Failure and Reminiscing

Over the past two days of graduation (graduation is a three day event at Princeton) I’ve heard a lot about failing and reminiscing. In the spirit of graduation, I want to spend the next week failing and reminiscing (failing to reminisce, reminiscing about failing) about my past four years at Princeton. THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN.

Before coming to Princeton, I didn’t fail, at least not in important ways. I’ve written a few posts before about failure so I’ll try not to repeat myself here. Basically, it wasn’t until coming to Princeton that I realized how amazingly I could fail at things. In fact, I’m still reminded of my failure at all these graduation events. But as the Baccalaureate speaker reminded us, if your uniform’s not dirty, you haven’t been in the game. That’s something I’ve learned these four years but it’s been a fantastically painful experience. Failure seems scary and debilitating. It’s unexciting and unpleasant. But I’ve failed so much at Princeton. And honestly, all the times I’ve failed have made me more appreciative of my successes.

I won’t lie and say that every time I failed I did so with a smile and a more realistic perspective on life. I eventually got there but it wasn’t before the tears and thoughts of self-doubt, the frustration and disillusionment, and the irreparable blow to my pride. So as I proceed to reminisce about my last four years of Princeton, I want to be totally honest. The good thing about reunions/graduation weekend is that it fills you with so much love for this time of your life that it’s difficult to be harsh towards the University. In other words, whereas two weeks ago, my review of Princeton would have been mostly scathing with a few bright spots,  these past few days have evened me out to the point where I can talk about all the things that I love about this place, and the things that I’ll miss so very dearly.

The main thing that brought me to this place is a series of voicemails. I’m not a hoarder but I’m pretty sentimental and so I like to hold on to things that remind me of people and places. So when people leave me nice/funny/cutesy voicemails, I like to keep them. (It’s a little sad that in a few weeks I’ll have a new phone and these voicemails will be gone. That’s only a little sad though, because my phone is horrible and I trust my friends and family to leave me a new batch of nice/funny/cutesy voicemails.)

I was listening to these voicemails the other day and they brought so much joy to my heart. I have one from almost all of my close friends and family members. They only go as far back as two years ago (when I got the phone) but they’re all from different times in my Princeton career. And they’re all happy. And they make me happy. I guess sometimes, when you’re in a bad place in life, it’s easy to convince yourself that your life was always bad. When I’m lonely, it’s easy to believe I’ve always been lonely. But listening to those voicemails, I realized that just isn’t true. It reminds me that there was a time, even if it was only a moment, when life was just good. And knowing that makes me cry tears of joy. Because even if I feel a little bit like I’m failing right now, it’s only because I’ve played the game long enough to get my uniform dirty. And playing will always be infinitely better than sitting out and watching from the sidelines.

Tomorrow: Thoughts on Freshman year


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