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Learning to fail

Marisa Iati | Thursday, August 29, 2013

Freshmen, let me tell you something about Notre Dame that you may not have heard yet: At some point during your time here, you are going to fail.
Actually, you probably will fail many times.
Most of us don’t want to schedule failure into our four-year plans. The good news, though, is that the times when you mess up and the instances in which you don’t get what you want likely will become some of the most formative moments of your college career.
While at Notre Dame, I was declined a position at the same summer job three times. Having to find other opportunities led me to two internships that gave me experience in the journalism industry, which I hope to enter after graduation.
Being declined that summer job the last time led me to eight weeks of service teaching children of immigrants in Park City, Utah. The opportunity was eye-opening and fulfilling, and it educated me about other career paths I could pursue.
It takes a great deal of humility to allow yourself to learn from efforts that don’t work out as planned, but the willingness to readjust often leads to unique experiences.
A quote that has been attributed to various people asserts, “If you haven’t failed, you’re not trying hard enough.” There’s truth in this idea. If you’re always successful, you haven’t taken advantage of life’s best opportunities to leave your comfort zone and fall – but then to emerge as a stronger, smarter and more passionate person.
You also should know failure is relative. Teaching in Park City frustrated me sometimes. I felt like I was failing because I couldn’t solve all of the kids’ problems. I learned, however, that it’s incredibly meaningful to brighten someone’s day by being present to him or her in moments of joy and in struggles. Realizing I wasn’t truly failing enabled me to approach my work with newfound energy.
Like me, you most likely won’t receive every opportunity you apply for at Notre Dame, and sometimes you’ll feel as if your best isn’t good enough.
That’s okay.
You’ll have experiences you couldn’t have predicted. You’ll learn to fall down seven times and stand up eight.
And to quote Pocahontas in my fifth-favorite classic Disney movie (but who has an order, right?), you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.
Best of luck, Class of 2017. You have no idea what’s just around the riverbend for you at this very moment.