Mirosha Somasundram has always been driven towards success. She has enjoyed the taste of what it's like to be at the top of her class and an 'A' student who excelled in school.
In her own words, she was a stranger to failures. That was until the bright, young student went to pursue her tertiary education and started taking professional papers for her accounting course in September 2012.
She was suddenly the odd one out because she failed her papers, one after another.
"I was the only one out of my whole class to fail both subjects miserably. I ruined their 100% passing rate. I was left behind to retake my papers while the rest carried on," 24-year-old Mirosha said.
While her coursemates passed their papers to progress to the next stage in life - employment - Mirosha was still stuck, being a student.
People passed comments and questions, but unfortunately, none of them were actually encouraging
"Mirosha, what are you still doing here? I thought you were supposed to be done?"
"Fail ah? How did you fail? You don't SEEM like someone that fails."
"Maybe you should stop this and do something you actually CAN do. When are you quitting?"
"What if you never clear ANY papers in like six years down the road?"
"Do something that's easier."
However, it was during this period of "downfall" that Mirosha actually opened up herself to other, different opportunities
While she was not excelling academically like she used to in school, Mirosha started participating in various programmes and activities such as the university's toastmasters club and volunteering in schools to teach underprivileged kids.
In 2015, she was given the opportunity to participate in the Asian English Olympics public speaking contest in Jakarta. She wanted to win the competition and was eager to prove her worth.
"I could not even get into semi-finals. I went into a mental breakdown right after and took a semester off because the one thing I thought I could do, did not go too well."
It's not that Mirosha did not give her very best. In fact, some may say that she had put in 110% effort into her studies, but none of it was producing the desired results.
She took four years to finish four papers.
"I tried to finish the remaining two papers in one go like any other normal students would. I used to enter the library at sharp 8am and only leave university at 12am everyday including weekends and public holidays."
"I sacrificed my times with friends and family. I took all those words thrown at me by people I knew and didn't really knew. Anything but just to finish it off, once and for all, and... I failed both papers, miserably. Again."
When things didn't work out they way she wanted, it sent her into a downward spiral. It affected her so much that she even contemplated suicide at one point in time.
"From a person who thought suicide was for cowards and weaklings, I went to someone who convinced herself that it's best for the people around her if she died."
"I crossed every road, hoping that a bus would hit me. I stood at every tall building, looking out the window and wondering how hard I would have to hit the ground to die on the spot."
She recalled that one night when she was so close to taking her own life. Thankfully, one of her best friends talked her out of it.
"She pretty much saved my life that night. Somehow, I got back up and fought again."
In the midst of her own disappointments, depression, and despair, Mirosha's father stood by her, every step of the way
"My dad is the epitome of tough love. He was being a little hard on me for the first few years of failures because he could not handle the fact that I went from an A star student to someone who failed multiple times.
Despite not reaching her own and her father's expectations, she has never forgotten the glow on her father's face whenever he introduced her to someone else. Her father would say, "This is my daughter. Pursuing ICAEW. Chartered accountant to be."
"Towards the end, when I almost dropped out, he was generous enough to give up on his dreams that he invested in for the past five years, and said, 'Go pursue what you want to. I've tortured you enough.'"
Mirosha was certainly under great pressure to perform in her studies, but her father was her pillar of strength.
"He never got tired of saying, 'This time, you can.' He had more faith in me than anyone else did."
She remembered how fearful she felt on 14 October 2016. It was the day her exam results were announced.
"It was my last attempt, as ICAEW has maximum attempts. If I failed this, I would lose everything. I'd go from an ICAEW student to an ICAEW dropout," Mirosha said.
She recalled how she was out wandering in KLCC alone that day, with her phone switched off, contemplating about what she would do if she were to fail again.
At the end of the day, Mirosha mustered all the courage that she had to turn on her phone, and when the messages came in, she almost didn't believe her own eyes. She did it - she passed her last paper!
"I took 5.5 years to complete what was supposed to take 2.5 years. I have studied 14 hours a day for months, and still failed. I have been told to my face that I'm a failure."
"I have been left by people I called friends for I was not the academically excellent person I used to be."
The journey that Mirosha had gone through taught her to discover her own self-worth, one that is beyond her academic achievements. It was through this struggle that she thought of ways to ease her parents' financial burdens and reach out to others who are going through a tough time, like she was.
"I wouldn't have been able to empathise those who have depression or have known what failures are like."
Mirosha realised in hindsight that she would not have made other accomplishments if not for her academic setbacks
After she failed to win the Asian English Olympics in 2015, she made a second attempt the following year. She opened up about her issues with depression and talked about it for the first time.
Little did she know that talking about what she saw as her failures would actually lead her to victory. Mirosha was named as the Champion in Speech in the competition.
The win boosted her confidence. Before you know it, Mirosha was invited to make media appearances and she used her voice to talk about social issues such as discrimination against dark skinned people and depression.
On paper, Mirosha may look like she is not the best candidate for a job. However, against all odds, she is now working at one of the biggest audit firms in Malaysia.
"I was still told that a job would be hard to find with results history like mine, but I'm currently working in one of the 'Big 4' audit firms."
Getting that job offer made her realised that sometimes, exam results are not the only thing that determine how a person get career opportunities.
"It's more than just exam results. I don't know how I got the job because during the interview, they did ask me how my university life went after looking through my results. I openly told them that I was not the best student due to those bumpy roads, but they sure did sculptured me well."
It is certainly a happy ending for this chapter in life for Mirosha, and she hopes that those who are struggling would realise they are not alone in this journey
"Everything happens for a reason. A GOOD reason, that is. It is going to be okay. Life has its funny ways to let you discover those reasons for yourself. Be prepared to be mind-blown when you do.
"Remember, it's always darkest before the dawn."