Failure is the key to winning
Rachel O'Grady | Wednesday, March 7, 2018
My friends at The Observer have always been there for me when I needed them, starting with the time I didn’t even know I needed them.
I had just had one of the worst weeks of my life during the second semester of my sophomore year. I felt out of place at Notre Dame, like I just wasn’t good enough to be here. At the end of that week, I wrote the worst column I will ever write for The Observer, titled “Boxing out is the key to winning.”
The piece itself wasn’t awful. It wasn’t good, either. It was this incredibly lukewarm opinion for the Sports Authority section about how this simple act, boxing out, was the key to winning basketball games. That obviously is not the case, but the important part is that I wrote it, and the wonderful people of The Observer sports department let me run it.
I wrote that column because that’s what I always did when I was in a weird place or feeling less than myself — I wrote. I wrote because that fixed things. It always had, and I was confident it always would. So, I wrote about a piece of advice my dad had given me several years before.
“Box out!” he would scream from the sidelines of my grade school basketball games. As a 5-foot-10 eighth grader, this was excellent advice. Several years and a less-than-stellar basketball career later, I wrote about it. I felt better after writing about something I felt was objectively true during a particularly uncertain time in my life.
Looking back, I definitely didn’t know how much that column would mean to me down the line. But two years later, almost everyone here at The Observer knows about this column, and they make fun of me for it pretty consistently.
By not really giving an actual opinion in a column that required one, I failed in some sense. A lot of the people here also know how I’ve failed in other, more serious ways during my time here — and there are no shortage of those — and they’ve watched me as I sometimes tried and failed over and over again.
But they’ve also watched me succeed. They’ve encouraged me every step of the way. They’ve let me know when I’ve failed — they make fun of me for that boxing out column at least once a week — and they let me know when I’ve done well. They laugh at my jokes. They’re there to respond, or at least read, my 3 a.m. texts with random story ideas, now-hotter takes and general musings. They’ve been with me through the large and the small, through the worst weeks and the best. They’ve rarely said no, and they’ve never stopped me from trying my hand at something, even when they knew I would probably fail. They’ve given me the opportunity to learn and grow unlike any other group of people or organization could. These people became my family at Notre Dame, never letting me head into battle alone.
This will be the last time my name appears with this byline. I sort of predicted this three years ago when I bombarded my then-boss, Greg Hadley, about what my “four-year plan” should be at The Observer — this was the end of that game plan. What I couldn’t have predicted was the in-between. The impossibly late Insider Wednesday nights where Katie, Jack and Greg put up with my inability to draw a straight line. Getting “injured” almost every single News-Sports basketball game. Driving up to East Lansing for the Michigan State game with Ben, Liz and Dan on a whim.
These people published my stupid column about why boxing out was critical when it was critical for me to obtain the validation of my peers. They laughed at me a week later, but they made me feel important and included when I otherwise felt terrible deep down. That’s what they were here for, and that’s what The Observer has been to me. They embodied the idea that it’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about how many times you get up.
So, to every person who has picked me up along the way, or yelled at me until I did it myself: I can’t thank you enough. Here’s to you, the endless late nights, the good and the bad memories and the battles we fought together. You are the people who made me.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.