Earlier this semester, around one hundred students gathered on the third floor of the Matchbox (our new gym!). Students were brought together firstly by Qdoba, provided by the Office of Student Engagement (our version of a student activities’ office), and secondly by another universal experience at Swarthmore: failure.
The event was hosted by Speak 2 Swatties. Speak 2 Swatties is a free, on campus peer counseling service completely run by students. The purpose of the event was to give students a chance to speak out about their experiences with failure: in the classroom, on a sports field, or even in a personal relationship. There was only one rule: unconditional support and listening for whomever’s turn it was to share their story.
The stories ranged from comedic self-deprecation to serious but poignant truths about self worth and perspective. I myself got up there and spoke about my struggles with my academics and feeling like the dumb kid: an unavoidable feeling when at a school where everyone around you is so brilliant.
The shocking realization I had halfway through my storytelling is that this pressure is always me putting it on myself. Never once have I had a professor refuse an extension. Anytime I have reached out to a dean or CAPS (our on campus psychological services), I have been welcomed with a generous list of free, accessible resources for self care. My parents have been telling me since I was 13 that I need to chill out about my grades. It’s all from me.
I came to this realization on stage, where I was pressed to confront my failure and discuss it. That, and the feeling I got of not being alone in feeling the admissions mistake, was a wonderful takeaway from this event.