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October 28, 2013

Rolling With It When You Get Knocked Down

The most important thing that I ever learned at summer camp is that every day you are given three thousand separate opportunities to fail. And you’d be crazy to not take some of them.

I went bowling this weekend. I’m an okay bowler. My high score (before Thursday) was a 131. I can be counted to get like a strike a game, maybe a couple of spares, but there’s really no reliability to my bowling. See figure one, in which you can see my less-than-ideal bowling form.

I'm bowling! Photo: Brian Kane

Scarcely professional, I’d think. Unlike this photo, which was taken by professional photographer, Brian Kane (AKA I just asked him to take a picture with my phone and he said yes).

Now, see figure two, in which you see my score from Thursday (the middle line).



I bowled a 222! And got five strikes in a row! I know! Impressive bowling! We did a 3 on 3 competition, and things got really heated. The pressure was on, but I was excited to be leading my team.

Come our third game, though (my friends and I bowled five games–AMF had an unlimited bowling special), everything sort of fell apart. I only bowled a 155, far worse than my previous two scores of 222 and 177. I couldn’t hit the lead pin. I wasn’t picking up easy spares. I began to get dejected. See figure three:

This shot of me looking dejected in front of a bowling alley was actually taken over the summer, but it's the same general idea. Credit: Tyler Rosati

This shot of me looking dejected in front of a bowling alley was actually
taken over the summer, but it’s the same general idea. Also the same general bowling alley. Credit: Tyler Rosati

The thing is, I got so used to being good at bowling (with my 222 and 177, which you have to admit are pretty good), that a 155 disappointed me. Meanwhile, a 155 is better than I had ever bowled before that evening. My standards for success simply changed.

I got a C on my first college paper. The assignment (which I still remember exactly), was to write two pages on myth, memory, and discovery  in one of the short stories we had read in the first few weeks of Intro to Literary Analysis. I had dashed the paper off in about twenty minutes. I had been really good at English in high school, skating by on my wit and ability to use semicolons correctly, so I figured that a two-page ditty like that one couldn’t be too hard.

The C that I got on that paper showed me that my standards had to change  when I got to college. I spent the rest of that semester on an intrepid journey to get an A on a paper in Intro to Literary Analysis. When I finally did, for an essay on the narrator in Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” (which is a poem that you should TOTALLY READ if you haven’t), I was so relieved and excited.

I can talk about how it’s important to learn from your mistakes and improve and all of that stuff, but you’ve probably heard off all of that stuff before and you really don’t need it in a blog post. Because sometimes, none of that kind of banal advice helps, and you just get down on yourself. And that’s fine. It’s normal. It’s healthy, probably, to do sadness a little bit.

But just a little. One of the things that Clark has taught me in a bunch of indirect ways is how to deal with the things that should get you down. Because you have to focus on how you can improve, and you have to focus on all of the great things in your life that make you happy. I always have a lot of work to do and sometimes things get super overwhelming, but I always make sure that I’m not letting it get the best of me. I do all of my homeork in the academic commons so that I can talk to my friends as they come and go, and I make sure to hang out with them as much as they can. And I’m in clubs. And I have a job that I love. And I try to remember to call my parents.

I bowled a 222. That game where I only got a 155 doesn’t mean anything. Because I bowled a 222. But not even because I bowled a 222. Because I was with my friends, having a great time on a Thursday night, laughing and just being happy to be there.

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