Failure has not been something with which I’ve had much experience. Growing up, I wasn’t necessarily the best student in school, but I do not remember ever failing anything.
I coasted through my 20s and 30s without having anything major that I would classify as a failure - even relationships. Most of them were not serious enough to warrant calling them failures. I had a lot of bad jobs as well. Most of them were not supporting me anyway, so I didn’t think too much about them once they were over.
In my late 30s, I went back to graduate school. I’m not sure that was the smartest decision. I fell down a lot! I got big doses of failure during that experience, and it created a lot of anxiety in my life.
From the very beginning of grad school, I was behind the curve. I had just left an abusive relationship, so I was emotionally beaten-down. I was about the oldest student in my class, which I considered a disadvantage. And I hadn’t really had the best education. I mean, when I went to school in the 80s, all I had to do was memorize things. This time, I had to think critically. The learning curve was treacherous.
I skirted out of grad school - barely - and into the world of standardized testing. Now, if you’ve never had to take a licensing exam, just imagine going through airport security to sit in a freezing room for FIVE hours in front of an antiquated computer with questions containing information you may have, but probably haven’t, seen before.
I failed the first test.
I felt better about it when I saw there were several of my classmates in to take the test again some months later.
I failed the second test.
Now, when I tell you this test was difficult, I really mean that I was so stressed about it that I couldn’t think critically. It turns out, when your body is in fight or flight, you are unable to formulate logical thought. Imagine an old slasher movie where the killer is chasing his next victim and she falls down. Yes, I was that girl.
My professor from school suggested I take the assistant’s licensing exam - since I was eligible - and then I could at least work while I studied for the other one.
I passed the assistant’s exam… with no problem.
Why? Because I didn’t want to be an assistant. That’s not what I went to school to become.
So I started working, and studying, and learning a new modality on the job, and going to trainings for that modality, and establishing myself as a ‘professional’.
I failed the third test.
So many people like to share their stories of failure while you are in yours. Trust me when I say I heard about dozens of people's test failures and how they overcame theirs. That was not comforting.
I failed the fourth test.
I think this was the time that I cried uncontrollably - to the point of not being able to feel my face. The devastation this caused is indescribable.
When you fail this test, you must not only wait several months until you are eligible to take the test again, but you must PROVE to the Board that you have completed enough hours of paid continued education, completed all the forms, paid the giant test fee again, and sent the proper amount of groveling in written form to satisfy their power over you.
I failed the fifth test.
At this point, I was almost 3 years out of grad school. I was letting my grandfather down; I promised him on his death bed I was going to get this done. I was failing.
This time, I showed up to the Board’s office, documents and groveling in hand, and personally handed it to the woman in charge of my fate. She dismissively took my envelope, looked me up and down, and said, “Don’t you already have an assistant’s license?”
“I didn’t go to school to be an assistant.”
It turns out, you are only eligible to take the test 6 times. Apparently, people have found ways to cheat on this test that no one can even take a jacket into, much less notes or cheat sheets. So, how “they” have figured out how to cheat on it I will never know. But it’s an international problem and the Board is there to STOP YOU from cheating, or memorizing questions, or whatever-the-helll these people are doing to keep me from having the ability to take it after this next attempt.
I failed the sixth test.
Believe me when I say, this was a defining moment in my life. The weight of everyone’s judgement, including my deceased grandfather’s, was on my shoulders. I was a failure.
Even thought I loved what I did, work felt like a prison for me to endure every day. I was an imposture in the worst way. How could patients trust me? How could I trust myself? No matter how much education I had, I didn’t have that little piece of paper given to me by some Board who deemed me worthy to do my job.
I have fallen down many times since then, none as devastating, but all disappointing. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to falling. But what I know is how important falling can be and what it can teach you if you get back up.
One thing I know about myself is that I am not a quitter. I know it looks like I quit, because I could have figured out a way to take that test again, short of going back to another three year program. But I didn’t quit… I allowed myself grace.
I realized that I AM a healing force and I DO have gifts to share and I WILL make the most of all of them. No, I don’t have a license for what I went to school to do, but I still have a doctorate, and that cannot be taken away.
I have much knowledge about how to stay well. My mind and heart are open to endless possibilities and ways to heal the mind, body, and spirit. No, I don’t have that license, but that was not my path. And the message was clear… help people in a different way.
I left my job, and after experiencing immense grief, I started my wellness company in 2018. It has been rebranded twice. And now it will be rebranded for a third time.
Were those failures? I guess it all depends on your perspective, but I would say they were stumbles; learning experiences. And now, I am finding my footing.
My original idea for the business did not work. Nor the second. But in every iteration of the business, the message is the same: Today, I Am Well.
*Although I am still a health coach, I will be expanding my massage practice to include Watsu massage. I hope to finish that training by August and be in the water soon after to offer you an unforgettable experience that will help you along your healing path.