Every now and then, life manages to muster another lemon for me, and, somehow, things turn out better than I’d hoped, and I end up with another glass of lemonade. No extra effort required for these moments in the sun. On the rare occasion that these periods of good luck manifest, I ride them out. And during times of near-rock-bottom moments, I like to look back on my sweet and tangy streak.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all we needed was the occasional win to get us through our losses? Life would be about the good, lighter times. All struggles could be fixed with the reminder of the good—almost as easy as a glass of Pepsi. More often than not, people would rather take the time out of their days to reflect on the moments when things worked out. But is that the best approach? Do we learn anything from that?
In college we are expected to bounce back when we fall short, to fight on and make the most of our opportunities. Since we were young we were indoctrinated with the “fall seven times, stand up eight” point of view. Our forward-driven logic discourages any sort of reflection. After all, it hurts to think about the exam you bombed or the time you embarrassed yourself when all you were trying to do was put yourself out there. No one wants to dwell on bad memories because it may very well paralyze you with regret, so we all just keep moving forward.
But without looking to the past or simply acknowledging it, we prevent self-improvement. Reflection helps us learn and recognize the flaws in the comfortable routines that fill our days. Compartmentalizing all the bad and refusing to look back on those memories doesn’t allow us the opportunity to better ourselves.
If our goal is to grow, then we not only have to look back, but we must be able to acknowledge that we were wrong. We learn nothing from sweeping memories under the rug, pushing them away, and refusing to acknowledge that we may have fallen short. Though acknowledging the tangible discomfort of middle school interactions and past transgressions is surely the harder route, it is certainly more prosperous.
Reflecting requires us to remember not only the times we fell short, but also all the hard work we put into succeeding. Sometimes we manage to “wing it” with minimal effort. But more often than not, when something goes well it was because of our own work—like spending long hours in O’Neill. Those times are just as important to be able to turn back to, if only to remember the measured effort.
Boston College has a strong tradition of reflection, from the weekly Wednesday Examen to the countless retreats offered. Participating in these opportunities could be a way to invite introspection into your own life.
It’s easy to feel like perfection is a far-off reality. Often, my life seems to be made up of many instances spent doing the hard work yet still missing out on the pay-off, which makes me wonder why I bother at all. But putting in time and effort is the only way to really stand by the choices you make. And, as much as it hurts, trying our hardest brings successes as well as failures. But that should be something we learn to accept; after all, so long as people can learn from the mistakes they make, they can move forward. But don’t forget to enjoy the occasional glass of lemonade.