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OPINION: Learning to fail

I didn’t want to come to Belmont.

I’m sharing this because I think it’s too easy to edit out the messy parts of life and pretend like everything is wonderful. Yes, it’s true that I love my campus and am proud to be a Bruin.

But that doesn’t mean this is the life I envisioned for myself, and I’m still learning how to be okay with that.

I’m happy at Belmont now, but I’m only here because I didn’t get into my dream college. That failure devastated me at the time, but it has taught me that good things can happen even when life doesn’t go as planned.

I’ve always believed that I could do great things, but I didn’t understand that striving for greatness sometimes means setting yourself up for failure. In high school, I was a well-rounded kid who got good grades and participated in as many activities as I could.

I worked hard, but most things came a little easier to me than they did to many of my peers.

When it came time to apply to colleges, I was ready. I had leadership experience, high test scores and good grades. I knew I would be able to go to a good school, but I wasn’t content with that. My dream school was one of the most selective in the country, and I was determined to get in.

I knew the school’s acceptance rates were extremely low, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming. I applied to a couple of safety schools, but I tried not to think too hard about not getting into my top choice.

Belmont wasn’t even on my radar at that point. I decided to apply just three hours before the deadline, “just in case” I decided last minute that I wanted to audition for commercial piano or composition at a school with a strong music department. I didn’t even bother to visit.

But then at the end of March, I found out I hadn’t gotten into my dream school.

I’ll never forget reading the email. It said the selection process was highly competitive and I was one of thousands of qualified applicants, but all I read was “you’re not good enough.”

That rejection devastated me. I’d spent my whole life believing I could be great. What more could I have done than what I already had? And if I couldn’t even get into the college of my dreams, then how would I ever be able to achieve my other goals?

I ended up committing to Belmont about a week later because it seemed like my best remaining option.

A few months later, I came to summer orientation and fell in love with Belmont’s campus and all of the people I met. I started to feel like maybe everything was going to work out, but I still believed I was defined by the rejection I had experienced.

That was over a year ago, and I still struggle sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I love Belmont, but I don’t fully know why I’m here, studying journalism at a school full of musicians.

Studying at Belmont and living in Nashville has given me opportunities that I never would have had at the university I wanted to attend. I’ve met wonderful people and grown as a writer.

Most days, I’m thankful that I get to call Belmont my home.

Other days, I find myself running through all the things I could have done differently to get into a better school. I still spend some nights planning for graduate school, thinking I can “redeem myself” by getting accepted to a university with a big name.

But even on the worst days, I can’t deny that there’s something special about Belmont, something that reminds me I’m still capable of success, regardless of the notoriety of the name on my bachelor’s degree.

I think maybe that’s why I’m supposed to be here.

Whether we’re musicians or writers or something else entirely, Belmont is full of people who want to do something big. And if we were being honest, I think many of us would admit that our dreams terrify us.

We hear success stories of alumni who “made it,” but we also recognize that for every musician who wins a Grammy, there are many more who will never even be nominated.

We know that reaching for something beyond normalcy requires us to take risks, and we understand that sometimes there’s no safety net to catch us when we fall.

I used to hate the idea of taking risks, but because of Belmont, it doesn’t scare me so much anymore.

I reached for a goal I had always had, and I didn’t quite get there. Instead I ended up here, at a school full of dreamers and achievers and other people who are just like me. We’re all just doing our best to be great, even if it means we may fail.

I still don’t like failure, but I’m not scared of it anymore. I’d rather fail than settle for a “safe” and boring life.

This article written by Bronte Lebo

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