There was this kid I knew in grade school. John. He had a face to forget but a manner that stuck with you. You were around him for five minutes and knew the type of person you did not want to be. Him. Not because you didn’t want to, but because he was impossible.
Despite your commitment to political correctness, you couldn’t walk away from him without thinking, “Aspergers. Has to be Aspergers.”
John was a pest that talked to everyone even though he would never hear a word back. Plus he had this knack of showing up every time you seemed to do something wrong.
“Hey, you got that answer wrong because you didn’t study your six times tables. Next time review your six times table,” John would say, always ending with something you were coming to terms with.
Teachers didn’t care much for John either, after class just as Mrs Malkovich would erase the board, hope fading from her eyes, John would tug on her skirt. “Hey, we aren’t understanding this topic because you were rushing it. Next time, get the kids involved and have them ask questions.”
Everyone knew John and was afraid of when he would show up. It meant you had done something wrong.
But I noticed he never said anything to Mr MacDonald the science teacher, ever. And Mr MacDonald was dreadful.
Some people were jealous of Mr.MacDonald all because John left him alone.
I remember when our soccer team lost a match, he walked up to the coach added his two cents then sat with Roger for five minutes.
There were a few on the team that John ignored but the switched to other sports the following year.
We all saw Roger wipe his eyes before walking up to his mother who began to yell.
“I know mom. John already told me that. Except he told me what to do to fix it, unlike you!” We had never seen sweet Roger talk back to his mother before and most of us began to think that John was making us go crazy. But what could we do? He never seemed to do anything wrong.
John was always smiling, always calm and always positive.
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” ― WINSTON S. CHURCHILL
“I want everyone to be just like me,” John said to me once when I had the courage to ask him. “Failure isn’t what people think it is. It’s just a fresh reminder that there is a bit more we can do to get the things we want.”
We would roll our eyes, not because we didn’t believe him but because he was clearly choosing people that would let him preach his sermon. He walked up to most parents during parent-teacher conferences but never said a word to the Stevenson. Mr Stevenson was always angry and Mrs Stevenson too tired to talk back to anyone. I thought that if John was going to be the Gandhi that he so wanted to be when he had to start with people like the Stevenson.
But no one could tell him what to do. John was an anomaly, the most popular kid in school that no one ever really wanted to be around. And he kept going on and on about failure, about all the things it could teach us.
We were by no means friends, I hated him actually and often talked about fighting him after school. Except no one took me seriously because John was a black belt who once said to a 7th grader whose nose he broke, “I failed to exercise patience with you, and will regret hitting you in the face. Next time, I will count to ten and try to reason with you even if you choose to continue mocking me.”
“Don’t you ever go home,” Isabelle asked John once.
“Nope. Because I know you are going to screw something up,” he responded with an endearing grin.
“Why because you think you are better than everyone,” Susie asked building the tension as a few of us arranged the ornaments for the school ball.
“No, because we are human, and failing is part of our process.” The eyes rolled again.
“You think we don’t know that,” Mrs Malkovich scoffed, slamming a basket beside John.
“No. We are human. We know everything we need to. It’s just that life is hard, so we forget sometimes.”
At that was classic John. Hitting you at your core but carrying flowers with him.
He was that sort of kid. Couldn’t convince your heart to hate him but your mind always asked to stay away. And John never changed, filling his valedictorian graduation speech with reminders of what most of us had done wrong that day. Strange kid.
But I did remember asking him once, “Why don’t you ever bother Cranky Carl the janitor? He drops things all the time and makes more of a mess than we do. Don’t like janitors?”
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — THOMAS EDISON
To which John responded, “Carl has given up. I have nothing to say to anyone that quits.”
I have grown up a bit, and John is clearly a figment of my imagination, but more so, failure is not what brought John to varying situations. John is Failure, a friendly companion that reminds us to do just a bit more.
Failure is not heartbreak and disappointment. And failure is not something that reflects our inadequacies. Failure is a reminder that we are trying and that we have not given up.
I find quite often that when we fail, we tend to grow frustrated. We are sad, and if failure happens enough times, we are discouraged from attaining our goals, a catastrophic waste of failure. Keep failing till you get it right.
Failure just happens to be a sign that we have taken a needed step. Perhaps not last step, but a prerequisite all the same. The things you learn from failure are just as important as essential to success as every other virtue.
“Never give up! Failure and rejection are only the first step to succeeding.” ― JIMMY VALVANO
Things may not have gone the way you expected but welcome to the universe. It is a giant mess and random happenings out there, and your existence is no different. But like John said, “we are human.” We are destined to achieve what we want as long as we learn and persevere. Everything you want is waiting for you if you have the patience to keep figuring things out, giving your best while keeping your enthusiasm in the face of failure.
Don’t give up. Do not ever give up. The only people who never achieve their dreams are those that give in.
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