If At First You Don’t Succeed…

This is not a post I wanted to write.

But this is my story. And as much as I’d love to, I can’t just skip over the bad parts.

I failed my first attempt at the Certified Cicerone test.

I went into it concerned that I hadn’t had enough time to study. I had a nightmare the night before I got my test results back that I got a 33%. I woke up the next morning and got ready for work. I was going back to the site where I took my test 5 weeks prior.

A couple of guys from the distributor (where the test was held and where I was working that day) had taken the test with me. I told one of them about my dream, and he said with confidence, ” We’re going to find out today.” I asked him how he knew, and he said he just felt like today was the day.

It was around 5:00 and I got a call from my co-worker who was riding with the guy who had taken the test. He said, “Check your email! Kevin passed!”

I was ecstatic for him! And my hands instantly began to shake. My email hadn’t come through yet. I knew they were sending around 20 emails with varying results.

I got off the phone and told another co-worker that I should be getting my results any minute. I was freaking out. I thought about calling Ben. But I figured I would wait the few minutes so I could call him to share the news.

My phone vibrated, and up popped the words “Cicerone Program”. This was the email. I took a deep breath, walked away from everyone, and opened it…

I had passed the tasting portion… But my overall score on the whole test was not high enough to pass.

I really can’t even begin to explain how that felt…

My excitement faded and my smile of anticipation and anxiety faded in slow motion into hazy eyes with restraint, trying not to look like an idiot in front of the people I was working with. I thought of my friend Michele saying, “Always be a robot” when we’d discuss having a bad day. 

I called Ben before I would let my emotions get the best of me. “Check your email”, I said, as I attempted to hide the devastation in my voice. 

Ben quickly said, “Did you get my text?”

I hadn’t looked or even noticed that I had one. I took the phone from my ear to look. 

“I PASSED!!!!!”, it read.

My eyes instantly filled with tears of happiness for him as I blurted out a, “Congratulations, babe! I’m so proud of you!”, before I lost it. And as soon as the first tear left my eye, the rest were fucking horrible and restrained tears of shitty saddness and devastation. 

Ben asked, still with excitement, “How did you do?”

I was silent. 

“Are you there?”, he asked.

I gathered enough breath to slowly get through telling him I hadn’t passed…

This is my life. This is what I fucking love with all my heart. And I wasn’t good enough to succeed. 

If you’ve ever seen the documentary “Somm” (about a group of people preparing for their Master Sommelier exam), I felt like that one guy who didn’t pass as he tearfullly pulled off a painful smile watching his friends be awarded the title.

I tried to pull my shit together to walk back over to my co-worker and the two people from the distributor we were riding with. 

I’m admittedly an emotional person. I remember a family dinner one night long ago where my dad was asked to describe me in one word. He chose, “emotional”. I instantly was offended. Then my dad explained. “That’s not a bad thing, Janee. Emotional doesn’t mean you’re a crybaby. It means you wear your heart on your sleeve, and whatever you feel, you feel whole-heartedly and with a lot of passion.” 

I can practice restraint in almost every case.

But this, to me, was actually heart-breaking. It was like being dumped. 

It didn’t matter that I had passed one portion. I almost didn’t even care.

I failed.

“I failed”, I kept thinking.

My team and I got into a car to go sell some more beer. It was the very last thing on earth I wanted to do at that point in time. I just wanted to bawl my eyes out.

After work ended, I drove a few minutes to a nearby restaurant where my husband was. 

I felt like a huge asshole. My husband accomplishes this awesome thing, and I don’t want to tarnish it for him. I decide to bawl my eyes out alone in my car after dinner on the half hour ride home.

Ben and I are big fans of the husband/wife high five. So I immediately walk in to join him at the bar and greet him that way and follow it up with a big hug.

I can’t describe well enough how incredibly happy I was for him. Shortly into our conversation, my smile broke into tears and I apologized, again telling him how happy I was for him and explaining that I didn’t want to take away from his happiness.

He’s come a long way with his consolation skills. Years ago, it would have been a mechanical “there there” pat on the back. But he was awesome and tried to make me laugh.

After dinner, I got into my car and bawled the whole way home on the phone with a friend.

The next morning, I woke up. I thought about feeling sorry for myself. But I literally thought of this one Barney Stinson meme that reads, “When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead.” And I just did that. And that day, I got to go back to my new job doing what I love. And it was a great day.

I needed to go through that shitty feeling. It wasn’t the end of the world. I wanted with all my heart to pass the first time. But I had less than 3 months of committed studying. I knew I wasn’t as prepared as I had wanted to be. And a good number of people have said that the tasting portion is the hardest to pass.

The only failures are quitters!

There’s a test at the end of August that I had planned to take if I failed, but that test is already full. There’s one in October that I think I can make it to instead. Work is going to be crazy for the next few months, and I’ll be working day and night. But I have a game plan to focus on my weak spots, and I’m going to pass!

I plan to retake the tasting portion, despite having passed it, because a better score on that can boost my overall score. Once you pass that portion, you’ve passed. So even if you fail at a second attempt, they take the better of your scores.

I’ll keep you posted. I’ll pass this test! Ben can’t be the only Certified Cicerone in this house for long!

2 thoughts on “If At First You Don’t Succeed…

  1. You’re an amazing person and a genius with beer (in my opinion) 🙂 Let me tell you…I love teaching and all my professors told me how great I was. I am a terrible test taker who has testing anxiety. I graduated college not passing my Praxis exam. The Praxis exam is the test you take to get your certification to be a teacher. I needed a 179 to pass and four TIMES I got a 178!!!!! Talk about feeling like a failure! It made me so mad because that test did not define me as the teacher I am. A few months after I passed (fifth try) they changed the scoring guidelines to correlate with ones GPA. Seriously????? With my 4.0 GPA I only needed like a 175, if I remember correctly! Oh well…that’s life. Six years later, I’m teaching and not once has that stupid test ever came up in my career. You are such a smart person and I don’t want you to get down on your self. You are going to kill it next time. Who cares how many times it takes you to pass the test. No test defines you as a person. Which, by the way, you’re an AMAZING person. I’m glad you have a positive outlook 🙂 I’m always here if you want to call and vent to me. Love you!


  2. Tommy Edison did not succeed at first when he invented the incandescent light bulb. Michael Jordan did not succeed at first when he tried out for his high school varsity basketball team. Abe Lincoln did not succeed at first when he ran for elected office. By NO MEANS does this mean you are a failure. Stick with it. You will get there.


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