Why We Need Failure (From an Honours Student)


I grew up with the highest grades in class and an 100% scholarship. Last week I wrote a Math test. I got an F. Covid hit hard and as the death toll rose, my grades plummeted and I found myself struggling with keeping my grades barely passable, mental health issues and just life in general.

Everyone talks about the productive and motivating side of the pandemic but no one is addressing the other side of it. That's what I'd like to do. It's not beautiful, it's not dainty, it's ugly but it's the truth.

Life is not pleasant and happy. It never does what you expect it to do and each twist and turn is another leap of uncertainty. Each corner holds something terrifying and you have no idea what it holds. You have no idea what could possibly happen and that sounds overwhelming but it also means that truly, anything is possible.

If I'm being honest, I could hardly even bring myself to finish this single article. It lay incomplete with sentences that ran into a period before they could express themselves because the words seem to get lost somewhere between my mind, my fingers, the keyboard and the screen. It isn't the most pleasant feeling and the truth is, life is not always full of pleasant feelings.

Sometimes, you watch things lose meaning right in front of your eyes, things seem to spiral wildly out of control and you find yourself lost, watching your life play out as if you're not the main character. But here's the deal, you can always grab that steering wheel and gain control. You make the rules, you can do anything you put your mind to. You can bounce back from anything.

Being down on the ground is absolutely terrifying. To be beaten down so much that the floor feels like comfort is terrifying. To feel alone, weak, and powerless is horrifying. The truth is, that failure hits us hard. Especially when we don't see it coming. And you never see failure coming. It creeps up on quiet tiptoe and sucker punches you when you don't expect it.

Yet I said that failure is necessary and so far it hardly sounds nice but bear with me here. Failure is not nice. That's exactly why we need it. Failure teaches you things that victory can not. It's not until the air is knocked out of your lungs that you realize how much you crave oxygen.

It's only when you realize that the floor is cold and uncomfortable that you do everything you can to not be knocked down. We need failure just as much as we need success. It keeps us going and when we're on those lows, we know that we just need to buckle up for the highs that will be on their way.

These are not happy things to talk about. But they are things we need to talk about. About the days that we lie in bed the entire day and do nothing but eat food and feel guilty about eating as we put another cookie into our mouths, about the days that we look like a mess and how the blemishes on your skin leave bruises on your self-esteem, about how it may be superficial but some superficial things make you feel sad.

The posts on social media don't show this side of the world but it exists, trust me, everyone is struggling with issues, but they just don't show it, and so we don't show it either. But we should.

There was this blog post I read about XYZ things to do when you're feeling really sad. It went on with things such as writing about it, cleaning your room but asking for help, or talking to another person was the last thing on the list. That's messed up. We should be more encouraging not just towards other people, but especially to ourselves. This is something I learnt the hard way.

My grades in school were described as 'exceptional', 'outstanding' and I was somehow 'talented'. But honestly, I felt like all of them were lies. Looking at any test I wrote, I would find flaws within every answer and every score. If it was 100% I would go ahead and criticize my performance anyway. Every single public speech I gave, I would analyze my failures, look for them, hunt them down and then never let them out of my sight.

I hoarded these failures and would replay them in my mind on repeat. Every time someone said I was fantastic at Math, I would only remember that one question from a test a few months ago where I multiplied stupidly.

I never believed any of the good things that people said about me and if I ever tried to voice this, it was passed off as humility, or just needy for more attention. It seemed hard for me to even comprehend the fact that anything I had ever "accomplished" could amount to anything when they didn't even seem like accomplishments to me.

It wasn't pleasant. But eventually, I came to terms with universal facts.

We are all good enough.

We are all capable.

We are all deserving and we are all worthy.

The dark days hit hard. Feeling tired, not physically but emotionally exhausted, mentally drained and just stressed all the time is not pleasant to put it politely. These days leave you feeling deprived of any vitality, of any inspiration to even get out of bed. The negative thoughts trickle in and then flood your mind until you find it hard to stay afloat in this torrent of your own thoughts.

Everywhere you look the murky waters are waiting to engulf you and drag you into the abyss of self-doubt. Why even bother trying?

Well, because life is all about trying.

Life is about fighting, it's about bouncing back from everything life throws at you and blocking the punches.

It is about standing above everything that happens and showing life that you are a fighter, that you have grit and that you can defeat anything that is thrown at you.

Every single day might seem like a struggle but you can conquer anything, you can eat the world for breakfast and then move onto the universe for a snack. If you believe you can, you're halfway there.

All you need to do is give yourself a chance, believe in your abilities and never give up on yourself. Push yourself out of your comfort zone every day, keep striving to attain your goals and never forget that you are capable of anything.

Ships in a dock look beautiful but that's not what ships are meant for. As you stretch the boundaries of what you knew you could do, you will quickly realize that those boundaries should have never existed at all.

You can do anything.

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Nikhita Makam

Nikhita Makam is a 16 year old high school student by day and a poet by night. She is author of "14 works by a 14 year old" and a writer for The Teen Magazine. Nikhita spends her time writing, reading, watching dog videos, gardening, wondering about ladybugs and battling the common enemy to all high school students: homework.