Perfect family, easy life, hardworking student and they get everything they want. Everything seems great, especially from an outsider’s perspective. You know the type. You’ve seen them, been friends with them, maybe this is you.

Everything comes easy — until it doesn’t. Life hits hard and something unexpected happens. Plans are derailed; the perfect roadmap of life took a turn for the worse.

Failure. It is an inevitable part of life. Now, here is the moment that changes everything. Two choices are presented: face everything and rise, or fear everything and run.

I have failed numerous times. 

Tests, relationships, jobs, cars and myself. Each time, the people around me help me get back up and I keep going.

I have seen failure destroy a person, and knock them down — unfortunately, they stayed down.

But, I have learned the greatest life lessons from the failures I have experienced, and I’m sure if you talk to any “successful” person, they will say the same.

I know what you’re thinking, how can an almost 21-year-old possibly know anything about failure? The truth is, I’m not sure if I really have the credentials to be giving anyone advice. 

Regardless, I am going to give my 2 cents, because that is who I am.

Last week, I was off my game completely. I crashed the car I purchased exactly one year ago (and spent way too much money on.) I didn’t do so well on a test for the first time in a long time, I lost a person I cared about and I made simple mistakes at work when I should have known better. I let people down, especially myself.

The events of last week seemed so life-changing in the moment. I thought the world was going to end for a few days. 

I also became overly comfortable with crying in public. But then, reality hit. 

Working for a pro-bono law firm for the past few years has had its challenges. It has shown me how hard life really is for some, and how privileged I am. After a hard week, I volunteered at a drop-in center for homeless women. I was trying to keep from crying the entire day because of my own issues circling inside my head.

Client after client, those thoughts began to fade. These women are suffering from REAL problems. Domestic violence, homelessness, abuse, substance addiction and recovery. But what surprises me every week I volunteer there is how strong these women seem. Their larger than life personalities, kindness and patience astound me. Their stories shake me to my core.

Suddenly, my totaled car, broken heart, bad grade and huge work mistakes in my perfectionist mind seemed so small. If they can get through this, surely, I can get through my mundane problems. 

I often hear my friends and classmates complaining about the money their parents won’t give them, the boy that won’t text them back or the professor that won’t round up their grade. I have also complained about these things.

I understand these are legitimate points, and we all have our different struggles. No one really understands another person’s internal struggle. I am not discounting anyone’s experience, because I, too, am human. 

We all have hard days, weeks, months or, even, years. I recognize the importance of empathy, compassion and meeting people where they are at.

If it wasn’t for my amazing support system of people continuously meeting me on my level and helping me through my failures, I know I would not be the person I am today.

But, I think it’s important to take the small failures and use them as fuel. Fuel to a fire that can help others. Fuel to keep your passion for life burning and to keep you going. Don’t let bumps or complete ends of the road keep you from moving forward.

More importantly, take a step back. Reflect on the things going well in your life, even if it may seem like nothing is. Thank the people around you. Give yourself credit for getting this far and remember the journey is not over.

Crashing and burning is one thing, but recovering after the fact is what matters most. This is where your character shines brighter than your mistakes.

Your life isn’t over because you failed. In fact, it may be the best thing to ever happened to you.

 

Karlie Murphy is the opinion editor.

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