Today I am wishing that more people were honest about failure, because I sprinkle my own into conversation like candy. I failed a quiz last week, and I slipped on ice taking out the trash. I dropped a class my first semester of college. I quit gymnastics and figure skating and violin and painting classes because I could never master any of their outcomes just right. The New Yorker has rejected my work more times than both fingers can count, and I still submit my stories anyways. I have never been the bearer of perfect grades. Not once. Not even in middle school. There are half-finished puzzles in my basement and plans of a treehouse that I’d convince my father to build me one day, in notebooks I’ve barely ever used. I didn’t call my grandmother back before she died.
However, I feel as if my beloved college newspaper is the only place in the world where failure is no longer relegated to an extension of the self, a personal shortcoming and a deficiency of the soul. Failure here is too-squeaky doors, and bikes that rust in the rain, and milk accidentally left out to curdle –– utter mistakes, and much more deeply, a thing that is an unequivocally and wholly accepted facet of the human condition. I have failed many times here, submitted work I’d feverishly written an hour before noon, and more so, work that is not my best. I have haphazardly placed commas where I’ve felt they belong rather than where they actually belong and left my editor Maya hanging for five days on occasion because her texts had slipped my radar. In meetings, I am guilty of silence even though I’m brimming with thoughts, words and ideas, like “ANAMIKA I LOVED YOUR PIECE ON PAATI AND SPONTANEITY” and “MAYA AND ANAMIKA AND GABRIJELA AND CLAIRE HAO YOUR EDITS AFFORDED ME THE DIGNITY OF BEING HEARD,” and yet in this space, I am still a writer. I am a writer who receives suggestions and good-jobs and wow-I-didn’t-know-you-could-do-thats and when I speak here, the room listens, and I allow myself to take up space for the first time because I am a columnist for The Michigan Daily. I send my work to my mother and to my two friends Siri and Duaa, who tell me my words make them feel something, and sometimes my father comes home with a flesh-and-bone copy of this paper in print and flays it open on the dining room table to read by himself.
In high school, a boy from my AP U.S. History class in room C-326 said that I was far too stupid to be there, and my friends laughed for months on end behind my back. I was girl-that-didn’t-know-the-answer-when-called-on and girl-who-was-least-likely-to-succeed. And I knew nothing about Manifest Destiny, too little about trickle-down economics, and the AIDS crisis, and Edward Hopper and American solitude. There was nothing that was mine and only mine. No robotics or track-and-field or dance or Science Olympiad or theater. Nothing that granted me respect or acknowledgment or validity or belonging, and I simply existed and mostly I was girl-who-was-a-failure.
This publication and the people within it have never demanded perfection from me, never asked for anything more than myself, and I have been in search of such a feeling, this special sort of requiem for a dream, my entire life.
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