By Mac Pomeroy

I remember the day very well. It was my senior year of high school, and I was at my final speech and debate tournament. While I had spent four years of my life fully dedicated to preparing and practicing for these tournaments every week, I had never placed. 

This was my last chance. For this tournament, there were the first three regular rounds, but after that they would announce the top competitors to enter the semifinal rounds and final round. The judges had just posted who would be continuing on to the final round.

I took a deep breath and walked up to the postings. It took two seconds to see I didn’t make it. I was crushed. It seemed like all of the work I did over the past four years was for nothing. 

In the face of disappointment or failure, it is very easy to feel like we are less. We become so consumed in our actions that sometimes we forget that there is more to ourselves than our accomplishments.

My immediate response after finding the news was to text my mother. While we are very different people, she has always been there for me. I wanted to talk to her.

I texted her that I didn’t make it. It took less than a minute for her to respond. Her message changed my way of thinking forever, even though that wasn’t what she intended:

“Congratulations, you didn’t peak in high school.”

You may be experiencing failure now, but that failure isn’t forever. Regardless of how big or small it seems, failure is not the end of the world, nor does it define you.

Just because you didn’t succeed doesn’t mean you will never succeed. That day, it was something I had forgotten. I thought my failure defined me as a speaker and writer, but it really didn’t.

Instead, it was just another chapter in my life. This chapter didn’t go as well as some of the others, and that’s fine.

What is important is to keep moving forward. I now know that I am more than I was at that moment. Quite simply, I didn’t peak in high school.

I didn’t yet reach my full potential, and my mom knew this. I didn’t know all that I know now. I still don’t think I have reached my peak, and I hope I don’t for a very long time.

Failure should not be treated as disappointment. Instead, it should be seen as an opportunity to learn and try something new.

Maybe your failure is that you aren’t doing so well on tests. Try a new way of studying. Or maybe you are having difficulty making friends. Try using an app.

Just don’t give up. Don’t let whatever failure convince you that you cannot do this. If it doesn’t work the first time, try twice as hard the next time.

And remember, no matter how bad things may seem, you can continue. You can make it.

Congratulations, you haven’t peaked yet.