I practice creative failure. I didn’t win my Fifth grade spelling bee, but I have since become a Scrabble player maestro. I couldn’t do a left-handed cartwheel, but I can now execute sixteen fouette turns in a row. I wasn’t chosen to play the lead in the school play, but later narrated the prize-winning documentary at History Day. The list goes on. All my life, I have failed– then picked myself up, and succeeded at something else.
In my proverbial dump heap of mistakes, setbacks, and defeats, there have been a few diamonds in the rough. From the day I learned what the word meant, I yearned to be valedictorian of my graduating class. I pulled more than my fair share of all-nighters, participated in countless study sessions, and devoured my textbooks. I made sure that each project I presented was the best one in the class– and nobody ever wanted to follow my presentation.
I was well on my way to securing the number one class rank when I received some devastating news: my family was moving out of state.
Being the eternal optimist, I convinced myself that being valedictorian was still attainable at a new school. I was disillusioned the following fall when I discovered that such would not be the case. The deck was stacked against transfer students, as honors classes taken elsewhere didn’t earn bonus credit like classes at the new school. As a result, my GPA suffered.
I could have been a train wreck and wallowed away in self-pity. I could have cried myself to sleep every night, and had constant nightmares about fellow classmates giving the valedictory address. I could have tuned out and let my grades drop drastically.
Instead, I accepted my failure as a reality check. I was more than a ranking. Not being valedictorian would not break me. Modifying the rules seemed a more apt response. And so I walked into the school counselor’s office to discuss the possibility of graduating early. The notion was met with dubiousness and reluctance. The obstacles were far too great I was told– the required classes wouldn’t fit in my schedule, and I would need to sit for thirteen exams to receive my AICE diploma. I persevered. My goal was fixed, and hurdles could be conquered one at a time. Almost a year later, I’m proud to say that I graduated with the Class of 2010, not 2011.
I am not perfect, and I don’t expect to be. Defeat hurts. But every false step, every rout, every frustration, makes me that much stronger. And piece by piece, failure by failure, I’m building an empire.
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