I failed the California bar exam.
I share this not to glorify failure. Failure sucks in the most ordinary and painful way. I'm pretty embarrassed about not passing. I know it's the kind of thing that happens, but it's not the kind of thing you think happens to you.
I could easily hide this fact from anyone that doesn't need to know. However, I'd rather rip the bandaid off than hide in shame until I remedy the situation.
Of course, it will be fine. I'll take it again in February with the knowledge of what went wrong in July. The mechanics of studying are much less interesting and impactful than the emotional punch of failure.
Two connected ideas softened the blow.
After I found out I didn't pass the bar, Asha was rifling through some old letters I sent her. The very first one was from 2014 and I mentioned an OnBeing episode. At around the 8 minute mark, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks references Genesis 32:36:
Jacob says something very profound to the angel. He says, "I will not let you go until you bless me." And that is how I feel about suffering. When something bad happens, I will not let go of that bad thing until I have discovered the blessing that lies within it.
For me, I have the opportunity to be blessed by failing the bar. Can it teach me humility? Can it motivate me to spend my time wisely as I study and work at the same time? Can it teach me to handle failure in a positive way? And so on.
This idea of not turning away from suffering (here, a failure) but towards it connects with something Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations:
The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
Or, as Ryan Holiday puts it in his book, "The obstacle is the way."
I failed. That's okay. The failure is the way, and I can't let it go until it blesses me.