The Definition of Success

Tiffany - Raleigh, North Carolina
Entered on June 15, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
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“This I Believe”

I believe that we learn more from our failures in life than we do from our successes. I did not learn this until my time in college. Up until that point I had not experienced defeat or failure in any aspect of my life, and could therefore not have appreciated my successes in the way that I now do. I can only describe myself as an all-around confident, outgoing, goal-driven child even at a young age. In elementary school I couldn’t be just an ordinary student, I had to be student council president. I couldn’t just have a role in my ballet company’s Christmas show, I had to be the lead. Whenever a new opportunity or audition arose, I’d bring home the information to my mom, already professing how wonderful I would be in the role, never even giving thought to how many other little girls were also vying for the chance. It didn’t matter to me, I already knew I had it in the bag and for the first 18 years of my life, I was right.

It wasn’t until I got to college that I faced my own inability to thrive. College was even more foreign to me than the feeling of failure. I’d never brought home F’s before or skipped school much, but suddenly I found myself sleeping my days away in a haze of depression, and not caring a bit. After being out on academic suspension for a semester during my sophomore year, I attempted once again to turn my dismal situation around and again, I failed.

Moving back home was my “rock bottom.” I had no job, no discernable future that I could see, and I spent my days obsessing over the tremendous disappointment that I’d turned out to be for both my family and myself. For the first time in my life, nothing came easy. It was as if the thick blanket of pride that had been draped over me by my family all those years had now been ripped off leaving me a cold, naked failure.

As time passed I slowly gathered strength and began to claw my way out of the dark pit that had become my life. I began teaching gymnastics and found I had a natural rapport with children. I re-enrolled in school and moved back to Greenville, NC. Eventually I was offered an internship with the NC Literary Review by a very tough professor. The fact that she believed in me boosted my confidence in myself and I began to see myself as a winner again. With each new accomplishment, I felt more and more capable until eventually, I felt like the old me. I even took a leap of faith and entered a short story contest in a publication called, The Rebel, and to my delight, I won first place. I could never have appreciated these achievements had it not been for my failures before. Instead, they would have been nothing more than notches on a belt full of successes.

One can never fully appreciate how wonderful it is to succeed unless he or she has known how painful it is to fail. I now know the level of strength that I possess because I have been weak, but was able to persevere through a time in my life when I felt worthless. No matter what I go on to do with my life, no success will ever mean as much to me as knowing that at the core, I’m a fighter. I would never have known that I possess this quality had it not been for my failing and for that I am grateful. Our successes are not the only things that define us. This, I believe.