Gonzaga Part II: This Time It's Personal / by JC Howard

"The sequel was so much better..."

A friend of mine posted on Facebook the other day: “Name a sequel better than the original.” Some responses were widely agreed upon—Godfather Part II, Rush Hour 2, Bad Boys II—while others were hotly contested; apparently some don’t recognize the genius that is Back to the Future Part II. The comments section was filled with comedic hot takes and nostalgia-fueled debate and I just stopped by to watch! Those kinds of posts are great and sort of compel us to just scroll through and agree or disagree either within ourselves or—depending on our level of passion—to our virtual friend list. We often compare the sequel to the original and recently I’ve been thinking about my journey toward a Master’s in the same light.

The story of my educational success is deeply linked to my failure to succeed; the full story is on the About Me page. The long and short of it is that I started attending Gonzaga University in 2009 in pursuit of a Master’s degree in Communication and Leadership, but I bent the “flexibility of an online program” to its breaking point and failed multiple classes. I stepped away from the program only to return 5 years later. When I tell folks the full story they often say, “So great you’re finishing what you started!” I imagine many people say that to be nice and encouraging, but there is a subtext that often underlies that statement: “You are trying again where you failed before.” To which I internally respond, how could I not?

My experience at Gonzaga is a microcosm of what I can only hope my life will be. I’ll admit there is a part driven by ego: I refuse to be beaten; I will finish. But beyond that Gonzaga, for me is a symbol. It represents the ever-present idea that failure is not the end of the story. Failure will come. I’m glad I learned that in my early 20’s. It is okay to fail a lot; as a matter of fact it’s good for you. There’s a quote often attributed to Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb.” I prefer to embrace the failure though. Sure I failed, and in that found a thousand ways not to pass Master’s-level courses!

I’m just about on the final leg of the journey at Gonzaga. I’m mere months away from degree attainment. Partially because I’m older. Partially because I’m wiser. Partially because I took a page out of the book of author Jon Acuff (figuratively, I love my books and I’d never harm a page), and I learned how to say "No." I chose Gonzaga because of its Jesuit tradition; the focus on education, logic, and reflection. I came back, because even after I failed, the tenets of reflections helped me to identify the areas in which I needed—and still need—to grow. And boy am I glad that the sequel’s so much better!