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not-the-best
Credit: Julio Sosa

“You’re used to being the cream of the crop and then you come here.” I heard these words slip out of another student’s mouth one day just before my class began. I have heard similar comments while on campus. Many of us have moments of failure that collide to create the feeling that we are coming up short or not shining quite as much as we can or should be. Those moments can easily become trapped in our minds. We should be supporting each other by deconstructing these notions and seizing opportunities to connect and influence each other. 

Just about all of us would lend an ear to someone who wanted to talk about a personal failure they’ve encountered. I’d even go so far as to say that most of us would also reassure just about anyone that failure does not equate to the end of their world as they know it. It’s so easy to interpret the bigger picture in situations that do not directly impact us. We can clearly distinguish a minor bump in the road from a giant sinkhole when we are not journeying that road. Yet, on the occasion that we are personally faced with even the faintest stench of failure, our internal alarms go off with the potential to trigger a sense of devastation.

A commonality threaded between Penn students is the reality of being extremely busy. In a world where being busy reigns supreme, what happens when we fail at something we deem important? Tricky question, I know, but my goal here is to reflect on how failures can and should be embraced and viewed through the lens of growth. 

As hard as failure can be, we need to breathe it in, exhale and let it go. The differences between the level of despair involved in failing a midterm and the despair involved in having a client you’ve been diligently fighting to get off of death row be executed cannot be quantified. But in all instances, the magnitude of failure should be sifted with compassion. Once we give our all, we have to recognize the outcome as reality and move on to something else of meaning. As humans, we do not possess the means to adorn every denouement in which we participate. We should all cultivate and prioritize being gentle with ourselves. With the beginning of this semester marking a fresh start and a brand new decade, let’s embrace failure as an element of proficiency. 

It is easy to feel like you need to step your game up a notch. Most of us are doing as much as we possibly can because it gets us closer to what we idolize and perceive as success. Our perception of winning is so important to us. Don’t get me wrong, the importance is relevant but we also have to notice the significance of the various types of development we have the opportunities to embark on throughout our lives. Not many of us on campus are willing to openly talk about the personal struggles that are inherent to our time at Penn, but we should. Let’s encourage others to welcome their failures while clutching our own. 

A friend of mine recently had a really hard time during the interviewing process for a summer internship. They didn’t get the internship and that reality made them question themselves and their worthiness to be at Penn. I challenged all of their perceptions. I could see the whole situation as not being a huge deal in reference to the broader scope of their trajectory. Like most of us, they are a dedicated student and I am sure they will snuggly fit where they are supposed to when the time is right. However, I fully related to how they questioned their ability when met with a challenging obstacle that was ultimately out of their hands. We all find ourselves in situations like this. I won’t say you shouldn't feel bad about something not turning out the way you anticipated, but I will say that failure leads to growth and growth is priceless.

All of us have frustrations. Things can’t be perfect all the time and if they happen to be, I’d presume something were missing from the foundation of that perfection. Being torn up about happenings you lack the ability to control or alter the outcome towards is provocative and pacing. The semester just began but all of our calendars are surely filling up quickly. As deadlines begin to loom in the distance, it is important to acknowledge that once we give something our best shot, that’s all we’ve got. Don’t let what-if’s hold you back and welcome any and all conditions that challenge you to blossom. 

JESSICA GOODING is a College junior from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania studying History and English. Her email address is jgooding@sas.upenn.edu.

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