How It Feels To Stand At The Bottom Of The Podium

How It Feels To Stand At The Bottom Of The Podium

Turning humiliation into determination

The buzzer sounded, the referee blew his whistle, and the match ended. In that instant, a tsunami of emotions began to wash over and the realization that the long season was over started to set in. After shaking hands with my opponent and his coaches, I slowly walked back to my coaches with my head hanging in disappointment. Everything I had worked so hard for felt like it had slipped out of my grip.

With shaking hands and trembling legs fraught with exhaustion, I made my way to the back corner of the arena, laid down on my back, and began to cry. The feeling was overwhelming and debilitating. As I laid there, I reflected on the immense feeling of failure that persisted within me. How could I have let this happen? Everything I had sacrificed and striven to accomplish that season, gone to waste in a matter of minutes. Yes, I had managed to earn a medal, but there was little consolation in knowing it was as good as the last place. I didn't feel deserving; instead, I felt lucky, and that made the defeat even worse.

Later that night during the medal ceremony, my name was called first and for a moment, I felt a twinge of pride. However, once everyone else was standing on the podium, I realized that I was the only one who had to stand on the floor. That small feeling of pride was instantly replaced with embarrassment and shame.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the other medal-winners smiling and reveling in their achievement. My dulling sadness was again replaced by something new: a newfound sense of determination. I remember looking up to the ceiling and swearing to myself that next season would be different. Next season, I would stand on that podium no matter what.

Every wrestler dreams of winning a state championship, but few ever see that dream realized. I was one of those dreamers; training and grinding every single day in hopes of seeing it come to fruition. In the end, although I did not achieve that dream, I did achieve something perhaps even more important.

My junior year, I placed sixth in the wrestling state championships and had to stand on the floor next to the podium. My following senior season, I held true to my promise and placed fifth. While a one place increase doesn't seem like much, it made all the difference in the world.

Sometimes, we cannot accomplish the large goal we so hoped to, but we can take what we come away with and turn it into something more meaningful. Everyone wants to succeed, and if a person finds a way to achieve a little more each day, than every measure of success can be found. Determination is simply the difference between standing on the floor and standing on the podium.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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To A Second Semester High School Senior

The end is near, but you still have so much ahead of you.

Dear Second Semester High School Senior,

You made it! You survived 3.5 years of high school! You will come to learn that the second half of your senior year will be difficult for many reasons. You have to apply and choose where you're going to go to college in the next year, decide if college is even for you, and get ready to move on to the next phase of your life.

The things that I learned in my second semester of my senior year are lessons and virtues that still apply to my life as a second-semester college freshman. So please allow me to pass on some words of wisdom;

Keep pushing yourself.

Things are going to be hard. It will be hard to drag yourself out of bed and go to school when you know you aren't doing anything super important. It will be hard to study for the last AP or IB test that you will ever take this coming May. It will be hard to find motivation in general. Amongst all the struggle, find the thing that makes you want to do better. For me, it was my best friend and a kickass playlist. Find people that will motivate you or complain with you. Either way, you'll suffer together.

Study hard.

At this point, you may think that grades don't matter anymore because you got accepted into the school of your dreams and have paid your deposit to save your spot. Let me tell you... You couldn't be any more wrong. If anything, this is the most important time for you to academically shine. Remember, colleges keep tabs on your progress throughout senior year and they are not afraid to take away your acceptance. So please, stay enrolled in school and try hard. If you're taking any AP or IB classes, try your absolute hardest in your final exams. Be more prepared than you need to be by studying more than you think that you need to. In the end, the college credit you earn can put you ahead in the academic game and save you a few thousand dollars. Because I pushed myself and got the credit from performing well on my exams, I now have enough credit to graduate early with my Bachelor's degree. Please save yourself the time and money and do well.

Thank your teachers.

Ultimately, your interactions with your mentors influence you to be the person you are as of right now. The people teaching you new lessons, concepts, virtues, and fun facts are the people who you will remember for the rest of your life. Thank them for giving their time to benefit you, putting up with student's shenanigans, and being your teacher. Even the one teacher who you despise. Thank them. They will appreciate it.

Your decision will make itself clear.

