My sophomore year of high school I failed a class for the first time. The class was Western Literature, and at the time, I lost all motivation to do any and all work. My english teacher, Mr. Gleason, gave me plenty of opportunities to redeem myself but I undermined all of them and continued to ignore my responsibilities in order to pass for the year. The main culprits behind my failure were my anxiety and depression. These things were at an all time high, interfering with most of my classes. I knew I had no one but myself to blame, but my mental illnesses became the perfect crutch to my failure.
My anxiety and depression were a tall brick wall that extended for miles on end: I just could not seem to find any way around the problem. Deep inside I knew I had to do the work to pass and just move on, but these things kept dragging me down what felt like a bottomless pit. Sure there were days I could start climbing back up, but the mental illnesses found their way back around my ankles just to drag me down again.
Never had I imagined that something like that would happen. Failure was never an option that I ever deemed suitable for any circumstance. Growing up I was always a straight-A student, the first time I got a B+ I cried thinking that my mom would punish me. Eventually I got used to grades such as that. Then I got used to receiving C’s, and then D’s, and eventually I failed my first class: my sophomore english class. “You do realize that this is all on you, right?” Mr. Gleason asked me at the end of that year, “You had plenty of opportunities to dig yourself out of this hole. You are so smart, I know you are. Why did you do this?” But that was the thing, I myself did not even know why I had given up so easily.
Mr. Gleason had given me, along with other struggling students, an extra-credit research paper towards the end of the first semester. It was fairly simple: choose any topic of interest and write a paper on it. There were not any guidelines or rubrics to follow, just do the assignment and you will receive an A on it. I started to do the essay, but never finished it. He had given me plenty of other short essays that I could do to redeem myself but I just could not bring myself to finish or even start any of them. I was even assigned to write five pages in a notebook about absolutely anything under the sun, but still could not muster up the motivation to complete such a simple task as that.
Mr. Gleason was the only person who believed in me, and I really let him down. Gleason was a very large, bald man. He seemed to wear the same shirt every single day, but mind you that they were all different colors. He was a very caring person, but easily butt heads with people who did not try the very least during class. What separated me from said people was that he knew I genuinely could do the work. He knew how smart I was and even loved the work that I actually did pass in.
Failing a class for the first time was a life altering moment for me; it was a first, and a bad one at that. The next year I repeated the class and had Mr. Gleason again as a teacher. The day I walked back into that phthalo green classroom all the memories of failure came rushing back. Walking into the same room and seeing the same posters and books; walking to the same desk that I sat in the previous year. Dread overcame my body when I caught eye contact with Mr. Gleason. “Well, well, well, look who we have here!” he immediately said with a huge grin on his face, giggling, “What do you expect of this year, huh?” I just chuckled a little bit to make light of the moment. I promptly sank down into my seat and doodled on my notebook to distract myself. Mr. Gleason was the type who loved to mess around with his students and poke a little fun. One could tell it was always out of the best intentions. But I did not know how to answer his question: what did I expect of the year? I had hopes that I would significantly improve from the previous year, but also doubts: would I fall into the same hole as before? Would my anxiety and depression get the best of me again? Only time could tell, and admittedly, I was petrified.
I knew there needed to be some change this year, and it was not just magically going to happen. The day I walked out of the classroom at the end of the first class, I had a set mind on not letting my mental illnesses get the best of me. I knew that my anxiety and depression would always be lingering around me, but this year I had decided enough was enough: they would not rule my life and what I make of it. I had to make the change within myself, and I had to do it for myself and no one else.
With my mind and heart set in stone, I eventually passed for the year. I not only passed, I was at the top of my class. Seeing where I started and how far I came made me so proud of myself, and I still am. I not only overcame an obstacle, I overcame my anxiety, my depression. But most of all, I overcame myself.
Going from a failure, to a winner was such a phenomenal experience, I never thought that I could ever do such a thing. Failing had a big impact on my life, but making such a drastic improvement on myself made an even bigger impact on it. I know that I am smart, I know I can do the work, and I know that I have the potential to be very successful in my life.