COLUMN: Push yourself at Auburn

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At moments during the past week or so, I’ve felt discouraged in the face of rejection and failure at a time in my life when things are supposed to launch into a new, exciting phase of post-graduation.

Failure will have you question your capabilities when you know you have talent and work ethic, but you aren’t seeing the results you expected.

Over the past few days, I’ve acknowledged that being denied is probably one of the most valuable experiences I could have at this point.

Failure, I've found, is bittersweet company — bitter from the sting of falling short and sweet from the growth that can flourish if you decide you will trudge through at whatever cost it takes to hit success, even if it feels like a small triumph.

Failure forces self-reflection, and you can like or dislike what you find, but those moments are when you decide how you want to reorient your life.

If you fail, let it be by first putting all your effort into something.

Let it make you stronger and smarter, clearing the way for triumph instead of allowing it to tear you down.

In a TED Radio Hour podcast, one speaker discusses how in his company he works to reframe what it means to truly fail.

He decided to celebrate it as a way to encourage better problem solving and as an avenue to course correct, rather than continue to link it to defeat and shame.

Shift your perspective on failure. Learn, move on and come out knowing more about yourself and what you need to change to achieve your goals. Auburn is a safe place to fail, and in turn, it’s a great place to grow.

Growth isn’t just limited to failing and responding, of course.

Branching out and growing toward empathy will make your relationships more genuine.

Find someone you disagree with, take them to go get coffee, share ideas. Listen.

This campus is full of brilliant people with different experiences, stories, hurts, triumphs and beliefs.

It’s impossible to agree with everyone, and no one expects you to.

You can stay rooted and leave your comfort zone at the same time.

But if we actively tried to make ourselves a little uncomfortable more often, we’d grow, learn to love people better and solve more problems rather than perpetuate them.

It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Small ones sometimes end up turning into so much more.

At times, I’ve been disappointed in Auburn’s leaders and students, but I see more young adults on this campus who are insistent on making their voices heard — to stand up for what is right, what is peaceful and what seems like glimpses of family-like attitudes and actions.

I think of the Muslim student who, in 2015, blindfolded himself and held out his arms for a hug as a sign at his feet read, “I am a Muslim, and I trust you. Do you trust me enough for a hug?”

I see the group of Black Auburn student protesters who refused to be silent in the face of appalling speech spewed by white nationalist Richard Spencer last week.

I hear the best friend of Travis Hightower crying on the phone with me after he died in a car wreck, the pain in her voice echoing the sorrow of dozens of friends and fraternity brothers who held a vigil in his honor.

In the face of adversity and loss, Auburn students, like little pockets of family, rally behind each other, they reach out, they cry, and they talk it out.

There’s still much to be done, though.

As I prepare to leave Auburn in a matter of days, I urge students to reach into every corner of Auburn and leave it better than they found it.

Make strides in your circles, and take more (safe) risks. Stand up for yourself, and stand up for others.

Auburn is a montage of experiences, emotions, relationships and frustration that I know will transcend my three years here.

People I have met and loved at Auburn will have a piece of my heart, as will the University, in a way.

I’m proud to become an Auburn alumna in a few days, and to me, Auburn will always be the actions of the people fighting to make it better.

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