Thursday, May 7, 2009

Thinking about things other than my French exam

The New York Times' Op-Ed page is probably my favorite page in the paper. Except for the crossword, of course (but only on Mondays through Wednesdays. Thursday and Friday are just demoralizing). That's now turned into the opinion blogs, which occasionally have something worthwhile to say. I came accross a letter to a graduate this morning, by Timothy Egan, a former Times writer. I may not be graduating, but I sure appreciated the pick-me-up.

At times, your life will have moments, days, even weeks of despair. Trust me: there is no bout of blues that a rich Bolognese sauce, filling every cubic inch of kitchen air, cannot cure.

And that brings me to: Take risks. I don’t mean ski the double diamond runs, ask for a card in blackjack with 15 showing and the dealer holding a king, or hit a high note in a karaoke bar, while sober. That goes without saying.

Fear of failure can be a motivator or an inhibitor. The latter is crippling, and ultimately leads to a life of missed opportunities. That’s why Teddy Roosevelt’s most famous dictum, sadly wasted on the French during a speech at the Sorbonne, was praise for the person “who comes up short again and again,” praise for the man “who fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Ever since I got to Columbia I fell like I have been underperforming. Perhaps not underperforming, but it is certainly more difficult to go above and beyond when everyone is that person. I equate average-ness with failure. Certainly it's not failure outright, but I tend to judge myself by my own standards, rather than other people's, so when I don't meet my own expectations, I feel that I have failed.

This gives me hope, though. Hope that if I keep trying, setting my expectations much higher than I can ever hope to achieve, then someday I might find myself somewhere completely unexpected. I think the bigger failure is living a life full of regrets.

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