The Cavalier Daily
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PARTING SHOT: Failure does define you

<p>To my Co-Editor Shaleah, thank you for putting up with my antics.</p>

To my Co-Editor Shaleah, thank you for putting up with my antics.

May 4, 2020 was like any other spring day — sunny with a breeze, just warm enough to be outdoors, with birds chirping and flowers blooming. But for me, it was extraordinary. It was the day I got into the University of Virginia. Of course, this was months after my high school peers — and those around the nation — had committed to institutions that would carry them through their next four years. I too had already committed to my only college acceptance, failing to realize how much I wanted to attend the University until after I received my deferral and my position on the waitlist. 

Upon returning home from visiting my sister that day, I saw I had missed a call from the “UVA” contact I had saved in my phone. I scrambled to call them back — and after a brief conversation with an admissions officer, I was offered a spot in the Class of 2024. I felt immediate relief and pride knowing that four years of hard work in high school had come to fruition. It was the boost I needed to rediscover the confidence within myself necessary to work toward my goal of excelling academically.      

Despite being armed with such confidence, each year at the University has come with a slew of daunting challenges for me to navigate. My challenges during first year were making friends, discovering my interests and taking courses amidst a pandemic that rid the University of any semblance of normalcy. Despite these restrictions, I found community on Grounds in unlikely places. I joined strangers throwing the football, took Zoom classes in the Quad with my dorm-mates and played intramural sports. The people who know me best today are the people that I met four years ago when making a bag of popcorn in my dorm room. 

I also began exploring my interests by applying to organizations like The Cavalier Daily, where I turned my passion for writing into a passion for speaking out on issues I cared about. I was reluctant to move out of my dorm — Page — that May because I had begun to find my place at the University. While my time here has been anything but easy, my first year taught me what it means to grow into yourself, invest in your passions and turn setbacks into successes.

Second year, my confidence waned. I struggled with both self-esteem and body image issues. The Echols Scholars Program and Batten’s BA Program had declined my applications, and personal comments made about my appearance consumed me. I began to question my worth both as a student at the University and as a human being. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, I worked hard in my classes and poured all my free time and energy into extracurriculars like The Cavalier Daily and WXTJ Student Radio. Cultivating my interests fed me — and by the end of the year, I once again began to regain the confidence in myself I had lost.  

After applying to a handful of political internships for the summer after second year, I had my first interview ever for a political consulting firm. And while initially I was turned 

down from the job, days after I received a call similar to that of the University’s admissions office asking if I still wanted the role. 

I went on to keep my internship long past summer, interning remotely during third year. That year I was working a part-time job while taking a full course load, while fulfilling my duties as an Opinion Senior Associate Editor and then ultimately an Opinion Editor. This coupled with trying to account for the physical, mental and social needs that come with being a functional human being proved exhausting. My internal battles, coupled with the countless hardships we faced as a nation, made it the hardest year of my life. I felt like a house caught in a tornado — powerless and unable to change this certain path of destruction. It’s taken me a while to realize that it’s possible to weather the storm, and to prosper despite it. Third year was yet again another test of my faith in myself, even when I felt like there was no path for me.

If I were to outline every ebb and flow of fourth year, I think my successors would have to edit a short novel. This school year has been full of lasts — and as the time between now and graduation grows shorter, I am faced with reconciling my time here on Grounds with the reality of my future. Did I take every class I wanted to? Should I have gone to more University events? Was the work I did here meaningful? 

Maybe I should have taken a yoga class or seen a theatre performance, but I do know that what I did here matters. It is so easy to slip into the mindset of undervaluing your work, whether it be you think what you produced is too small or that you could have done better. Coming into college, I thought in order to succeed, I had to reach perfection in every facet. Now, I believe success should be measured in how you respond to shortcomings. I am proud to be a waitlist student declined from Echols and Batten, who barely secured an internship two summers ago. These are the very things that led me to look within myself for validation and the motivation to keep going. Four years at the University have taught me what it means to make an impact despite setbacks.

I could not have gotten here without the support of my family — Mom, Dad, Ryan, Megan and Sarah — and those I call family now — Mary, Ashley, Stephanie, Nicolle and Katie. To my Co-Editor Shaleah, thank you for putting up with my antics, and to my writers, especially Nate, Naima, Dan and Songhan, I am so incredibly proud to have been a part of your journeys. 

The human experience is so fleeting — so pour love into everything you do and have faith in yourself. Failure does define you, but only in how you grow from it. 

Grace Duregger was an Opinion Editor for the 134th term of The Cavalier Daily, a senior associate editor for the 133rd term and an opinion columnist for the 132nd term.

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