This I Believe

Amy - Somerset, New Jersey
Entered on May 31, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
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This, I Believe : Riding the Wave

It hurts to fall. The first time I realized this happened when I was four-years-old at my brother’s 8th birthday party. He had these motorized mini-vehicles, which my mom said I wasn’t allowed to ride– they were too dangerous. But I, of course, was determined to ride them just like “the big kids” did. Amid my little sundress and the playful heat I climbed onto the mini-motorcycle and pressed any button I could find. All too quickly I found myself on the sharp black pavement only to find that my knees were completely red with blood. Never before had I seen myself bleed that way. At once, I remember feeling guilty and embarrassed. I ran inside the house as quickly as I could and I remember sitting on the bathroom floor, hands full of toilet paper-not knowing what to do with it- and crying wildly as I stared at my beat-up knees. It wasn’t long until my mother found me and picked me up and eventually cleaned me off. But that instance taught me an inescapable truth about life- it taught me what it’s like to fall.

Since then I’ve fallen many, many times. I’ve fallen off bikes, horses, beds- I’ve fallen over chairs, books, and even my own clumsy footwork- you name it! Each time someone was always there to help me. But the most significant turning point came when I learned how to rise from a fall all by myself. I was seven when my father first taught me how to surf. He would stand in the water at low tide and push me into the waves. Soon enough I ventured to face the waves on my own. With no familiar face around, I was forced to handle my own mistakes. Each time I fell, I had to re-grasp my board, with my weak, skinny arms clinging for dear life-and pull myself back on top of it. Out there on the water, I had no choice but to get back on the board. At times my arms felt so weak as my eyes would sting with salt water– but it was a matter of survival. In an unforgiving sea, if you don’t keep striving to stay afloat, you’ll fall indefinitely to the bottom. After weeks out on the water, I found myself falling less- and when I did, getting back onto my board became whole lot easier. And what’s more rewarding, are the waves I caught and glided atop of, from not giving up.

Failure knocks people off their feet. Probably its most threatening attribute is its ability to scar confidence. I’ve grown to see the world as beauty above a large black pavement or perhaps a vast encompassing sea. The way I see it, a man who falls and immediately gets right back up is not a failure–but rather a stronger man. He is always looking up, always reaching. An ice skater who falls mid performance and spends the rest of the song crying on her bottom won’t win a medal. A sacked quarterback who spends the rest of the game on his back will not win the game. If I were to give up the fight to the intimidating and crashing waves, I would drown. If I were to give up, I would not be able to conquer and ride on top of them. I think what defines a true champion is not just the great heights he reaches but instead how he handles a fall–how easily he can get right back on his feet and try again. It’s no doubt that it’s a constant and trying battle. But it’s a strengthening one, a vital and necessary struggle towards success. This, I believe.