Monday, 28 June 2010

Everybody wants to be my Uncle: Failure (?) no.2...reflections...

Today, I had my PhD viva - I didn't get a definite 'pass' - OUCH!

3 and a half years of research, only to be asked 'what exactly is your scientific contribution to knowledge?'.... hmmm.... it was like taking a bullet to the heart. I can still feel the burn hours later...

I defended my thesis and I was able to convince my examiners of my knowledge, of my contribution, of the fact that I hadn't wasted 3 and half years of my life and that I wasn't wasting their time at that very moment. The result was basically that my work was fantastic (toot toot), my understanding was brilliant - BUT (and it's a big BUT), my actual thesis did not demonstrate my level of understanding - apparently, I had 'undersold' my work... the irony!

Let me explain something, I am no quitter and am certainly not 'used' to dealing with failure. I have always been a borderline A/B student. I have mostly been able to tip the scale over and had pretty much secured a title as a straight A student - until today. The first thing that I ever (and I mean EVER) failed was my first driving test (I also failed my second driving test - but that's another story for another day).

So, what do you do when you feel a failure?

Do you cry? Well in this case - yes I cried (and yes, I'm not ashamed to admit to cyberspace that I cried during the actual viva!!!) - why? I'd been given an opportunity to make my write up even better? I'd been given more time to 'fix' my thesis. It was like a 'get out of jail free' card. Surely I should've been overjoyed?! Ummm - NO!  I was distraught, and I cried. I cried because I am not accustomed to disappointment. I don't 'do' disappointing people - I am the 'Golden Child' of my family, one uncle when describing me to a much loved cousin said:

'everyone wants to be her friend; everybody wants to be her boss; everybody wants to be her Uncle!'

Hilarious statement if ever I heard one! Aside from family relations, I am the superwoman amongst my friends, the 'go to person' at work. It gets to a point when people say such nice things to you, that you actually believe them! Or do you? I became a victim of my own hype?! Yet when it came to 'hyping' myself up in my thesis, I had undersold myself! sigh....goshdarnitdammit!

Alas, I am invincible!

Despite my shock and disappointment, I am pleased to have been stopped in my tracks. To be forced to re-evaluate, not my thesis per se - but re-evaluate who the h*ck is in control here? For the last 2 weeks, I had been feeling really calm about my viva, in fact, worryingly so. I almost felt as though it was all out of my hands...that it was beyond my instead of re-reading my thesis, I was 'thinking' about it. But, yesterday, I lapsed, I stopped thinking and started reading - big mistake! 'Reading' fooled me into thinking that I was in control...that I was the one who would determine my viva success (or non-success as it turns out!). I thought that if I read enough then I could make sure that I would pass. Of course, whilst reading, I realised that I had not read every single document ever written by any person in the world, and naturally, I started to panic - the viva palpitations had begun... (see Sunday's facebook update!)...

Luckily, in time for my viva, I got a grip and remembered, that having prayed for guidance - it was time to surrender the viva - to God.

As if by magic, the control has been snatched from my hands...(as if I had it anyway!) and I was forced to see that 'this is God's game..not yours'. And you know what, I am so very thankful for this lesson.

The thing that saved me in this viva, was all the stuff that I had thought about and not any of the stuff that I had read about. God saved me. I think that in future, I am going to wholeheartedly and consciously surrender everything to God. Not just say it, but actually do it..and I don't mean that kind of pretending that people do and then go on stressing about things anyway...  I mean really surrendering things...and by 'things', I mean EVERYTHING.

So, everybody apparently wants to be my uncle (LOL), but the truth is, I am invincible, I am not superwoman and God is totally TOTALLY in control here - and I prefer it this way.

Thank you JC for the reminder! Now all I need to do is master some practical steps, to make sure that I remember that I am 'too blessed to be stressed'....

Any tips?

Mrs O


  1. So many things took me back when reading this post, and it reminded me of so many things that have happened to me in the past and the fact that i have stood on God's word to bring me to where i am today.

    I thought that i should share some words of inspiration, with yourself and to others that may have found themselves in similar positions, whether it is in an academic focused area, or not, i hope this is encouraging to you all.

    Jesus said in John 16:33 that ' the world ye shall have tribulation...' what i understand from this is that everything is not going to go our way all the time, and even though it is our wish to have a smooth ride through life, what makes you remain a winner is accepting that a setback or a failure is something that is a temporary measure which occurs on your way to the top.

    It is believed that success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm. The immediate reaction is to ponder and wonder why you are in this position after toiling for so long,and probably end up in tears; but if you remain focused and try and pick yourself up and learn from your mistakes, you will be more intrigued to learn and make things work out to be better the next time.

    I read somewhere that 'what makes you a winner in life is not necessarily the absence of failures, but it is what you do with those failures'.

    As you said you have another chance to hand in your work. You have gained experience in the first instance, the evaluation has given you experience, money cannot buy, so go for it, i know you know there are others around to support you, so believe in yourself and dont bury that failure, and let 1 Peter chapter 5 verses 8-11 be your guide through this time....

  2. Oh wow! This post is so inspiring. There are so many things that we would like to control, but when it comes down to it, God IS the one with total and complete control... the Author and Finisher, right?

    Thanks for the post. I know that you asked for advice, but it made me step back and re-evaluate some of the things that I think I have control over.

  3. Glad to have inspired you Al : ) Its sooo easy to forget that we are not writing this play, we're not directing it - we're just the actors... yet, it's soooo important to remember that!

    Lexie - you're an angel!!! Thank you for your words.. xxxxx


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