The Power of Failure



The first time I went to university, I was a wide-eyed seventeen-year-old whose eyes disappeared whenever I cried or smiled. I put on my big girl pants, shoved my fears in a bag lined with gold thread. The kind woven with hope and magic cooked over time, so fool proof, the next five years were going to go like a sneeze.


It was natural. Like the progression of time, seconds tick-tick-ticking into minutes, months to years. I laid the grunt work since school started and eventually earned a place at a redbrick university’s nursing program.


It was inevitable, a compulsion once started it’d be difficult to stop. Just as many before, I chose this carefully. Etched on many notebooks were lists of pros and cons, it was set.


Pro. It was something I was good at.
Con. My social life might struggle.
Con. Need to finish a year of placements in different areas of nursing before you choose. What if you already knew what you wanted to do?
Pro. You finish a year of placements in different areas of nursing…You’ll really know which one you want.
Pro. It leads to a tangible promise of a career, the healthcare profession was crucial as a salve and a cure for many (also pro because you’ll be helping others).


Come to 2010, I would be three years into living a dream into a reality. I would have thrown my cap into the air and successfully immortalised that photo on the internet. I would finally be able to help my family, my mother would not need to worry about working with her illness. I could start repaying my parents for everything they’ve done for our family.


Keen & Shelly | Sunset, graduation, silhouette by Baim Hanif

That couldn’t have been farther from the truth.




I struggled to finish my first year. I was unhappy, so full of anxiety. I remember trying to psyche myself each day to keep going. That things would get better and that I was doing this for not just for me, but for my family. If I suck it up, it would work out in the end.


On the second time, I tried out for a different degree. I spent months trying to get the grades, cramming two years of study under less than a year. In the end, it came to nought. Two credits off the required grades marked two in a row. I was shaken, unable to move beyond the chains I set around my ankles. In reality, there were options but I could not see beyond my failure…


You’d think when the time came I surpassed the grade requirement, it would be ‘third time’s a charm’.


It wasn’t.


Compass in hand by Heidi Sandstrom


Over seven years, I adapted to a new culture (I still am), supported a parent’s post-stroke recovery, and fought my own battle against depression. I glance at my peers, quick to see they are all ahead of me. They did not only have jobs but they were making a career, having a family of their own and moving on in life while I relearned the same things over again and again and again.


That was the hardest part of it all. The learning to let go of previous failures and not let it shackle me down, of how to fight against the oppressive pessimism permeating out of me and to be grateful that I am who I am because of the sum of my experiences—the good, the bad and the ugly.


It took me four attempts and seven years to get where I am now, enrolled into my second year of university, documenting the early chapters of married life and feeling a little bit more myself because I am content and at peace with my journey so far. I’ve no doubts it’ll continue to be eventful as I manage my responsibilities as a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student and a teacher. There will be more hardships. Some will be consequences of my own making, some from the actions of others, and the rest will be some kind of trust exercise where I have to fall and lean into my Saviour.

Someone wise once told me each hardship prepares you for something bigger. Blessings are often tied to that clause but sometimes before that, it may include bigger trials that attempt to break you, but I know that is part of life and the best thing I can do for myself, my family, my friends and my future is to never give up.




I believe in God and have faith in His gospel does not mean that I am immune from hardships or that I have that golden ticket. One that glows and gleams in broad daylight and underneath softness of the moon, one where I just need to flash it when things get hard and it would give me the option to pause, reset or fast forward to the good bits. But there is no golden ticket to a life without adversity. I have known that for a long time but there were spaces in between the easy smiles and flutters of happiness that I pleaded otherwise.


I needed seven years to be who I am right here, right now. Reconciled with the past, I am happy and hopeful of what tomorrow brings as I am happy and hopeful that my destiny is within reach but most of all that I can conquer anything with a bit of faith, love and hope in God, others and myself. The last bit I am still learning but I am grateful to know that after loving God first, loving others that I, too, must love myself.


“Find the love you seek, by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home.”
– Sri Sri Ravi Shankar


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Comments (29)

  1. Jordan 12th September 2017

    Love this post. It’s hard to deal with failure, even when you have a strong faith. Thanks for sharing <3

    1. Keen & Shelly 12th September 2017

      Thank you for taking the time to read and sharing your thoughts. I thought I’d struggle writing this (I often take WEEKS) but it was smooth, easier–definitely needed to write it. Again thanks for stopping by.

  2. Brea Stewart 12th September 2017

    Wow ! You have the most unbelievable ability with words. This post speaks volumes to me as its what I am going through right now as I am completing my first year of a Nursing degree. You should be proud of how far you have come, dont compare your journey to others.

    1. Keen & Shelly 12th September 2017

      People used to say that to me a lot that I shouldn’t compare and be proud of my journey, and I can finally say that I wholeheartedly believe it. Thank you Brea for your kind words. That is such high praise that I don’t know how handle it but say thank you very much again and again!

