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  • Writer's pictureTamra Wade

Saved By Zero

By Tamra Wade

From the Paper Hope Archive

Many of you know that I am back in college pursuing my undergrad in psychology minor in sociology with plans to continue quickly to my master program. I wish to work in a more official capacity to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I love school. I love it so much I think I might be in school for the rest of my life. I love every aspect of school except math. 

I took my placement tests and tested into the lowest math class. This means that math loving me will have to take four full math courses before I have my college math credit I need for my undergraduate. This was not surprising as I never took algebra in high school and high school was decades ago. Nor was I every very good at this type of math when I was in college the first time.

Recently I failed a very important math final. We are talking a big fat forty eight percent failing grade of  ‘F’. Failing the test meant that I failed the class. I have to take the class again in order to get my degree. Now instead of the four math classes, I am not looking at a total of five math classes before I am finished. 

You would think that I would be devastated. 

While I was disappointed, devastated was not the emotion that first washed over me when I saw my grade, instantly, after taking a three hour test in a testing center. No. The feelings that washed over me were relief. I was relieved that I didn’t need to do one more freaking math problem (for now). 

In many ways I was saved by zero.

I grew up as a child in the 70’s and 80’s. I think it was pretty awesome time to be a kid. A particular 80’s song I have loved, Saved by Zero by the Fixx reminds me of how I feel about failure. There is great freedom in failure. It is liberating. There are choices that are afforded that seem less accessible during the struggle of our efforts. 

When we fail, we are saved by zero. The counter resets at zero. We are set back to the start. We are now allowed to course correct and move on. The fight is at bay, if only for a brief moment.

I realize I am burned out. I didn’t have enough gas in the metaphoric tank to tackle this prior math class. These are the thoughts that have flooded me the days after failing my test. Never did I think I was a failure. Nor did I think that I would never be successful. I realized that failing this test meant that it was time to rest. I need to rejuvenate. 

I also need to course correct. I realize I need time to allow myself to relax from the stress of the work and really evaluate what my course corrections will be. Why is taking time to relax and allow yourself time to process what has happened important? Here is what would have happened had I not taken this time to really reflect on my contribution to the failure. 

I would have signed right back up for the same class, same online setting and potentially even the same instructor. This really is a living example of insanity; doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result. I had many of my dear friends and mentors encouraging me to take an in person class, that the online for math isn’t working. I bristled at this thought the first twenty times I had someone suggest it. I was filled with excuses why I don’t want to take an in person math class.


After a few weeks, I have let my guard down. I am allowing all ideas to permeate even ones that directly after failing my test were unimaginable. I am mulling it all over. Time allows me to do this. Forcing myself back into the class would have been a setup for yet another failure. 

Part of my plan is to take an in person class. I will be meeting ahead of time with possible professors and interview them. Find out if their class is a good fit for me and what I need. I have the time to do my research. I have time to find new tools that will aid me in my success. 

My little one recently went on a field trip to ASU to learn about their STEM programs. One of the physics professors unsolicited told the group that he had failed math six times before he got through the class work. He laughed when he told them explaining that something happened he had never expected. He said that now he was an expert in math. This story makes me endlessly happy. It’s a truth that many of us miss. 

We don’t want to take the time to struggle. It feels unpleasant. Society only focus on the quick success missing the road and what it actually takes to be successful. 

If you are able, take your time in your course correction, take it. Savor it. Think through different scenarios. Talk with people who have had similar struggles. Find out what they did. See if any of their actions are able to provide guidance. Amass a new set of tools to help weather the difficulties. Rest, rejuvenate, and don’t give up. Failure is really instrumental to success. You can’t have one without the other. 

It is what you do with your failure that will determine the level of your success.  

Update: I took my final algebra class of my program, maybe the last algebra class of my life. The class I took just after I failed I hired an amazing tutor who actually taught me algebra. Imagine that! So as I entered into my final algebra class, in person, I actually knew how to solve equations. I am no expert as Lindsey's ASU STEM program speaker shared he had turned into, but I did finish with a solid A in both my final algebra classes. I graduated with my associates degree May 2019 with high distinction. I am on to finish my undergrad May 2020 and will start my graduate program fall 2020.

I was saved by zero.

Saved by Zero

The Fixx

Maybe someday, saved by zero,

I'll be more together.

Stretched by fewer thoughts that leave me.

Chasing after my dreams; disown me, loaded with danger.

So maybe I'll win. (Saved by zero.)

Maybe I'll win. (Saved by zero.)

Holding onto words that teach me.

I will conquer space around me.

So maybe I'll win. (Saved by zero.)

Maybe I'll win. (Saved by zero.)

Maybe I'll win. (Saved by zero.)

Maybe I'll win. (Saved by zero.)

Saved by, saved by, saved by zero.

Saved by, saved by, saved by zero.

Saved by, saved by, saved by zero.

Songwriters: Adam Terence Woods / Alfred Agius / Cyril John Curnin / James West Oram / Peter John Greenall 

Saved by Zero lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC



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