Dear Auntie Agni,
I am a 20-year old girl writing to you as I go through the darkest period of my life. Starting from academics, I failed a very important MDCAT exam, which I had repeated after taking a gap year. I gave that exam my all this year, sacrificed so many things for it, went through both mental and physical exhaustion but, in the end, I couldn’t get the grade that I wanted. I have been very depressed and unable to cope with this. I have not-so-supportive parents who invalidate my emotions. I have been behind in life and the thoughts of future uncertainty are making my condition worse. I have no idea what to do and it’s not taking me anywhere. I have no one else to turn to, so I’m writing to you in the hope that you will advise me. 
Failed 

Dear Failed,
You can try again if you really think medicine is your calling. However, because so many of our young people are forced into the medical profession, I would advise you to do some soul searching about what you really want to do. Be honest with yourself. After serious introspection, if you come to the conclusion that medicine is for you, go right ahead and prepare again for the exam. If you conclude that you are pursuing the wrong field, think about what you want to do and start pursuing that.

‘I feel like a total failure’

Nevertheless, this is the time to also realise that there is more to life than wallowing over failure. I know it feels like the end of the world for you and others may be making you feel like it is, but it isn’t. Also there is no one else in the world who has never failed. Not even your parents or whoever else is not showing you support at this time. Show me someone who has never failed and I will show you a live cow that is purple and can talk!  

On a serious note though, there is an urgent need to normalise failure in this world and do away with the fear surrounding it. Only when you accept failure as a normal part of everyone’s life, can you talk about why things didn’t work and move towards better results and solutions. In fact, stop using the word failure and call it a test, or an attempt that didn’t work. In short, something you have to go through to achieve future success.  

Not passing the MDCAT sucks, but it is not the end of life for you. It means the start of something new. You decide what direction your life should take now. Not getting through the exam could be life’s way of telling you to try harder next year and change up how you are preparing for the exam. It could also be life’s way of telling you to pursue something else. Something that is more in alignment with your personality. Life could be nudging you in another direction which could be easier for you to pursue. Whatever path you try to pursue, the only thing that anyone can tell you for sure is that there will be plenty more challenges ahead.  

Use this time to also read and study the lives of prominent and ‘successful’ public figures in detail. You will inevitably find that all of them failed several times and continue to do so.  In the end, I would like to quote my absolute favourite actor Shah Rukh Khan’s iconic dialogue: “Picture abhi baaqi hai meray dost” [The movie is still not over my friend]. 

Disclaimer: If you or someone you know is in crisis and/or feeling suicidal, please go to your nearest emergency room and seek medical help immediately.

Auntie will not reply privately to any query. Please send concise queries to: auntieagni@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, EOS, January 22nd, 2023

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