Facing Failure

A cartoon from “Blue Like Jazz,” one of my favorite memoirs, involves a rabbit who really wants to eat a certain carrot. The rabbit chases the carrot all over the world and eventually follows it to the moon, where it finally captures and eats it. At first, the moral seems to be that if we work hard enough, we will get what we want. But at the end of the cartoon, the rabbit chokes on the carrot and dies; the author of the memoirs says that the second moral is that sometimes in life, the things we want the most kill us.

I read this memoir a while back, but the cartoon stuck with me because it’s in such opposition to what most stories from childhood tell us — that is, if we have a big dream, and we work hard, we will achieve our dream and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, our dreams don’t always come true, or, even worse, they do, but don’t satisfy us.

Great things happen senior year, and unforgettable memories are made. At the same time, though, there are lots of disappointments and setbacks, and at times I’ve felt like I’m failing even though I’ve worked hard during college. I recently received my first rejection letter from a graduate school, and although I knew rejection was an option, I was mad. I was on the second floor of Swem Library when I got the denial email, so I stomped to the bathroom where I could angrily mutter to myself about how much I hated that graduate school anyway. Luckily, no one else was in the bathroom at that time; otherwise, I would have had an awkward encounter.

I don’t want to own up to the fact I was denied from that graduate school. I don’t want to face my failure, but I’m slowly learning that failure is necessary at times. Obviously, I wasn’t meant to go to that graduate school, and maybe, just like the carrot in the cartoon, that graduate school would have made me choke under pressure. I may have been tempted to go there just because it is a really good school, not even thinking about if it was a good fit for me.

The graduate school I’m planning to attend now is actually a great fit. The campus is beautiful, I’ll be close to my friends and the program is excellent. My failure pointed me straight to this graduate school, and I’m glad it did.

Facing failure has caused me to reexamine my goals in life: I’m seeing how failures shape our stories just as much as successes and that failure is dependent on your definition of success. Think of all the things the rabbit failed to do by chasing the carrot around — he may have failed to finish school or be a good friend or be there for his family. So yes, I did fail to get into a graduate school I liked, and it was hard to face. But this failure has paved the way for me to be successful at the graduate school to which I was accepted, and I’m excited to start that journey after graduation.


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