I felt disappointed and failed myself when I received my examination results (PSLE)

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This was the year of 2007, when I was about 12 years old. Finally, the day has come. The day that would reveal whether the students have been studying or slacking really hard. Most of the students were anxious on getting their results. Others sort of already knew what result they were expecting. The moment of truth we have been waiting for.

If I’m not mistaken, we were asked to assemble in the hall where everyone would gather to receive our PSLE result. This was a big event. It was a milestone that we have achieved. And this result is the next big step we would take in the education world. Looking at their worried and anxious faces, I too become anxious.

For some reason, I have a positive mindset and I keep telling myself that I will do exceptionally well but not really amazingly well. (Or am I just lying to myself) At this moment, I was thinking to myself, “What result would I get?” “Will I able to go into the stream that I wanted?” That slip of paper will reflect our individual results as well as the total aggregate score that we obtained.

I wasn’t really focus on anything else except to get that paper. I wished that time will pass faster. As long as the paper doesn’t reach my hand, I wouldn’t move and ignore the rest of my surrounding. This result is so important to us because it would determine which school we are able to pick and get enrolled in for the following year. We would be upgrading from primary school to secondary school. Not only are we able to pick the school of our choice, we would get into the stream we want if we obtained a certain aggregate.

There were 3 streams; (E) express, N(A) normal academic and N(T) normal technical. Those in the express stream would take only 4 years to study and they can choose the path of going into polytechnic school or junior college. Those in the academic stream would take 5 years and they can get to the polytechnic or Institute of Technical Education. Those in the normal technical will take 4 years and they will go to an Institute of Technical Education. This also means if I were to go to the express stream, I would save years in my education journey. The choices we make will be based on our results.

After anxiously waiting, my teacher then started to call names to collect their PSLE result. The first person has already being called to collect their result slip. Then the second person, the third person… My heart was pumping fast and a lot of things were racing through my mind. “Did I do well? What will my aggregate score be?” “Can I go to express stream?”

Then, the teacher called my name and I got up from my sitting position and walked slowly to my teacher. (Oh no! This is the time to face reality. I need to brave up and accept the result slip and have a look at it) I reached out my hand and took my result slip from my teacher’s hand. As I took it, I was afraid to face the reality but at the same time I just want to have a look at how well did. I went out of the hall and carefully peeped at my result slip. Well, overall it looks good but not great. As I looked further down, I saw my aggregate score being 172. 

My PSLE result

Prior to the results day, I had a number in mind to get into the school and stream I wanted. The number was around 188. That’s right! I was around 16 points away from what I wanted! This score could only land me into the normal academic stream which would take me 5 years and that day I was totally disappointed in myself. I felt that I have let myself down the most. I didn’t think that I would let my parents down. (Fortunately, my parents didn’t really pressure me into any schools or had any expectation on me)

I went home and I sat down still not over my result yet. I started reflecting on the event. I actually took out my handphone and recorded myself. I was actually tearing at that point of time. It’s because I felt that it was my biggest failure in my 12 years of my life. I didn’t really know how to handle it. What I did that time was what I thought I should do when I was feeling so low and down. 

I pressed the record button and I told myself that I will promise myself to work harder next year and do my best in my studies. I took at least 3 attempts then I was satisfied with my video. I took 3 times because the first 2 attempts were not really sincere when I said that I wanted to do better the next year. The third video made me realise that what I said was really sincere and I really meant what I said. (It hit me in the heart, mind and soul)

This remind of an exercise that the teacher somewhat suggested to us back in one of those days. The exercise is to write a note to your future self. Say maybe 5 years down the road and what you will become when you reach the 5 year mark. I think that this exercise is very important because it really sets a direction for me and I look forward to something in life. 

So after the 5 year has approached, open the letter and read to yourself, what you wrote 5 years back, did you achieve it? Have you become the person you have envisioned to be? Did you fall slightly short of your goals? That’s where the next self reflection comes to play and keep planning again. 

Back to the story, just like acting, I didn’t make it for the first 2 shots so I made the third shot and it was amazing. That moment, I guess is a life changing moment for myself. Never have I felt so sad and disappointed in myself. It really dealt a big impact to me. I got my inspiration to get into the express stream is because of my brother. My brother who is older than me, took his PSLE, scored well and landed himself to an express stream in one of the neighbourhood school.

This is a positive thing to follow, so I told myself when I was sitting for PSLE to follow into his footsteps and achieve the same result which is to also get into the express stream. I set an expectation on myself. For me the aggregate score didn’t really matter much as long as the score I had is sufficient for the school’s streaming score then I am happy with myself. Every school has different aggregate score for the express streams.

Back then, I didn’t know how secondary school was like. I just heard stories of bullying cases, subjects are getting way more difficult and there would be more stress. Homework will be piling up and school hours would be slightly longer. (Gosh the sound of it sounds scary) I just wished myself some good luck and to do my best.

I applied for Bedok North Secondary School and got into it during mid Dec 2007. A new adventure awaits for me.

What I have learned

Looking back, I learn that whatever the result, it doesn’t really define who you are and it’s definitely not the end of your life story. It is just the beginning. There is this simple logic which is to get result we need to put in action. When the action we put in is not enough, or incorrect, we would still get the result. But whether the result is good or not, it depends on the action and strategies taken. 

From an age of 6 till I was 12, I thought it was my smart talent that could land my A’s and all that. But I was totally wrong about it. I relied too much on this ability that once I have failed, I felt like bad and a total failure. (Since whenever I do well in exam or some quiz, my parents used to call me smart)

Setting an expectation for myself is not enough. There must be a follow up like a strategy or a plan to execute. Over the years, I heard from a podcast, YouTube video or read somewhere that failure happens not because you are bad at it but because you either haven’t found the right strategy or put in more effort into that particular thing. 

I have no idea how I actually got the idea to record myself. While replaying the video to myself, reminded me of how disappointed I was and I need to get back up. (I changed phone back then and lost the video) Probably, I had watched some video some where that they did the exercise where they would look into the mirror and tell themselves with looking straight into their eyes that they are so and so. After doing that for awhile, they would become the so and so that they affirm themselves daily.

I also learned that the steps that I have taken to overcome this failure is first to admit and accept my aggregate score. Secondly, I reflected and look forward to what I can do. Thirdly, I told myself the plan to work harder the upcoming year when I enrolled to the secondary school. Lastly, I executed my plan which is the action that I should study harder and smarter so that I wouldn’t encounter the same regret.

Sometimes, when you reach the rock bottom, the only way to out is to go up. It is the breaking point that if you manage to recover, you will be maybe 3 – 4 times or maybe million times stronger than who you were previously. 

I hope you enjoyed my story and what I have learned has brought some lesson to you. If you enjoyed the story, I would appreciate it if you would help to share this story around. It could benefit those around you. 

Also, if you think you have learned another lesson other than what I mentioned, do leave a comment below. I will be most happy to read it and learn from you. OR you can share with me what’s your biggest failure and how you manage to get back up?

With that, I wish you a very good day ahead! Peace.

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