I am so tired. I am so tired of being the villain of my own story. 

I know my parents meant no ill when they taught me perhaps the greatest lesson I will have ever learned for the future to come: the key to success is to “work as hard as you can for these eight or 10 years of your life, so that you can enjoy the 80 years that follow.” While it’s quite impressive to have a mindset that pushes you to work hard in the expectation that your efforts will lead to success, sticking with this mindset ruined me. 

Unfortunately for me, this saying was paired in my mind with my favorite quote of all time, said once by the poet William Ernest Henley, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” As a result, I constantly believed that my failures were the consequence of solely my own actions, choices, and poor preparation. Of course everyone defines failure differently, however, to me, “failing” was any instance in my life where the results of my efforts weren’t exactly what I desired. And for an optimist like myself, this was very far from ideal. Failure was something I was very familiar with.

Now to put things simply, surviving as a college student with that same “zero-tolerance” policy towards failure is extremely difficult. It wasn’t quite long before I began second guessing everything about myself and my passions that I had known to be true for all my years of life. The confidence that I had worked so hard to build up throughout the years was being slowly chipped away by my own disappointment. 

And even after all the efforts to heal, reflect, practice self-love, the most painful moment is always when you’ve put hours, days, weeks’ worth of effort and work into something and at the end of the day it just goes horribly wrong. It makes you rethink all of your progress, everything that you thought you were starting to get right, and it hurts like hell. 

And all I can say to that is: I am so tired.

Trust me when I say this: Your definition of perfection will always be unattainable. If you’re wasting the most amazing years of your life stressing about the future and always working, you’re ruining yourself. There is no such thing as running out of time. There will always be another chance. Of course, everyone makes mistakes and some approaches to life are better than others, but there isn’t one set way to live life. If you mess up — forgive yourself, pull yourself off the ground, dust yourself off, and try again.

There’s a stigma behind failure. We convince ourselves that every missed opportunity or every lost chance is an unlucky outcome or an unfair dealing of cards. But the thing about failure is that it isn’t necessarily always a loss. Things don’t always go as planned, but sometimes in the most unexpected outcomes come the most beautiful surprises. 

When I was a kid in middle school, first starting to deal with academic difficulties, I would hole up in my room trying to fix everything, to get better. Whenever I retreated to the outside world for a meal or short break my parents would reassure me with some of the simplest words. Grades are just a number. And I know this is difficult to hear for a student, but it’s true, they really are. You will still get a job; you will still make money. You will struggle, but you’ll get there some day. When you’re overwhelmed, when you’re tired, just stop. Wash your face, eat some fruit offered by your mother, watch an episode or two of your favorite sitcom, and just breathe. 

Today what I wish to propose to you all is creating a failure “aftercare” routine for yourself. For reference, here is mine:

I start every aftercare session with sugar. And then, I leave the rest up to my environment.

I have friends and family who force me to watch movies with them. I’ve joined clubs that help me make time for my hobbies. I have to beat my brother’s Spotify Wrapped minutes at the end of the year so I’m forced to keep listening to the music that calms me down. I scroll on food TikTok for a bit every night. I love cooking so I buy groceries that have a relatively short shelf life to force me to make time to cook. 

Everything adds up to an experience that makes me realize that whatever went wrong doesn’t matter at the end of the day. It’s these people, these experiences, they’re the reason I keep moving forward. So I encourage all of you to ask yourselves — what’s your reason?

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