Getting fired from my high school newspaper was one of my most memorable failures growing up, so when I think about the time I joined The Daily Pennsylvanian, I call it one of my “moments of courage.” It’s actually hard for me to think of the DP without thinking about courage — both when I displayed it and when I saw it in the people around me, keeping this crazy thing moving with harder work than I’ve ever known. I think that’s largely why I made my home at the Pink Palace, where each day, my peers and I felt inspired to continue taking chances, both on the paper and on each other. In being in that community, I had people that encouraged me to challenge myself and take risks every day, and that feeling was hard to find anywhere else.
We put ourselves out there a lot, for each other and the mission, and if there’s one thing we learned along the way, it’s that you’re bound to land flat on your face a few times. For every story of success from last year, I have at least two of failure, and multiple “what the f**k” moments in between where things just seemed impossible. But the incredibly determined people I worked with formed a needed enclave for me at Penn that wasn’t so afraid of that unknown, and was willing to try, and try, and try — and fail — a hundred times along the way. That was the critical learning for me, and the one that made my DP experience so integral to my college career.
I had my share of failure at the DP. I fought hard for something I was at first afraid to fight for — something that I really wanted — and I didn’t get it. I pushed people I cared about to do what I believed was best for them, and had to own the results of that decision, which at times were rough. I relied on some people I shouldn’t have, and paid a price in my own time and sanity that would horrify most of my friends. And I experienced a lot of personal pain along the way, in hurt I created for others and loss I felt for myself.
That was hard. But that hurt was as much a part of the ride as were the moments of happiness. And embracing them was key to what made this experience so critical to my own development. It’s easy to retreat when you’re hurt — every part of you wants to walk away, lick your wounds and prevent it from ever happening again. The hard thing to do is to persevere through it and to face down the demons until you learn enough about yourself to beat them. The DP is where I learned how to do that.
In losing something I really wanted, I learned how to figure out what I really valued and create it for myself. In fighting with those I cared about, I learned that there’s a difference between being a nice friend and a good friend — and which one of those I wanted to be. In investing “too much” of myself, I learned that there’s no such thing if it’s making you happy. And through experiencing undeniable pain, I learned to stop being so numb and embrace the emotional highs and lows that make life worth living and chances worth taking.
When I wrote my senior reflection piece a month ago, I drew on a similar motif: that you shouldn’t let your fears about yourself stop you from trying things. But part of that means embracing that the things you fear may still happen, and that they won’t ruin you. When I came to terms with that personally, I found myself more grounded and in touch with myself than I’d ever been at Penn, even with the chaos that was happening around me. And that’s why, through it all, I persevered, and ended up the better for it by the end of my time.
So if I have a takeaway, it’s this: Have as many “moments of courage” as you can. Let your guard down, even if you put it up for a reason. Know that the person you are today isn’t the person you have to be forever. And invest yourself in the great opportunities and people around you. You might fail, but you also might find yourself with a new passion or skill, or if you’re really lucky, a new friend — forever bonded by “all the shit that happened” along the way there.
GIANNI MASCIOLI is a College senior from Wayne, PA. He is a former business manager and finance manager for The Daily Pennsylvanian. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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