I spent my Monday morning break between classes trying to repair my life and catch up with myself after a busy weekend, which followed yet another chaotic week. During this Monday-repair-time, I listen to “Manic Monday” by The Bangles, though the mania of my average Monday is often sustained throughout the course of the week. College is no joke. Between managing our TV station’s social media and YouTube, promoting and creating setlists for my radio show and being a section editor for The Slate, my life is a daily mad dash from classes to meetings to dinners to broadcasts to (my personal favorite) my bed.
I am extremely grateful for each of these opportunities I have been given, and while I would not have it any other way, they are responsibilities that can often become stressful. Knowing this, I have made a concerted effort to do everything in my power to be at my best: completing assignments ahead of time, making to-do lists on my dorm whiteboard and setting timers and alerts for when tasks need to be completed. (The use of my Apple Calendar has increased exponentially since graduating high school.)
As I double-check the guidelines for a class assignment, my face turns beet-red. My head feels as though it’s been stung by a thousand jellyfish as the shock falls through me: I missed a quiz that was due this weekend. I visit the quiz link, and sure enough, it has been closed. Attempts allowed: one. Completed: zero. I take a deep breath and take responsibility for the loss, knowing there is nothing that can be done except to move forward and work harder in that class. Still, I dolefully dwell on the fact that despite the endless slew of to-do lists and timers and alerts, my best efforts to stay organized simply were not enough.
There are two things that keep me going: I gave it my best, and there will be plenty more opportunities to succeed in the future in the places where I had failed in the past. I analyze where I went wrong and push myself to do better tomorrow, because if there is one thing I have learned, it is that nothing good comes from too much self-discipline. I used to practice a way of thinking where I would make a mistake, and rather than brush myself off and move forward, I would continually beat myself up over that mistake. I now recognize that the real error was within that mindset: I had confused an overwhelming self-discipline with taking accountability for where I stumbled, when in reality, all I was doing was being mean to myself.
Life is difficult enough without being your own bully. When things don't go how you had planned, don’t let it ruin your week. Recognize your shortcomings and make tweaks as necessary, but refrain from falling into a pit of despair when you don’t succeed (and there will come a time where you will not succeed!). Just because the efforts you had made were not enough does not mean that you, yourself, are not enough. I believe that our value is not measured by our mishaps, but how we choose to improve from them.
This attitude is applicable in other contexts as well: if I wave at someone on campus and they don’t see me, I let the minor rush of embarrassment wash over me and keep it moving. Far more humiliating things could have happened, and I had good intentions. I shrug it off and tell myself my favorite saying: “you can’t win ‘em all.” I sometimes wonder how mundane and stagnant our lives would be if no one made mistakes. There would be no learning and no growing. Maybe we’re better off being humbled by the occasional loss. In the meantime, I’ll be adding a little more detail into the reminders on my dorm whiteboard.