By Misty Gassaway
It took me almost 20 years, but my biggest failure defined me a little less every day. Here’s a long ramble about my struggle with doubt and defining intelligence. In 7th grade I failed the standardized math test that Texas gives students. I was told it wouldn’t define me and I’d still be able to go on to 8th grade. Truth was, it defined much of me for a long time.
To my teacher’s credit, she couldn’t be in my class that year because she had eight emergency back surgeries in one year. This resulted in me having over 100 substitute teachers that year and I struggled to keep up.
The score was a crushing blow to my future path to attend a magnet school, which was my dream at the time. I thought my life was shattered when they explained the magnet school rejection was connected to that score.
The score followed me to my SATs, where I got the lowest 2% of scores in the U.S. Not a great thing. Little known fact, the Presidential Cabinet sends you an automated letter of concern. (I threw it away after 10 years.) I went on to take the SAT 11 more times to overcome my fear of standardized tests. Finally, after the 12th try, I achieved a good score.
But before I did that, I quickly graduated early so I could guarantee financial support another way. I didn’t believe I could do it. I was becoming the queen of back-up plans and settling.
On a positive note, I went to community college and met some amazing people, many whom I am still close with today. I then transferred to the college of my choice a year later. I scored the scholarship I needed and was able to do the study abroad program I wanted without acquiring extra debt or needing additional funding. I was pumped, but I still struggled with doubts about my intelligence.
I hated math, I thought. Truth is, I hated the fear math awoke in me and the reminders of my past failures. I let people unintentionally or intentionally define me, and that was my bad, not theirs.
I went into college doubting my intelligence and leaning into my other attributes instead. I told myself I had a different brand of intelligence. I know now if I hadn’t doubted so much I could have achieved the desired brand… but my route was a bit more Misty-like.
As I started to untangle the fears, slowly I was reminded the doubt started in middle school. In middle school, my dad (while heavily intoxicated) told me he doubted I would ever graduate college. He suggested I not go. (I think another path would have been equally great, but avoiding college because of his statement seemed like letting fear win.) Then came the failed scores and I suddenly understood why I was holding myself back. And yet I couldn’t break the cycle.
I wish I could tell you I left college with a 4.0. Truth is, I barely graduated. I struggled during my final semester, I did graduate.
During my senior year I worked three jobs and returned home to support my Grampa when he was facing hardship, including life threatening surgery and struggling with mental health. I wouldn’t trade that decision. It didn’t make my senior year easy, but it was incredibly fulfilling.
Slowly that 7th grade test failure defined me a little less.
My last college semester felt like a slap in the face, GPA wise. I thought I was going to graduate with honors, but unplanned twists and turns changed that. Those changes provided unexpected benefits. It helped my husband, Jason, and I to become closer and I learned how to advocate for myself. My test scores were haunting me a little less.
So, why am I rambling on about this? I graduated with a 2.67 GPA. I used to be afraid to tell people that. Now I can laugh about it. It’s reality. I barely passed, but I graduated nevertheless.
I went on to do some cool things, had some anticlimactic years and along the way made some terrible decisions. I’m 30. Heck, I have some failures still ahead of me. But what a ride ahead.
As someone who has failed, I can say life is obnoxiously beautiful when it comes to comebacks!
If you’re in between comebacks or doubting your value, just know that this 2.67 thinks you’re awesome and have more comebacks in you!
I still doubt myself from time to time and that’s ok. But I also have about 1000 different examples of hope that remind me that we are all more than our defined little boxes.
I’m a smart cookie. But I’m not everyone’s flavor of smart. A lot of people are likely cringing at the potential of my 2.67 becoming theirs. The good thing is I’m not. I like my 2.67 now. Probably this year is when I settled into it most. That 2.67 had a big story and I got to live it. I had some amazing professors and some profound teachers from regular everyday life.
Overcoming is really a key asset for life. And y’all know what, middle school gave me some of the best lessons I could have asked for in life. I am so thankful for this entire ride called life. It’s a good one, with lots of surprising twists and turns. And the comebacks, oh man… so good! I know God is good. Hope you enjoy this life too.
After years of overcoming, the only thing that gets the best of Misty nowadays is Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream. Misty Raley Gassaway, from San Antonio, Texas, is married to Jason Gassaway. Together they aim to open their home and their resources to give back to others. Misty has had a variety of jobs over the years, but everyone involved working with children and their families. She has every intention to begin Christian seminary. Most weekends, you can find Misty hiking, traveling, or going to music festivals. Her loves include spicy food, emojis, hanging with her community, and going with her mom to buy unnecessary items at Costco. “