During the first high school football game of my hometown, I vividly remember looking down at my tattered Chuck Taylors resting on the cracked concrete bleachers. I had just spoken to a few people my age that had come home from college for the weekend; suddenly, I was self-aware of what I viewed as a failure. It seemed as if the whole situation was enhanced under those stadium lights.
The high school version of myself represented a girl that had lots of friends, was always involved, and made good grades. That same girl decided to stay home and go to a local community college while all her friends were moving on to big universities in vaster cities. The beginning of the fall semester was a really low point for me, as I was failing myself. I witnessed the people I had known my entire life making new friends and new memories; meanwhile, I felt ashamed I was not living up to my potential. I found myself so wrapped in comparison that I could not be proud of the things I was accomplishing. This failure was personal, it was not something as simple as not making a sports team or failing a test. This made the obstacle that much harder to overcome.
Growing and maturing consist of encountering obstacles and learning from the times we struggle. I was unprepared for my stumble earlier this year as I have lived an undeservingly blessed life. Although hard to admit, I was used to life being gentle and I quickly learned the real world can be unforgiving at times. The charming little town of Fayetteville was not the same anymore without all of the familiar faces. Ironically, I was fearful of change and found it anyway, right in the most well-known of places.
I remember sitting outside with my mom and being hit with a cool breeze hinting that autumn was near. I was telling her how small I felt compared to everyone else, and that by my definition I was failing. She responded with the perfect ensemble of words like mothers consistently do. She said, “Happiness is a very personal thing, and it has nothing to do with anyone else.” Put differently, I determine my own happiness. I had to accept that sometimes there is sadness on our journey of growing older. However, there is so much more ahead.
The first step in finding my way back to myself was to stop characterizing success by other peoples definitions. I finally mustered up a shade of strength and found myself. I hit the ground running at my community college with the coursework. I have made a complete turnaround from the beginning of the semester in my confidence. I am proud of my scholastic success and excited about my future. I had to do a lot of soul searching to realize that failure is inevitable and all about perspective. I woke up one day, gathered a deep breath and changed mine. I decided that this year at Motlow State Community College is not a failure at all.
Through my struggle, I learned I wanted to achieve bigger things and that with handwork nothing is too far out of reach. I realized that even though my situation is different than all my friends, it does not characterize this time in my life as less than. If anything I believe this year has been fundamental in preparing me both academically and cognitively. I know now I want to broaden my horizons and reach new heights. Most importantly, I realized it is difficult to grow inside your comfort zone. I welcomed the fear of change and seized the occasion to prosper. However, I had to fall before I could rise. I learned failure was fundamental to success; whether it be failing someone else, an opportunity, or yourself. My encounter with failure being the latter.
This demonstrated that even at the most negative opinion of myself, I had to take a deep breath and keep placing one foot in front of the other. By doing so, I granted myself permission to try all kinds of new things. I feel more myself than I ever before. From this point forward, I welcome all the struggles that come with growing into the best version of myself.