A Confession

When I started the MW course I had absolutely no idea what was in store for me. I knew it would take dedication, time management, determination and hard work and none of these prospects scared me; I have always applied myself to any challenge.  What I didn’t know was that as the course progressed it would reach insidiously into my very core, probing my deepest insecurities and challenging me in ways I have never before been challenged.

It has made me face failure for the first time, not once, but twice and like Damocles sword, the threat of failure again looms large on the horizon. For a perfectionist and a control freak failure doesn’t just mean that you have failed one aspect of a notoriously tough exam, it calls into question your self-worth.  It sounds melodramatic but to fail at the one thing you are ‘supposed to be good at’ is a very difficult mental hurdle to overcome.

My first failure was at my first attempt at the theory and practical exams. I had foregone ‘pleasure’ reading for 9 months and had been getting up at 5am to study every weekday.  I passed theory, but I failed 2 of the 3 practical exams.  I gained no joy in the theory pass, all I could see was the failure.  I persevered, re-enrolled and redoubled my efforts, but deep down I had stopped believing in myself.  When the results came through I had passed 2 of the 3 practical papers, an overall failure.  By this point my marriage had disintegrated into an acrimonious divorce and my father was battling cancer.  I had failed at my studies, I had failed at my marriage and I was worried that in my selfish MW cocoon I was failing as a daughter and a sister as well.

I took a year out and tried running away; I quit my job and moved to the sticks. That didn’t work.  Tormenting ghosts have a habit of following you.  I finally stopped running, both mentally and physically.  I finally began to see that the MW is not about passing or failing, it is about learning and growing.  I had got sucked into an MW bubble where nothing but passing matters and the fear and shame of failure came to dominate everything.  I had forgotten the reason I started this marathon in the first place which was to become a better, more knowledgeable wine professional.

With the help of incredible friends who have trodden the same path as me, albeit at a somewhat quicker pace, and an incredibly talented but more importantly, unbelievably patient mentor I am back in the game and studying to resit in 2016, but for the right reasons. I can now see there is no such thing as failure, I might never be able to put MW after my name, but I will become better at what I love in the process of trying.

This is my confession. My name is Alex.  I have failed. I might fail again.  But failure is subjective and in the end I will succeed.confession

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4 responses to “A Confession

  • Cathy van Zyl

    Go Alex!

  • Martin Wheatley

    Wow Alex…. What a powerful piece of writing. Stay happy and shoot for the stars 🙂 Very proud of you x

  • Tim Carlisle

    I never started the MW course, when people asked me why not I told them it was the time, it was the cost or whatever else I could tell them – the fact was that on finishing the diploma I was offered the chance at the Derouet Jameson so money wasn’t that much of an issue – the reality was I didn’t think I’d pass. I messed up life once before and made a complete hash of a set of exams as a result – and 20 years later it still kicks in – so getting back in the saddle? Takes guts, more guts than starting in the first place – those who pass first time, or get it quite easily? Sure they’re impressive – but the people who get knocked down, get up again and again and slug it out – they’re the ones I admire.

    • winemonkeys

      Thank you Tim. I am overwhelmed by people sharing their own raw experiences and their fears with me. It does help to know you are not alone and that people understand rather than judge.

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