  3. Kelly 12th September 2017

    Hardships are certainly hard to deal with for most people! Thank you for your honest writing

    1. Keen & Shelly 12th September 2017

      Sometimes I wish I could see my life as a Disney character then at least I could face animated versions of those hardships and kick their butt. But as for most of us, it’s a take it one day a time one step at a time. Thank you for your words.

  4. Robyn Shaver 12th September 2017

    Failure is hard, regardless of anything else. You are incredibly strong and sharing your experiences is very brave.

    1. Keen & Shelly 12th September 2017

      Yes, despite the variables involved in those circumstances, I was tunnel-visioned on the wrong thing. Thank you for your words, it’s warmed up in this autumnal day.

  5. Stephi 13th September 2017

    Sometimes life has different plans for us. I feel like we are often pressured into doing a certain thing that we tend to forget who we are and what we really want. Even if it’s something that isn’t accepted by society’s standards in the end its our own life and happiness.

    1. Keen & Shelly 13th September 2017

      For me, I was the pressure. I put the pressure on and once I did, it was difficult for me to stop. I’m almost a decade older than my peers in university but I know this is the right place for me. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  6. Anusha Srinivasan 13th September 2017

    This is such a deeply felt personal essay. It takes courage to write about this.
    But I do feel that the essay could have been shorter..there are many stories within this one essay that should probably get their own essay!

    1. Keen & Shelly 13th September 2017

      I suppose I wanted to write an overarching summary but you’ve given me thought to turn it into a series. If I can look past the initial sting of those moments, I’ll give it a go. Thank you for reading!

  7. Bernice Abuan 13th September 2017

    Thank you for sharing your journey, and struggles with such openness, and honesty xx

  8. Karen 13th September 2017

    Amen! I too believe we all have hardships to go through and they all help us to grow and do something with our lives. Your story is very inspirational love. I will keep you in my prayers.

    1. Keen & Shelly 13th September 2017

      Thank you Karen. Honestly, I kind of second guess positivity sometimes even if it’s other people telling me so and so, I’ll gracefully take your kind words. And please do I appreciate it.

  9. Nicole 13th September 2017

    By failing some things, it makes you stronger to deal with things in the future. Failure should be looked on as an experience that you learn from. Lovely, honest blog.

    1. Keen & Shelly 13th September 2017

      Thank you for your kind words, Nicole. Failure has taught me resilience and embracing it as an opportunity for learning and personal growth.

  10. Amanda Cross 13th September 2017

    This is a great post! Education and other things don’t always come easy, but the important thing is to not give up hope. It’s okay to keep trying and working hard. Thinking of you as you continue on your educational and life journey!

    1. Keen & Shelly 14th September 2017

      Thank you Amanda! Your words have warmed me and given me more energy to keep on going. I’ll be in my second year at uni, so this is the furthest I’ve gone and I’ll make it count.

  11. Renuka 13th September 2017

    Life is full of inevitable ups and downs, success and failure. Very important to stay strong and deal with changes. Very well expressed in words…loved reading through the article.

    1. Keen & Shelly 14th September 2017

      Thank you Renuka! As some have said before, it helps build character I think. Experience is sometimes the best teacher, when I was just focusing on the failures I failed to see the successes I achieved along the way.

  12. Parul Thakur 13th September 2017

    Thank you for your honesty. I have also faced failure but looking back, I know those setbacks made me who I am. It’s important to learn from what went wrong and keep up with our self-confidence.

    1. Keen & Shelly 14th September 2017

      Yes Parul, I agree wholeheartedly. Just been pondering some more about it and the oppressiveness of failure is often because I gave it the power. When I learned that I am stronger than my failures, it’s helped me regain my self-confidence. Thank you for reading.

  13. Sara 13th September 2017

    It takes courage to bare yourself to the world and you have done it beautifully here. Loved the last line about loving yourself-it is so true!Thanks for sharing!

    1. Keen & Shelly 14th September 2017

      It was scary to shed some light, even if an overview, on the last seven years. It gave me more peace putting words together and tethering the experiences that helped me become more resilient. I hope the trend continues, and thank you very much Sara for stopping by!

  14. Erin Nickels 14th September 2017

    Well this is the truth if I’ve ever read it! I bit off more than I could chew in college too. Thinking I was invincible was a mistake, but taught me amazing lessons in humility. Good luck to you! You’re journey went down this road for a reason!

    1. Keen & Shelly 14th September 2017

      I agree. I’m almost a decade older than most of my peers here at university. I am grateful for those experiences to know the path I needed to be. A lot more work for me to go before I finish but I’m enjoying the challenge. Thank you for your kind words.

  15. Lori | Choosing Wisdom 14th September 2017

    Powerful! I love that you persevered and found the success! Life is hard and when we use these types of experiences to learn it makes the failure a little bit easier to swallow. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Margaret 15th September 2017

    Best wishes on your journey!