High expectations (sic itur ad astra)

pass fail

Failure: 1. Lack of success. 2. One who fails. 3. The condition or fact of falling short. 4. Non-performance or poor performance of what is expected.

“But you must be strong, brave, courageous and resolute…If you follow my commands exactly, not turning to the left or to the right, you will succeed wherever you go and be successful in everything you do.” (Joshua 1:7)

I haven’t blogged much in recent weeks as I’ve been busily studying for my final exam of the Post-Graduate Certificate in Critical Care Nursing. Blogging would have been a welcome distraction but I knew it was going to take a lot of revision to achieve the results I was expecting so I focussed my attention on studying.

Yesterday I sat my final exam. In a few short weeks I will qualify and receive four lovely (well deserved) letters after my name. CCRN. Critical Care Registered Nurse. And I will get a pay rise too. Around $1.08/hour!! Woo Hoo. At those rates*, it shouldn’t take me too long to pay off the $8000 it cost me to do the course! (*note thinly veiled sarcasm here). With only one assessment task to hand in, this course (the hardest thing I have ever done in my life) will be over. The light is shining brightly at the other end of the tunnel.

I received a text last night from Simon, our nurse educator/lecturer/examiner. Two words. “YOU PASSED”. Yes! Silent fist pump. Pat on the back. Three cheers. Hip Hip Hooray. I’d done it. I passed.

As I read the words in that text I should have been jumping for joy, clapping my hands, fist pumping and cheering loudly! I’d done it! I’d sat the exam and passed. And yet I burst into tears. And felt as though I had actually failed.

Why? Because my mark was so much lower than what I had expected. I expected a certain mark and when I didn’t get that mark, all my hopes and expectations fell short. I didn’t feel like a success. I felt like a failure.

Today has been a day of “licking my (self-inflicted) wounds” as I reflect on what went so horribly wrong with my exam. How could I have thought I was so prepared and then only just passed? With all the study I had done, why was I so unprepared? How could I have learned so much and yet clearly learned so little? How is it that I only just managed to scrape through and pass? Yes, yes, I know a pass is a pass. But when I see a pass of 60%, to me I don’t see a pass. I see 40% that I failed. 40% that I didn’t know. 40% that I didn’t understand.

I know this is crazy thinking and for heaven’s sake it was just an exam and getting a good mark on an exam doesn’t make you a good nurse (yes Matthew, my friend and fellow student, I hear your voice loudly as I write this!). The reality is, my expectations were shot down with two words. And it hurts.

Perhaps my expectations were unrealistic. Perhaps the exam was just hard. Perhaps I was having a bad day. Perhaps it’s actually not that important.

Basketball superstar Michael Jordan said: “You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.” Yet 18th Century poet Alexander Pope said “Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”.

So today I have two choices. I can expect nothing. And I will never again be disappointed when I fail don’t achieve the results I anticipate. OR I can keep my expectations and hopes high. I can, in the motto of my old school, (sic itur ad astra) continue to “reach for the stars”.

This journey of Post-Graduate study has been a long and arduous process for me. Not one single day has been easy. Not one new concept has come easily. It has stretched me and pushed me to new levels I didn’t even know existed. I have juggled working and busy family commitments and “life” and I have often dropped the ball. Watching others seemingly ‘fly’ through the course hasn’t made it any easier on me and my high expectations. But now it’s almost time to finish. And it’s time to be kind to myself (thanks to all my wonderful friends for reminding me of this). It’s okay to be disappointed in a result but it’s not okay to keep berating myself and calling myself a failure. It’s not okay to think that one low mark equals failure.

I know that I will continue to aim high. It’s who I am. And I guess that means I will continue to fall short of my expectations from time to time. So, rather than beating myself up I will view each moment as something to learn from and in doing so I will hopefully conquer the overwhelmingly crushing feeling of disappointment when my expectations are not met.

Expect nothing. Or continue to expect everything.

I know which one I choose.

“You cannot fail. You can only produce results.” (Wayne Dyer)

With God’s promise and His help, I’ll never fail. But I will continue to produce amazing results. Just watch this space!

“I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out my Revelation – every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book be out of your mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. For I, God, your God, I am with you every step you take.”

Do you know someone who would be encouraged by this post? Then I would love you to share it! If you like it, please “like” it or leave me a comment here or on Facebook. I cherish your words. Also, if you like what I have to say, you can sign up via email so that you never miss a post. Thanks for reading and “following” me as I journey day to day trusting God. It truly blesses me.


9 thoughts on “High expectations (sic itur ad astra)

  1. I love the idea and concept of failing. I guess the reason is that I am learning imperfect progress and believe me. I am getting better in the long run and I am a stronger person for the fail. Congrats on passing as well.

  2. Hey Nicki, 1stly congratulations! Not that I ever had any doubt. I am so proud of you and yet my heart breaks for you at the same time. It is never easy to achieve a goal but feel you fell short. Especially when everyone around you is so happy for you. It’s like when someone around you suffers a tragedy and so you feel like you shouldn’t complain about something relatively minor that has upset you. But here’s the thing, when something happens to us it’s important to feel it (feel your feelings I always say) and process it and then put it into your own perspective, and that my friend is what you are doing today. You know yourself well, you always set the bar high and sometimes you struggle, but in aiming high you push yourself to your limits (and sometimes beyond). These are never bad things, HOWEVER… you also need to regain perspective of your achievements and the end of each stage. Right now it’s important to remember that you have come a stunningly long way in a very short period. You are a CCRN! but far more importantly you are a dedicated, caring and passionate nurse and patient advocate. When you are at work your patient is everything, you pour your heart and soul into them, and that beautiful Nicki is why you did the course, so you could learn more and give more. That is what you achieved. And here is another little secret, there is not one nurse I know who knows it all. We are all learning every day, but what we do is we give our all and that is equally as important as knowledge. The learning will continue and knowledge will continue to grow, but for now take your time to process and when you’re ready lay your expectations aside. I would rather have you look after my relatives (even though you only scored 60%) than someone who scored 90% but has little compassion or clinical skill. Sometimes learning is the easy bit, but what is it that makes a truly good nurse???

  3. Congratulations! You have done far more than most nurses will ever do- you set out to take your specialty nursing certification exam and you passed it! You can be extremely proud of yourself- most nurses won’t even attempt it, won’t even think about it. You have soared much higher than most of us will ever dream! Revel in it! You deserve it! It wasn’t the exam that proved your knowledge and value to your unit and profession- it was the study, the hard work, the knowledge you now have to give your patients even better care than you already did! Congrats- you deserve it. Enjoy it! (Along with that whopping raise-lol!)

    Seriously, $8000?

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