Quote from BagelBomber
I am so relieved to know I'm not alone! I've never been very good at "forgiving" myself for doing less than perfectly- so this whole journey will absolutely be difficult for me to adjust to. I thank you all for your kind words and advice!
You are definitely not alone! A lot of us in my program had a rude awakening on our first exam but everyone in the cohort made it to graduation. I thought I was doing fine in nursing school until I got a 76% on my first patho exam - I panicked and ran to my professor. She told me that a 76% meant I *did* know the material well and had clearly been studying - I just didn't know how to to think for NCLEX style questions, and didn't know how to reason through the material to apply it yet! She's the one who gave me good advice on how to study to application rather than memorization, and to think through the material as if you were going to teach some one else - she espoused "teach your pets, teach your potted plants" comments often.
Her other wisdom: remember to care for one's self through the school process - forgive yourself when a day doesn't go well or you don't do as good on exam as you hoped, remember to take breaks while studying. Sleep adequately, exercise regularly, stay hydrated, eat nutritious foods, and spend some time now and then doing things that are nourishing to your spirit - whatever those hobbies or activities are for you. It's helps your brain and body feel better and you'll actually do better in school.
While I'm not sure nursing school will ever feel "easy" for you, you will adapt and you will get through it, and in even a year from now you'll look back and marvel at just how much you've learned (and forgotten) in that time.