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Get ready to fail

Megan Doyle | Friday, August 17, 2012

To the Class of 2016, welcome.
Get ready for failure. (No offense. Seriously, keep reading.) You are all high school valedictorians and veterans of the honor roll. You blew your SATs and ACTs out of the water. You won awards.
Four years ago, I drove up to Notre Dame just like you did this weekend. I looked around at the glittering golden dome and the neatly trimmed South Quad lawn, and all I saw was perfection. I looked around, and I thought I would need to be perfect to make a life for myself here.
Then I bombed my first Calculus test. And I mean, really bombed. Then I slept through my alarm clock and missed class. Then my first journalism professor told my entire class that one particular sentence in my article was the worst he’d ever read. Then I fell for someone who was wrong for me. Then I used all my Flex Points with way too many weeks left in the semester. Then I wiped out on an icy sidewalk. Then I thought short hair would work for me. (Maybe the worst mistake yet.) Then I walked into the wrong classroom. As a junior.
It’s been three years since I felt overwhelmed by the perfection surrounding me on this campus. In those three years, I realized my first impression was not correct. Notre Dame is not perfect, and neither am I. And that’s okay.
I discovered more about academics from bombing exams than from studying for them. That journalism professor is the reason I will pursue a career in newspaper reporting after graduation. I learned how to ask for help and to be brave enough to acknowledge my shortcomings. My best friends catch me when I wipe out, both literally and figuratively.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t study, or you should chop off your hair with reckless abandon. I’m saying that you should get ready for failure, learn from it and excel in spite of it. Get ready to walk into the wrong classroom repeatedly. It’s always embarrassing – trust me. Get ready to seriously tank your first organic chemistry exam. You will do better on the next one. Or you can become a business major, your choice. Get ready to drink too much at your first college party. When the hangover goes away, laughing at yourself won’t physically hurt your brain. Get ready to lose your ID. Replace it at Card Services for a whopping $30. Get ready to experience your first dining hall date and your first college breakup. Life goes on.
Sometimes you have to screw up to succeed. So here’s to four years of failures.
To the Class of 2016, welcome.
Contact Megan Doyle at
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The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.