For The New Girls: Why I’m happy I failed in my twenties

By Nombuso Nkambule (@hrh_nombuso)

 Numbs Nkambule writes of her experience of having ‘lost her shit’ after having failed a year at medical school and as a result becoming unflatteringly thin. She emerged after that anxious period of doubt in her capabalities, with an acceptance of herself and the idea that she did indeed deserve happiness.  

This post was originally published in November 2014 and is republished here as part of our one year anniversary retrospective.

Amongst our youth, depression is becoming increasingly prevalent, the result of a delusion of lifestyle. I used to be the type to dwell on the seemingly insurmountable weight of my problems. You can never discount the devastating effects of a problematic life: I was 22, unflatteringly thin and losing my shit. I often look at the life pressures we put ourselves under to be hot, happy and accomplished by 30 and then think, “no wonder we’re all so fucked!”

We are plagued by the pressures of egocentricity and instant gratification, we think to ourselves, “I am unique and I must be great right now.” And yet we blindly discount that there are levels and timeframes to winning at life.

Failure was a heavy and unwelcome weight in my life. Ironically, failing is the best thing that’s happened to me. It was the catalyst to a very important change. Now I’m at a point in my young adulthood where the good days outweigh the shitty ones, and the good days should be celebrated. Despite the pressures and doubts that you’re not doing enough at 23, you need to celebrate that you aren’t where you were a year ago. In my case that was being angry at the Baes who hurt me (I wrote several rap songs about this) and jumping straight back into the dating pool in an attempt to get as much practice at dating so that one day I would be a good wife to a man I chose as the ‘the one’.

It’s crazy! The pressure I’d put myself under when it came to love. It was making me a jittery and ‘not-together’ person, so I made a change, I exercised The Law of Detachment. I stopped worrying about controlling the outcomes of life’s happenings and when I did that, I began to enjoy the peace of a happy life. It’s important to be happy and to celebrate the peace of a good life, but it’s equally important to be prepared for the battle against the pressures that would do anything to derail you from your happy-high.

Life can’t always be peaceful just because you meditate and will it to be so. Harmony and happiness can only return by making the right choices in your reaction to the unexpected pressure. I call it Karmic Law.

Karmic Law had a grand display in my life circa 2012-2014. I had failed my second year anatomy course (as part of my Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery), I remember the feeling of dread that washed over me. I felt winded, like someone had punched me in the gut. I managed to bounce back as I repeated the course the next year and I got an academic exemption, but I still wasn’t sure of my capability when I entered third year in 2013.

I was anxious and so very insecure; deep down I anticipated another failure at the end of my MBChB III. Failure is a particularly crippling mind-trap because, as you ask yourself, how do you learn to trust yourself again after you, and nobody else, let yourself down?

I had failed and I was an unbeliever in myself. There I was, almost 23 and still in school whilst my friends graduated and moved in with their boyfriends. I didn’t feel like a winner and it sucked, so I went Charlie Sheen on my self-esteem and made a change. I made the decision to be better. That was all.

I didn’t want to put myself under pressure with goals I wasn’t ready for, so the first goal was to push my academics. I worked hard and I searched for God and I achieved my academic goal, with exemption. It felt good, winning. I was happy and enjoying the whole of my life.

There is no arrogance in being happy, living well and celebrating that. People who don’t celebrate that with you or make you feel like you’re being ‘brand new’ with your joy clearly accept the kind of happiness that they think they deserve. You need to accept that you deserve more.

I accepted that about myself, I did deserve more, and the anxiety was abating. Once I regained confidence in my own capability and accepted myself as good enough, everything else just sort of fell into place. I tried to be better and I willed good things to me, and they came.

A part of young adulthood is forming relationships with people that make you feel supported. I made some of the very best friendships and sustained important relationships. There is nothing like having someone who understands to vent to after a hard day at work.

Don’t doom yourself to a lonely life, love someone and choose to share your life with someone who is worthy of hearing your stories. Emotional support is so important so while we’re all 20-somethings anxiously running the wheel trying to ‘make it big’ before time runs out, we need to make time to be together. Enjoy those guilt-free Friday nights in with the girls, turn up and buy the bar, take-road trips , call your parents and be together with people who make you feel loved and supported.

Deepak Chopra says, “The best way to use Karmic Kaw is to step back and witness the choices you are making in every moment.” At the time I didn’t know it, but I made the right choice and my Karma turned around. My cup runneth over. I feel loved, supported and capable, and I’m okay with the fact that I am single, still student and I still get an allowance at 23 because medical school is long and the best is yet to come.

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