Those first five words echoed in my head for years. Failure is not an option.
Do you hear it too? Maybe not, but most of us live in line with those words.
Until the day failure stops by to say hi.
I was in SS2 when it happened.
In Nigeria, we have 16 years of basic education. SS2 was my 15th year kinda.
But I was 14 at the time and the youngest in the class. I failed GCE, one of the qualifying exams to enter the University.
The exam was annually, so at age 14 in 2010, I had to drop out of secondary school because my father decided he could not pay for a child who failed.
My mother took over my education fully, which meant she stopped at nothing to get me into the university.
At some point, I told her I did not want to anymore.
She said a lot of things that day, one of them was how do you want people to remember you?
As the girl who gave up after many failures?
As the girl who could walk with her head high because she didn’t give up?
In truth, I didn’t care either way but I felt bad for her. She used to tell everyone about her daughters like all mothers do.
Now, she had to avoid people because people relish stepping all over you when you fall.
I spent six years trying to get an admission.
I was tired.
I was tired of sleeping on a wet pillow most nights.
I was tired of hearing my mum’s hoarse voice in the morning after sleepless nights of crying and praying.
I was tired of sharing the few textbooks I had with my younger sisters because we later became “classmates”.
But my family didn’t tire of supporting me. They never made me feel like an old lamp that had gotten dim.
We truly can do so much when we get support and encouragement from those we love.
For the second UTME exam, I didn’t attend any preparatory tutorials.
And that year, I scored 254 on the exam.
The passing score was 200.
There used to be another qualifying exam after the first (POST UTME), but there wasn’t any that year.
So in October, the year 2016, at number 10 on the merit admission list, I saw my name boldly written to study Health Education at the University of Lagos.
Failure is not an option; It is the ONLY option.
Not everyone would agree with this, and that’s okay.
I had to agree when I realised that I had set an overly high standard for myself.
Those six years taught me that failure was the only option and that success is failure that has been refined through time and effort.
When you expect to fail, it can’t get worse than that.
That it doesn’t go well at first means you get the chance to learn, re-strategize, grow and become.
I erased all my ideas of success and failure when I saw there was no benchmark for success, only the one you set for yourself.
I understood that I had to be kinder to myself and not place the burden of over-expectations on myself.
Neither do I put up with anyone who tries to place such a burden on me.
I don’t know if all of these make sense, but what I do know is this; The day you change your mindset about failure, that’s when you truly start winning.