The biggest failure of my life


Kayla Nguyen

The Sidekick Executive editor-in-chief Angelina Liu attempts to solve a math problem in William Harrington’s classroom on March 22. Liu explains why she thinks trying to advance one level of math is the biggest failure of her life.

Angelina Liu, Executive Editor-in-Chief

Sitting at the kitchen table with tears streaming down my face, my father attempts to explain the concept of long division to me. Despite it being relatively cool in the Virginian 0-==suburban kitchen, I’m sweating profusely. My arm props up my exhausted fourth-grader head, the numbers beginning to squiggle across the clean white sheet. 


There is a long silence, my father awaiting my response. 

This doesn’t make any sense. 

I stared at the sheet, willing the numbers to perhaps unravel themselves and point me in any sort of direction, anything but the emptiness that existed in the white blank where the answer was intended to be placed. 

I shake my head as my father lets out a long, frustrated sigh. Like most first or second generation immigrant children, this is one of the earliest recollections of trying to learn math. 

Fast forward to middle school. In Mrs. Apple’s first period class, I paid attention and tried my best to keep my average up. I ended up doing fine, however, I was not given the green light to participate in accelerated math in seventh grade. Thus began my long-winded, never ending catch up journey in math that has plagued me for the past seven years. 

After completing Algebra I in freshman year, I registered to take geometry online over the summer with UT High School. I spent the summer studying and completing the self-guided course, which ended up being the most tedious summer of my lifetime. 

After Honors Algebra II in sophomore year, I was finally on track to take precalculus my junior year. Unfortunately, I failed to factor in the rigourness of the course in combination with the rest of my schedule, forcing me to drop the class.

Now, in my senior year, I sit in Mr. Harrington’s second period on-level precalculus class for 90 minutes. After countless hours of attempting to skip a math level, I had not succeeded. 

I consider this to be my personal biggest failure. After all, thousands of students have been able to accelerate one math level,some even two or three, and easily pass precalculus. So why couldn’t I? This anxiety plagued me as I wondered what colleges would think. 

Now, I sit here and think about why I even desperately wanted to advance. What benefit would I truly reap? 

I wanted to be like everyone else, forcing myself onto an academic pathway that simply didn’t align with my own goals. I saw being in an advanced math class as a symbol of capability, finally proving wrong the people who doubted me. 

However, this desire to be right, to prove that I wasn’t what my family and teachers thought of me eventually led to my downfall. 

They were right all along.

Now, I’m not throwing my hands in the air and giving up. I accept the fact that I am horrible at math. Instead of refusing to listen, I understand where their criticisms come from. While you shouldn’t listen to all criticism, understand that the people who love you often know what’s best for you, even if you refuse to believe it at the moment. 

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