When we hear the word failure, there tends to be a negative connation to it, as if it’s some bad rash that won’t go away. If your goal in life is to avoid a life of mishap, then you seriously need to get a life. Failure is a part of life, but how you respond to it makes all the difference.
Before I earned my doctorate in educational leadership, I experienced failure along the way. Where I am now would not have been possible had it not been for failure. In the Fall of 2002 I started law school. Growing up in a typical Nigerian home, a child is generally steered along one of these career paths, namely medicine, nursing, pharmacy, engineering and law. I even put this list in a Peking order for you too. You’re welcome. Anywho, at the time, I was at least reaching toward the last rung of career expectancy for my Nigerian parents. Both my brothers were on the road to medicine and I just couldn’t let my parents, in addition to my Nigerian community, down.
I attended Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston, Texas for one year. I failed miserably. I provided a kaleidoscope of grades ranging from C, Ds and an F or two for good measure. I enjoyed contracts but not the professor and civil procedure was a royal pain in the you know what. The learning of law was not only a struggle for me, but what I saw some of my fellow students becoming…mini cut throat lawyers in training with a vivacious and sometime vicious approach to their studies. Some students I encountered were just downright mean. This was not my orientation and I found myself in a constant state of inner turmoil. Do I forget law school and find inner peace in exploring what would truly motivate me, or do I continue to exercise self-punishment to make others happy. *deep sigh* I had once again selected door number two.
After my first semester of law school, I told my parents I was no longer interested. My mom showed more empathy for me, but my dad wasn’t quite convinced and said I should not cower to defeat. He believed I was giving up too easily. I acquiesced and gave it another shot, despite my inner anguish.
I did not disappoint my second semester, in that I failed once again in my classes pulling in Ds and Fs. That was it. I was done, and this time I didn’t allow for any outside voices, even my parents. My career path found me becoming a paralegal and working for a civil litigation firm for a little while, to then working in recruiting, risk management, human resources and finally higher education. I’ve served in higher education for almost a decade and the incredibly funny thing is, higher education was always my first career choice. I had allowed the voices and opinions of the external to overshadow what I’d always known to be what I’m made of. My Nigerian parents meant well, and I do not fault them. They were simply guiding me the best way they knew how, especially as immigrants to the United States, wanting the best for their children. When I told my family, I was going to pursue a doctorate degree in education, there were questions of how I was going to cope as a working wife and mother. My law school experience helped me to develop a grit mentality. I’d also grown a lot from Fall 2002, my start of law school to Fall 2014, the year I entered my doctoral studies. Fast forward to May, 2018 when I graduated to become Dr. Chisom Unegbu and I have failure to thank for it.
– Dr. Chisom Unegbu