It is when we are dealt with a situation that tests our values that we realize there is much to gain and much to lose. -- Tiffany Vang
by Tiffany Vang
I've never quite bought into the ideas of winning or losing, nor did I ever take it
seriously. It's not like a movie where it begins with a low point and then a climatic end, or vice versa. Our identity is not defined by our losings or winnings. Life doesn't end when I win or lose; it simply continues on.
I do, however, believe that failures in our life experiences continue to impact and influence our choices and purpose.
I've "lost" many times in my life. When it came to sports, spelling bees, tests, art competitions or arguments, I've definitely had my fair share of losing. I tried to the best of my capabilities to win and, although at times I lost, it certainly never defined or impacted my sense of self. It was when I lost myself that I understood the meaning of truly losing.
I transferred to a new school when I was 10 years old. There, I made many new friends, but there was one boy in particular whom every student stayed away from. He was an odd, overweight and quiet kid who didn't have any friends. He would sit alone at lunch, occasionally would get our kickball for us when we kicked it out of bounds and would laugh loudly when he thought something was funny.
Many students picked on him, while others simply ignored him and acted as if he were invisible. I would occasionally say "hi" to him as I was passing by, but nothing more. I felt deep down that it was wrong for others to treat him like an outcast, but never once did I stand up for him. At times, I wished I would at least have befriended him.
To this day, I occasionally think about him. How is he doing? Does he have friends and family who love him? Is he still alone? I think about this and feel ashamed that I didn't follow what I believed in, but instead followed everyone else. I can't help but think that I contributed to his loss of innocence and childhood; I made him feel like he didn't belong.
For a long time, I ignored this feeling of shame and kept it locked away. It was when I explored it, and acknowledged my failure, that I felt I wanted to be a better person. Sure, I was young and childish, but the way I felt about this situation was very real. I struggled to make peace with it, and through this experience I wanted to live with integrity. I didn't want to be a bystander to injustices in front of me.
In our life experiences, we will always win or lose at something, but we must decipher what is truly winning or truly losing. It is when we are dealt with a situation that tests our values that we realize there is much to gain and much to lose. When we lose who we think we are, it is a confusing and scary experience. We realize that we aren't brave, fearless or courageous, but that we are very human. Failure allows deep reflection that gives us an opportunity to truly learn and see that bravery and courage are accumulated through hardship - and not through our winnings.
Tiffany Vang lives in St. Paul and is a recent graduate of the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.