University of Notre Dame
University of Notre Dame

PERSPECTIVES

Learn to Fail

I was denied a position at the same summer job three times while attending Notre Dame, and it ended up being one of the best things that could have happened to me. Through two summer newspaper internships, I gained real-world experience in the field that I hope to enter after graduation. My third summer job, teaching kids of recent immigrants through Holy Cross Ministries in Park City, Utah, was eye-opening and fulfilling. I would have missed at least one of those opportunities had I been accepted to my first-choice job.

At Notre Dame, programs are competitive and courses are difficult. You will fail to get what you want sometimes, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s important to let your time here take you where it will – to plan, but to be prepared for those plans to fall through, and to always be ready to venture in a different direction. It’s often the experiences that you didn’t expect to have that turn out to be the most valuable.

Additionally, failure is relative. Teaching young students last summer frustrated me sometimes. I felt like I was failing because I couldn’t solve their legal dilemmas, significantly increase their English vocabularies, or ease their economic woes. As the kids and I got to know each other, however, we all crossed boundaries – those walls that prevent people from different walks of life from understanding each other. I believe that breaking down those dividers enabled all of us to feel a little more valuable than we had felt before. I learned that although I may not be able to change the entire world by the time I enter my senior year of college, it’s incredibly meaningful simply to brighten someone’s day by being present to him or her in moments of joy and in struggles. When I realized that I wasn’t actually failing, I was able to approach my work with greater energy.

It takes a lot of humility to allow yourself to learn from efforts that don’t work out as planned, but the willingness to readjust often leads to new and unique experiences. If you haven’t failed many times, you haven’t taken advantage of opportunities to leave your comfort zone and fall – but then to emerge as a smarter, stronger, and more passionate person.