“It is hard to fail, but it is worse to never have tried to succeed.” –Mr. Theodore Roosevelt. Great words from a great president. Ever notice the accuracy? For example, in high school—students aren’t judged by their appearance but by their readiness to succeed. In fact, I think that happens everywhere. In school, at work, at home; in life, love. Determination is important. It’s important to understand failure, success, and the concept that ropes together—effort. Without effort, or a willingness to try, a person will fail in everything, and not succeed in anything.
I love to dance. I’m by no means physically fit or even flexible, but when I’m listening to jazz, alternative, or rock, something inside me wants nothing more than my body twisting haphazardly about my room. Sophomore year I took social dance for semester. Every B-Day and first ninety minutes of the school day I donned a pair of wooden 5-inch heels that never broke in (they were wood—don’t know why I thought they would) and twirled in a circle in the small back lunch room my dance teacher was allowed to use as a class room.
I remember being so excited the first unit of class as we were learning the fox trot. I got to class as the bell rang, sat down on the back ledge of the wide window, and took my heels out of my backpack, and slipped on the open-toe shoes, glad I had decided to paint my toenails in the days before. I fastened the clasp on the shoe (tight enough for ankle support), and walked to the girls’ side of the room, where the female student teacher was teaching us the progressive step.
The progressive step in the fox trot is much like the progressive step in the waltz. In perfect dance position the male leads stepping with his left foot while the female follows stepping back with her right. As the female steps back her left foot raises, toes up and heel resting on the ground. The male moves the female in a roundabout way, repeating the steps with a left-foot-right-foot alternation. With 5-inch heels and awkward coordination, I was a little unsteady at first, but by the day of the test I was confident, sure I was one of the better progressive steppers in the class. I hadn’t even practiced in a week, I thought I was that good! Wouldn’t even have to make an effort. Assembled into groups my teacher called us, and grabbing our partners we began our foxtrot test choreography. I thought I’d passed, but after the test was over my teacher, Emery, handed me my test slip and I blanched. She had commented on my heel-up motions, saying that my heel hadn’t been up enough. What? Impossible! I had it in the bag, or so I thought.
Yet I had failed. A lot of people view failure as different things. I view it as an inability to achieve the right result. When I feel as if I’ve failed I feel disappointed and dumbfounded. I can’t understand how I was wrong, and go back repeatedly to figure it out, repeating my actions and not stopping until I find the error and correct it. I rack my brain for what I did wrong, what I was doing, and what I didn’t do right. We can’t always control whether or not we can do something but we can control whether or not we try. Things come up, they happen (insert shrug here) but we can always aim to control what happens and what we do in order to achieve success.
When a person thinks of success they think of what they were able to do accurately well and what they felt they triumphed in. Like a baseball team winning its first victory or businessman sealing a business deal. There’s a feeling of fullness, of complete and utter satisfaction, when a person’s goals are met in just that right way, however I have a happenstance that digresses from this insight. My story of success is when I submitted two short stories and 8 poems to the magazines Arcadia and Able Muse. Already published in Teen Ink magazine for my poem Slap in March, 2010, I thought it was time for me to expand my horizons a little. So I submitted some writing pieces and waited a month and a half, checking my e-mail every day for a notification.
One day I was alerted that my inbox had mail from the magazines’ admission departments. I was both thrilled and scared as I stared at the emails. Closing my eyes, I opened them, took a breath, and peeked my eyes open a fraction, and my heart sank. I was rejected. Both magazines. I read the Sorry, this isn’t what we’re looking for at this time and translated it to ‘Sorry-but-you-suck’ and felt nothing but utter disappointed. I actually started crying. I had felt like I was so close. Then my tears had been of joy. I had taken the chance, tried to do something incredible, and I was noticed! Yes, I was rejected, but I had been read. How lucky is a person to be? Could I die and kiss Jesus in that moment, please? It meant so much to me knowing I had made the effort to take the chance.
So here it comes, the kicker. The key to success that makes it all worthwhile: effort. Yes I can learn a few dances or I can write a few pieces, but if I’m not willing to work hard at it I won’t ever make it anywhere. If I hadn’t practiced at home constantly I wouldn’t have only had that small chastising comment on my dance test slip. If I hadn’t got used to staying up every night reading and writing, I wouldn’t have had the desire or time to write or the courage to hit the SUBMIT ADMISSION button—much less have a poem published. It all comes down to how hard a person is willing to work at what they want to do. If you really want something, then it’s only natural to want to work hard for it.
Truth be told, I am a looong ways away from being an accomplished writer, or even a good dancer. Yet I want to learn and apply myself because I want to be great. I want to be all that I can be. In the warfare of failure and success, effort is the most important weapon. Together, the three combine the ultimate stairway to heaven—to all of our dreams. Yes, we will fail and it will suck, but with a little preservation we’ll make it one step at a time and we’ll succeed; we’re humans, after all.