If you were anything like me, figuring out which school is perfect for you is going to be difficult. The school that has all the bells and whistles you are looking for may be WAY out of your price range. The school you had your heart set on going to may not have accepted your application. The school you thought you were born to attend may not be your perfect match. My top choice school accepted me, had all the fancy bells and whistles, was located in a gorgeous area, and on top it all, they recruited me to play NCAA lacrosse. In the end, after many, many, many hours of number crunching and weighing out options, I came to the conclusion that that school wasn't a possibility for me. In the end, I chose to go to a school that caught me by surprise. Each and every day I think about the big "What if?" question; What if I ended up going to school at my top choice? I wouldn't have met the amazing people that I'm lucky enough to call my friends, experience the city and what it has to offer or be the person I am today. My point here is that if your plan A doesn't work out, don't sweat it. Plan B might be your destiny.

Make it all about you.

This final stretch is all about you. Who cares what others think of your final actions in high school? Don't take into consideration the thoughts of people who didn't give you the time of day at any other point in your high school career. If you know of unsupportive figures in your life, cut them out. Don't listen to people who are only there to drag you down. Disregard your significant others' opinion on what your next chapter should look like because it's not about the both of you.

It's only about you. While your parents may not fully support your choice in what you will go forward to study, try to ignore the snarky comments. It's hard, but in the end, if it's something you really want to do, do it. Don't follow your best friend to a school they want to go to just so the chances of your friendship being easier to maintain are possible. If you are really that good of friends, the relationship will last regardless of the miles that will lie between you. Just invest your final months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds to the people who invested their time in you.

With that being said, do what you will with my advice. If you choose to take it into consideration, thank you. If you choose to ignore it, please know that I wish someone had told me these things before I started my senior year. I needed someone to tell me to make these final days all about you because you deserve it. I needed to be told to be selfish, independent, and studious. To be my true self. Don't be afraid of your true colors to show. With that being said, let your colors fly on your freak flag. Make your school embrace your weirdness, quirkiness, and everything that makes you you.


A Caring Second Semester College Freshman

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3 Actually Valuable Things High School Should Actually Teach

Why are schools not teaching these fundamental life skills?

Nowadays, many high schools seem to be lacking when it comes to teaching several necessary life-skills. Personal finance, shop class and cardiopulmonary resuscitation/first aid courses are life-skills everyone should know! High schools push so hard for you to further your education at a post-secondary institution — as they should. However, there are other aspects of education schools should focus on to make you a more well-rounded individual.

1. Personal finance

There aren't many students in high school who know how to balance a checkbook or budget their money accordingly. Honestly, personal finance should be a mandatory course in high school. Our schools are failing young adults by not teaching basic, personal finance. High schools push for you to go to college (i.e. take out a huge amount of loans), yet some schools don't teach you how to budget for college? It's not very smart move, at all.

In college, many personal finance courses have prerequisites; therefore, it's likely that if you aren't a business major, you'll never have formal education on personal finance — an important topic controlling many Americans' lives.

It's absurd that society is pushing young adults to make major financial decisions by age around age 17 or 18. College expenses are so ridiculously high that an overall loan costs nearly as much as some houses. Even if you go to a state school (let's estimate $15,000 per year) — it's still expensive! Over four years totals to $60,000 (plus interest) which is a good portion of the total cost for a house. No wonder mental health is such a big problem in the United States, and debt is directly linked to stress and depression. Life is revolved around money, working, paying bills, credit why don't we know basic life skills such as personal finance?

2. Shop class and hands-on learning

Unless young adults attend a technical high school, they will probably never see the inside of a "shop class," ever. The occupations of plumbers, electricians, carpenters, Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), and so many others are vital to a functioning society. Not to mention, some trades such as electrical and plumbing make close to $100 an hour, or more.

Honestly, whose to say that someone going to a four-year college (who may not have a clue as to what they want to do) is any smarter than someone who doesn't go to college and has a license or certification in a trade? Individuals working in trades will likely pay off their debt quicker (since they aren't in a bachelor's degree program) and have more control over their schedules if they own their own business.

3. First-Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Unfortunately, emergency healthcare isn't taken seriously at all in schools. During high school, we were never offered an opportunity to take a first-aid or CPR class. CPR classes can be expensive (up to $60 or more) but groups are usually offered discounted rates. Although students may not be interested in healthcare, CPR and basic first-aid can save lives. The result of not knowing CPR is quite often detrimental, and CPR success rates would be much higher if CPR was initiated as soon as someone goes into cardiac arrest, as opposed to waiting for EMS. Elective CPR/first-aid classes should be available in high schools.

I understand all of these classes cost money. Skilled individuals should be teaching personal finance, shop class, or CPR/first-aid — which requires money. Yet, maybe if we better understood finance, we could budget more accordingly for ourselves, and our schools.

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