We all fail sometimes. We all have things we wanted to do but never did, things we wanted to see but never saw, things we started but never finished. The thing is that we don’t talk about our shortcomings, even though we all have them. We want to present ourselves as perfect, but that just isn’t the case. We shouldn’t act like it is.
I have failed in a lot of areas. Keeping up with this blog, for example, is something I’m sure you’ll notice that I have failed miserably with. I’ve failed math tests, biology tests, chemistry tests, social studies tests, even english tests. I’ve failed a lot of tests. I’ve failed to succeed, failed to finish, failed to understand, failed to convey. There are a few specific failures that I still think about.
Let’s start at the earliest-first grade. It was around this time of year, our assignment was to craft a ghost made of paper and foam, and I was very excited to complete mine, since I very much enjoyed drawing ghosts. It was something I thought I did well. However, due to my excitement, my concentration seemed to falter, and I did not hear my teacher explain the instructions. At the end of class, I realized that, even though I was proud of my ghost, it did not look like my classmates’ ghosts. My teacher said, in a possibly accusatory tone, “You didn’t follow directions.” I was so upset, I was afraid that she wouldn’t put my ghost in the hall, I could feel the eyes of my classmates on me like noontime sun-leaving me burned. In that moment, six year old me burst into tears. In hindsight, I can remember my teacher’s eyes changing from scolding to consoling, from teaching to reaching out. She backtracked, “No, no, it’s fine, it’s still good, I’ll still put it in the hall.” But I think it was then that she, and I, realized that I didn’t need a punishment for my failures-I punished myself.
During my freshmen year of high school, I discovered something called NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and takes place in November. I was determined to do it. I’d been entertaining a novel idea for a while, and I could set my own word count goal and not write to finish, but write to meet that goal. It was a start. My goal was 30,000 words, and for a while, it seemed reachable. 1,000 words per day? Totally doable. I was doing well, too. But a few days before Thanksgiving, when I only had about 10,000 words left, my paternal grandmother got really sick. I postponed finishing my novel, but after she passed away in early December, I lost all my steam. I still have the first 50 pages of my unfinished novel, but the writing feels archaic and underdeveloped. I can’t finish without starting over, and I don’t know if I’m ready to do that yet.
As a sophomore I took AP US History, not knowing what I was getting myself into. My teacher told us that if we didn’t love history, we wouldn’t succeed. I underestimated how accurate that statement was. I appreciate history perhaps more than the average person, but definitely not enough to read an 800 page textbook on it and remember all of the obscure facts and people in the history of the United States. Nevertheless, I studied my butt off for the exam. I needed at least a 3 for college credit, and I personally didn’t think the exam was that bad. However, come July when our results were released, I’d received a 2. I paid $90 for an exam that was pointless, I took a class that was pointless. I’d worked so hard for a score that didn’t matter.
More recently, my golf season has come to an end, and it didn’t quite go as I’d expected. I was supposed to be the number two golfer this year; logically, I’m a senior and a good player, so my game should be at least at the level of the second best golfer on the team. But no, I played the number three position this year. Last year we won our conference for the first time in 25 years. This year, things were moved around, and now the best team in the state of Michigan was in our conference. Their players dominated the all-conference rankings, they destroyed the rest of us in conference matches. It was a battle for second, and we didn’t even achieve third. On a more personal level, about halfway through the season, my coach showed us where we stood individually in the conference. I had been posting good scores, and was excited to learn that I was 12th in the conference, right on the cusp of being an all-conference athlete (top 10 in the conference). I knew I had to play my best in the next four matches in order to keep my position, to possibly move into the top 10. Well, with the pressure I put on myself, I played horribly the next week. It was purely mental. I played the worst I had all season. I received an honorable mention for all-conference this year; I was 16th. It was a nice achievement, but I know that I could’ve done so much more with my season.
I’m failing at figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life. The time to apply to colleges is here, and I still am unsure. Everyone tells me that it would be easier if I knew what I wanted to do, and I know that, but how am I supposed to choose what I want to do with the rest of my life? I only get one shot-I’m my parents’ only child, I don’t have the funds to have any do-overs, and I want to make this decision stick. Maybe it’s just me adding pressure on myself, pressure that isn’t necessary. But maybe it’s important.
Failure isn’t as bad as everyone says it is, I’ve come to realize with my time in high school. It won’t blow your GPA if you fail one test, so long as you bounce back. It’s alright if you don’t finish all that you set out to accomplish, just the fact that you gave it all you had is enough. Sometimes we’re meant to fail. It gives us a reason to succeed.
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson