By Eugene White
It’s that time of year again. While many high school students are preparing to take the ACT, seniors are finding out where that preparation will take them next. This year, universities nationwide have received record numbers of applicants longing for prestigious degrees — resulting in more rejection letters than ever before.
With so much on the line, many students are sent into a frenzy, carefully monitoring every grade, quiz or test. Although this process may seem asinine, there are some unsung lessons to be learned that are commonly drowned out by the tears of receiving a rejection letter.
Failure does not feel good, but it is necessary. This realization came to me during my junior year of high school.
In my first year on the varsity baseball team, I had high hopes. I imagined myself standing on the field during the state championship tournament, belting a fastball past the outfielders for the game-winning hit. Our team made it to the state championship tournament, but I didn’t see an inning of play. Furthermore, I didn’t see much field time throughout the whole season.
Early on in the season, this particular situation didn’t bode well for me. I would sit on the cold bench, attempting to hide any signs of despair from my coaches or teammates. Coming off a Cinderella sophomore season, I felt as if I was entitled to a starting spot on varsity. Within the three innings of my first varsity game, reality hit me right in the face and I once again became mortal. I was right back to where I started.
It wasn’t until the seventh game of the season that I washed my uniform. Although it was spotless, I thought maybe a wash or two could change my luck. Now, I would never credit a simple wash of my uniform for catalyzing my state of mind, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge this important event. Perhaps this was the first step toward my acceptance. I had given this trivial matter all of my energy, and in turn, it beat me. After washing this mindset away, I came to the next practice as a new teammate.
I began to look at every game in a completely different mindset. As the team kept on winning, so did I. Not only did I come to terms with not playing, but I began to develop an unbreakable bond with my teammates. I stopped worrying so much about myself and started thinking in terms of the team. As I rattled the fence and yelled chants in support, it was almost as if they had become my own major league team.
Before the state playoff game, our team watched an earlier game from the outfield. The winner of this game would move on to the championship and take on the winner of our game. The rain fell and the temperature dropped; it was as if our team was due for a symbolic finish.
This was not the case, however, as the final out was recorded by the opposing team. They stormed the field in celebratory fashion and never looked back. After beating us by a score of 1-0, they went on to win the next game — the state championship.
This failure was collective. Every player felt the same pain. It was not just me, it was everyone. I had come a long way since our first game and so did the team.
It would have been great to win the state title, but I could not have wished for anything more. Those were some of the best days of my life. I truly learned what it meant to revere something larger me.
I have experienced countless failures throughout my life but I always approached them the wrong way. Distraught and confused, I allowed my clouded judgment to govern my reactions. But since last season, I learned the essence of lifelong bonds and the ability to find happiness through the success of others. I could have easily denied the fact of my failure or blamed it on external factors, but this would have made me a failure. Instead, I learned one of the most important realizations in my life thus far: failures are isolated occurrences that should be used as stepping stones to your next success.
Too often, we measure failure by the outcome of a particular event. But by doing so, we fail to take into consideration what we actually put into our goals. Whatever the outcome may be, if we have given it our all, we have succeeded. Whether you don’t perform up to your expectations on a midterm or do not hear back from that internship — keep your head up. There is no clear-cut path to success. If there were, wouldn’t everybody be following the same path?
Each of us will be faced with unforeseen circumstances in the future. But it will be our versatility and uniqueness that will power us forward. Many dreams will not work out, but what you gain when you fail can be so valuable. In my case, I became closer to my teammates, learned humility and found new meaning in failure. Moreover, I found success.