After weeks of waiting, I received the long awaited email that the provisional results for my masters in marketing were in. I was super nervous and headed to the business school to check. With the exception of a 70 and a 56, all my results were in the 60s. These were not bad results, definitely better than my undergrad results, but I was extremely disappointed. It was a provisional merit but I wanted a distinction. That’s what I had aimed for when starting my masters. How did this happen? I couldn’t believe it. I called my mother who was eagerly waiting for the news. “Your grades are good, but I’m not hearing the excitement in your voice, so right now, I don’t know whether to be happy or sad.”

I just wanted to go to my room and mope but I had a meeting with my supervisor, Irute, and another with the career counsellor, Graham so I had to stay in the business school. Irute noticed I was sad and told me I could get feedback on the papers I felt I should have scored better in. Before I left her office, she said “I love the way you’re always keen to improve and do better. It’s really an honour to work with someone like you.” Upon self introspection, I realised she had paid me a very big compliment, but I was too sad to fully process what she was saying at the time. I just nodded and rushed out of her office. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I proceeded to Graham’s office. It wasn’t a fruitful meeting because I just couldn’t concentrate. In the middle of the session, I started tearing up. He handed me a tissue and told me to take as much time as I needed to get myself together.

Later that evening, my father called me. “Your mother told me you are sad about your grades. Listen, you have done very well and you should be proud of yourself.” I was getting so much encouragement but it didn’t mean much. I had set myself a target, and I had failed.

I was in a dilemma. I worked so hard but still failed to meet the target I had set myself. I didn’t deal well with the disappointment at all and I didn’t want to go through that again. But fear of failure can never be a reason to not try. My masters, however, was still not complete. I still had to work on my dissertation. To prevent another disappointment, I decided to change my goal. I decided to do my best and whatever the outcome, be at peace with that. A few weeks earlier, I’d worked on my dissertation proposal. That was another wahala because I’d never written a dissertation before. I had been to see Irute with a draft and she would give me feedback and send me back to redo it and return it. The day I was to submit the final graded proposal, I decided to read through the guidelines and realised that I hadn’t done some parts properly. I had to sit back at my desk and rewrite some parts. I had a paper at 2pm that day.

When the results for the proposal came out, I saw that I got 72. I had another meeting with Irute and told her I’d gotten my results. “What do you think?” she asked. “To be honest, I’m shocked. I’d never done this before and because I had to keep redoing it, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out”, I responded. “You should be proud of yourself. You worked really hard. You deserve it.”

The next hurdle for me was writing the dissertation. I admit that during the process, I took a number of liberties. First of all, I spent about 3 weeks in France, basking on the beaches of St. Cast Le Guildo and wandering around the beautiful gardens of Montreuil Sur Mer. It was a bit tricky because I didn’t have internet so I had to conduct my interviews in my Uncle Benjamin’s car. He made sure to park in front of the local café so I could parasite on the internet to conduct my Facetime interviews. After that, I went to Ghana for about 2 weeks. I didn’t do much work in Ghana so when I returned to the UK, it was on.. Like me, Irute a big fan of experimenting and thinking outside the box so whenever I showed or discussed my often half done “crazy ideas” with her, she was very enthusiastic and encouraging. She would give feedback and tell me to go complete the parts where I was stuck. It was often a lot of work but I was keen to improve and she was keen to help me do so. We were a match made in heaven. I spent a lot of time at the library, reading and rewriting. I worked really hard on it and came out with a product I was very proud of. Of course, I wanted a distinction but I didn’t dwell too much on it and just remained at peace with the fact that I’d done my best.

One afternoon, I was at my part time job in Wokingham and received an email that the results were in. My jaw dropped when I saw my results. I’d gotten 82. I literally don’t remember the last time I got 82 in anything, probably since grade school. My final grade was a merit but I didn’t care this time. I had written a dissertation, something I hadn’t done before and excelled at it. I was truly proud of myself. I shared the news with Nii Noi, Ghanaian lecturer friend I had made in London and a mentor of sorts. “Who gave you the 82? That’s like publication quality material.” My head swelled even more. I really wished I’d been on campus so I could go and see Irute and thank her for her support. She’d been truly amazing.

At my graduation, my grandparents from Bristol and my aunts from London came to Reading. I asked Irute to come say hi. “Mimi was one of my best students. She was always ready to be better. As a lecturer, you are always happy to have students who are keen to improve and you are keen to help such people.” My grandparents looked surprised. “So do you think she can do a PhD?”, my grandmother asked. “Oh definitely. Mimi, if you are interested, I can do some introductions for you.“ was Irute’s response.

The experience taught me not to run away from challenge and always aim to do my best and let the results take care of themselves. I still dislike failure (very much) but I believe sometimes, stumbling blocks can indeed be stepping stones to success and failures often present a huge learning opportunities that can shape us up and ultimately put us in a better position to succeed.