August 7, 2015

The Best Insult I Ever Received.


The scene around me twists wildly, doing strange things to my stomach and as my hand slips from the ring, I tumble awkwardly to the floor.

My wrists are bleeding, my fingers blistered, and I am dripping in sweat from my attempts.

I stayed sprawled on the floor.

Anger, frustration, and disappointment jumbled together inside me. I knew I was strong enough to do a muscle up. And still I found myself knocked to the ground again.

Gravity, it seemed, did not care about how strong I thought I was.

Defeat crashed over me.

I closed my eyes and was suddenly 17 again, lying on a different floor but feeling the same sense of absolute failure.

My wounds were still raw, my pride devastated and my heart broken.

When I was 17-years-old, I tried out for drum major of our marching band. I’d grown up as a band kid. I loved it wholeheartedly, practiced hard, lived in the band room, found all my friends in band. It was my life. So when I tried out for drum major—the student leader of the band—the audition seemed almost a formality.

I did not make it.

It was the strongest blow I’d ever felt in my young life—to be so absolutely rejected from something I wanted more than anything in the world, something I’d waited years to do. I felt numb all over, shocked, incredulous. I was too self absorbed to realize that most of the pain was from my wounded pride, from unfulfilled assumptions and vanity run amok.

My mother tried to convince me that this was one of those “learning experiences” that are supposed to be secretly good for us, but I didn’t want to believe her. After spending two days calming down, I went to speak to my band director, to ask him where I had gone wrong in my audition. I wanted to know why he chose someone else.

His answer was simple: you weren’t good enough.

It was as though every tiny bit of self doubt I’d ever felt were suddenly dumped on me—a tidal wave of failure and inferiority hit me with brute force.

I would like to say that I went home and practiced my butt off and worked so hard that I eventually proved myself and gained the prize I sought. But I didn’t. I felt irreversibly shattered inside.

Sometimes we cannot just bounce back, sometimes the horse runs away before we can get back on, sometimes all we can do is lie on the ground and feel the full, brutal weight of whatever personal disappointment or tragedy has befallen us.

So powerfully did those words resonate within me that even now, almost ten years to the day later, I can feel the echo of their impact in my heart.

I heard them in my head as I laid on the floor of my gym. Once more, I was faced with failure. Both instances reflected the countless and continual failures we all face. Not making drum major could just have easily been not getting the job I wanted so badly. Missing muscle-ups over and over again is just like failing a class or being involved in a string of relationships that didn’t work out.

Sometimes we need to realize that we’re just not good enough for something or someone. We decide what good enough means to us, and we decide what is good enough for us. No matter how good or not good we may be, we are enough, and we can become good enough, become great enough, to do anything and everything that we want.

I shook myself out of my reverie. Having to fight until the workout is over, no matter how painful, no matter how much we may want to give up, no matter how many people tell us we’re not good enough, is what we all do, every single day of our lives.

Sometimes we can’t bounce back, but that is how we learn to rebound the next time.

So, enough was enough.

I forced myself back onto the rings and stayed there until I finished all the workouts. It wasn’t pretty or easy, but when I left the gym I knew that everything I had was left on that floor. This time, failure did not win, and that was good enough for me.


Author: Gabriella Sweezey

Assistant Editor: Caitlin Oriel / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Jlhopgood/Flickr

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