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Credit: Eliud Vargas

Wharton Council recently hosted a story slam on failure. Because of the work many student organizations have done to destigmatize failure at Penn and because of the Signal’s Anti Resume project, I’ve decided to share my story in hopes that it will inspire someone.

During my first semester of college, I was forced to withdraw from a class. This resulted in a big W being placed on my transcript. I had to accept the fact that I didn’t make the mark, that my entire college existence would be stained by the scarlet letter on my transcript. I began to think my difficulty adjusting to Penn would never end. 

This experience, while initially devastating, pushed me to reframe how I viewed success and my self-worth. I learned the importance of self-care, the importance of being kind to myself even when the world is mean to me. I learned self-love, but the college version — placing progress over perfection and effort over results. Everyone experiences difficulty, and it’s time we became more transparent about our struggles and used them to promote a greater sense of well-being in ourselves and others. Instead of waiting on a new wellness initiative, we can all do our small part to encourage someone else to push through the difficult times. Whether it's by sharing your failures or placing your well-being first, a healthier and happier Penn starts with us. 

I challenge all of us to consider letting go of what’s been causing sleepless nights and an endless amount of stress or anxiety. Letting go will be one of the bravest things you ever do and an investment in yourself — something no one else can give to you. 

This sounds cliche, but failure and struggles make you a better person. You become more real because of it. You become more patient in the pursuit of success and develop a tolerance for other’s imperfections and your own. You learn not to lead with your accomplishments, but with your humanity, strengthening your ability to connect with others. 

To let go, we must admit that we can’t do everything. Penn students’ unrealistic expectations aren’t sustainable. It’s time we learned to preserve our energy and put ourselves first. This means dropping a club or two if they add to our stress and don’t relieve it, skipping an event if you’re running on two hours of sleep, or making time for the genuine connections that energize us and eliminating those inauthentic and transactional conversations. We win when we make ourselves a priority, irrespective of others’ opinions or expectations. 

Some struggles exist because of a mismatch in timing or purpose. Maybe that class was the right one, just not for now. Maybe OCR isn’t going well because that industry isn’t ready for your greatness. Or maybe you’re trying to put yourself in a situation that isn’t right for you. The events in our life are often signs, directing us where we should go. Every battle isn’t meant to be fought and wrestled with. Sometimes backing away and relinquishing control is the way we win, often sparing our sanity in the process. 

Let’s shift the culture. Life isn’t a competition and whether you are a winner or loser is all up to you. I always tell myself that even when I "lose," I grow. We need more of that positivity. If you made it to Penn, I have no doubt that your life will amount to something great. You excelled before and will excel again. So even when the storms of failed midterms or job rejections and denied internships come, remember who you are. Keep your paradigm positive and turn the W’s into wins. Remember that every ‘’no’’ or failure creates the opportunity for a better ‘’yes’’ or success to come. 

Take that semester off if it will restore your sense of well-being. Drop the major you don’t like for the one that excites you. Take a day off from classes. Your W or withdrawing from the situation may just be your saving grace. You shouldn’t be afraid to do what’s best for you. The world will simply have to live with your choice.

SURAYYA WALTERS is a Wharton sophomore from New Rochelle, N.Y. concentrating in Marketing and minoring in Urban Education. Her email address is surayyaw@wharton.upenn.edu.

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