In the hollows of my head, there is a chorus of two. There is a rational voice that speaks reason, so, naturally, I rarely listen to it. And there’s an irrational voice that is the root of most of my thoughts. I try to only apply the wisdom of the rational voice to my actions, but sometimes, the irrational voice is so much sweeter, so much more enticing. And then sometimes, she is simply just more powerful.
I thought I’d establish that disparity right up front. The title of this article is "Facing Failure." That sweet irrational voice is shivering at the beauty of that name and how easily it rolls off the tongue. My rational voice is looking down at me and stomping her foot, shaking her head. She sighs and hands the controls to the irrational voice, letting her handle this one.
The specific failure in which I refer to in this article is not an actual failure. In fact, many may view it as a success. (I should probably put those last two sentences in quotations, because that was spoken entirely by my rational voice.) . But to me, the outcome in which I will discuss seemed like the end of the world. I watched the sun go down, the stars coat the sky, and a new sunset paint the horizon as I spiraled into new depths of confusion and anger, self-pity and despair. You couldn't do it. You are stoppable. You failed. Great way to start a weekend, right?
For two weeks I campaigned to be my school's Student Body President. Years of my life culminating in this final peak. I had been in student council since the fourth grade; if there was one thing I knew how to do, it was student council. So for weeks I talked to peers, edited my speech, and waited anxiously as votes were counted. How perfect would it be when half of my elementary education and the entirety of my middle school and high school years could be completed with me as Student Body President? Like, that's everything I've worked for. How sweet and perfect and nostalgic and earned and crazy would that be?
I am still asking myself that question because on Friday night, I received an email with someone else's name next to "Student Body President."
And my world came crashing down.
Now, let's grab that remote and press pause. Let's check in with those two voices upstairs and ask, "what the heck is going on?" If my thumb would just scroll a little lower in the email, if my eyes would gaze in that direction, they would see that while I did not win Student Body President, I was elected Student Body Treasurer. While the position I had dreamt of and worked towards was not mine, I was instead offered something else: a new opportunity. Something I haven't done before, and now have a chance to succeed in.
But I didn't realize any of those things that Friday night. I think my rational voice realized that she stood no chance of overpowering my irrational voice, so she packed up her things and clocked out for the weekend, leaving that irrational voice eager at the reigns.
How I handled the initial shock and despair is irrelevant. I did what any teenage girl would do: I contemplated cutting my hair and dying it jet black, turned on a sad rom-com, baked cookies, wrote furiously in a journal, and went to bed early that night, cradled in the warmth of my blankets. The next morning, I woke up early, got my dogs, and jumped in the car in search of a hiking trail.
Now, I gotta stop for a second and acknowledge how dramatic I sound. I still had a position in student council, right? And it's just student council, correct? Right. But, to me, a seventeen year old who has yet to see the world and lives in a bubble called high school, winning that election was everything to me. It was the World Cup, the Olympics, the Space Race, and having the most liked picture on Instagram all wrapped into one email sent. If my rational voice had been present that night, she might have told me that I need to take a step back and realize how much that election actually mattered. How much any of the specifics of high school matter in the long run. But she wasn't there and I let so many thoughts tear me down and bring tears to my eyes, sliding down my cheek.
Anyways, I went on my hike, alone in the woods with my dogs, and let that chorus of two argue it out. I acknowledged the irrational voice who kept screaming about how my entire school career had led up to that election and I failed. I nodded along, swiping tears off my cheek, and I also listened to my newly-returned rational voice remind us that it's okay. I'm not always going to succeed. She swiftly reminded me that, hey, silly, you HAVE a position. A position that was given to you because they trust you and want you in student council in any way possible. You have value and are needed, and people see that. One loss, one so called "failure" does not erase your successes or value as an individual. It's okay.
It took a long time- the better half of a morning- for my two voices to come to an agreement.
Returning from the trail, I let my dogs hop into the back before I slid into the driver's seat. I pulled the door shut and, alone in the quiet of the car, my head resting against the seat, I let out a deep, much-needed breath.
Did I achieve my goal? No. I wasn't Student Body President. Was I upset? The mascara stains on my pillow and pile of crumpled tissues behind my bed can answer that. But, am I allowed to be upset? Yes. These feelings and emotions, the disappointment and anger, it's all valid. These are my feelings, my voices and they deserve to be acknowledged.
I started the car and pulled out of the parking lot, ready to head home and leave all those tears and confusion, anger and stomping gait; all of it left behind on the trail.
I was returning home as Student Body Treasurer, a position only one kid in my school gets. I get to be a part of the club that I have participated in at five different schools and continue to make change in my community. I am also driving home with another lesson tucked into the crook of my brain, another experience. I've learned you don't always succeed, but that's okay. It's also okay to be upset or need time to process "failure." But in the end, you keep moving. You get back up, and do so a little stronger.
Facing failure is not easy. It can feel like the end of the world because, despite all of your efforts, you still fell short and that hurts. Or, maybe forces outside of your control came into play and you stood there as things spiraled out of control, unable to do anything but watch the world crash down upon you. It hurts and it sucks, and if you find yourself crying or screaming or lost, it's okay. Failure isn't supposed to be fun or easy to deal with. But it's also not permanent. Guess what? You get to wake up tomorrow and do whatever you want. You can try again. You can search for a new goal. You can walk down a new, unpaved path. Or, you could lay in bed to rest and heal for a little longer.
My friend, the beautiful thing about life is that no matter how many times you fail, you always have another shot. There's always tomorrow. Or the next hour, if you want to jump the gun and start NOW. The point is, don't let one failure get you down. Take time to process it and feel what you feel, but then, tighten your tennis shoes and get ready to go again. You got this. And if you don't, there's always next time.