My whole life, I've been running from failure.

It started in middle school. All of my friends started testing out of classes into honors programs, so I tried harder. I didn't particularly care about my academic prowess, but I couldn't let myself fail because I didn't want to get left in the dust. I read faster, wrote more, and pushed harder so I wouldn't be left behind.

In high school, it got even more intense. Classes got harder, so I pushed myself more to be a part of the first sophomores in our school's history to take AP classes. My friends got better ACT scores and grades, so I made myself try harder to catch up again. I spoke louder, smiled more, and stayed up later so I wouldn't be left behind.

I joined choir and drama because it seemed like that was the place to be accepted regardless of whether you tried or not. However, that revealed itself as more pressure than anything I had felt. Before, I only had to get into a faster academic track, and once you got in, you stayed. Choir meant audition after audition, evaluation after evaluation, failure after failure. You had to put yourself out there again and again and again, and each time, you knew there was some way you could be better. After a while, it wasn't even the people around me that expected perfection, it was the music itself. After all, if I should come even close to being worthy of some of the genius we were singing, I couldn't allow myself to fail. I breathed deeper, practiced more, and sang sweeter so I wouldn't be left behind.

And then I came here.

All of the people who I knew expected perfection from me were gone. I found more people, and because I've been running from failure my whole life, I thought they expected success too. I didn't know what they wanted, so I threw everything I was into being this perfect person. I expected perfection from them, because I assumed they expected perfection from me. So I read faster, wrote more, pushed harder, spoke louder, smiled more, stayed up later, breathed deeper, practiced more, sang sweeter, expected more, fell harder, crumbled quickly.

And then I broke. And I no longer even resembled even the facade of perfection. I tripped, fell, and thought everyone would leave me behind.

But that didn't happen. Instead, the people around me stopped, slowed down, and came back for me. Slowly, I realized that everyone else was cracked and broken. They expected perfection of themselves, and, just like me, failed. I began to look at myself more carefully, and then a small idea that had been running after me as long as I had been running away from failure crashed into my head.

Failing is okay. We all deal with our demons. We are human, and that means ALL OF US MAKE MISTAKES. Trying hard is not a bad thing, but some things cannot be achieved by trying more. In fact, I've been thinking, that the best things are not the things that force you to try harder to get to them. It's the things that stick around and stay the same and love you no matter what grade you get, or what part you play, or how many people think you're the most important, or how many times you fail. We all have the right to our struggles, and failure. is. okay.