumped from 7th grade math to algebra I, where I missed the first month or so of instruction and struggled to catch up. It kept me going when he passed away the following summer. It fueled many a late night in college.
It even forms the basis of my attitude toward raiding. My guildmates and I have a very laid-back-yet-hardass raiding philosophy: “We’re not going to get any firsts and we’re going to wipe a lot, but always bring your A-Game to the table.” Maintaining a realistic optimism in the face of defeat is difficult, though very much worth it. To get up, brush yourself off, and say, “Bring it on,” again and again is even harder.
Failure’s not an option, but it is inevitable because we’re human and we’re bound to screw up at some point. What defines us is how we handle failure, and how we allow failure to affect us. In gaming, in life, in work, in marriage, in writing— all of it. There are days when it will be all A+ grades, sunshine, and rainbows. And then there are some days that are full of F’s (in various forms) and stormy, unpleasant weather.
I’m going to bake chocolate chip cookies later today to spend some time with Dad. Baking with him is one of my fondest memories, from as early as I can remember as that impish little girl barely tall enough to reach the kitchen counter, following at the heels of my dad.