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An Unfailing Failure
When the poorest family in a rather unknown town produced a child, there was much talk amongst the people. Being that the town was quite small, the people there knew most nearly everything about their neighbors; this therefore, gave them sufficient reason to justify their thirst for rumors, as it provided them with what they deemed to be accurate and adequate information about the current state of affairs. At the birth of this child, whispers of “Is this family mad? They cannot possibly support a child when they cannot even feed themselves!” and “I felt sorry for the couple, but now I feel even worse for their son” echoed throughout the streets. The matter eventually, though fairly quickly, reached the ears of the mayor. The not-so-eloquent man paid the desolate family a visit; he was hesitant in doing so, and his awkward intrusion reflected the reluctance of his visit. The incentive of the visit was nothing more than for the mayor to comply with the townspeople’s urges. He himself found that this did not particularly concern him, for he did not want to associate himself with people of such class, though the publicity he foresaw persuaded him on his final course of action. He told them, in a more deceiving way, that he hoped for them to see the greater good: that ultimately, the best choice for them would be to give up their child to an orphanage. The couple was furious at the mayor’s proposal and refused, stating that their child was nothing short of their pride and joy. However, they knew that raising this child would create greater difficulties in their lives, and they realized that what they could not provide for him through his monetary needs would have to be overcome by their insurmountable love for him.
The boy’s insatiable desire to seek knowledge was not the sole perpetuator attributing to his success during his early years, for although he faced much adversity in his youth from other children, his parents always whole-heartedly advocated him through his endeavors. The children at his school often times rudely commented on his background and how his parents were too poor to buy him new clothes, for he wore the same outfit every day. If he was frustrated and mused upon violent retaliations, it surely did not reflect in his actions; the boy was far wittier than his peers, and proved his superiority in the classroom. He was consistently at the top of his class, but he never outwardly acknowledged it. Even so, the teachers, be it consciously or subconsciously, discriminated against him.
The boy let nothing deter him from his genuine appreciation for knowledge. Instead of spending his lunch money on food, he saved it up: a week’s worth of savings would be enough to buy a used book at the local bookstore. As this progressed for a duration of time, his health rapidly deteriorated, leading up to his unfortunate fainting at school while he was taking a test. When his parents were made aware of this fact and its cause, they wept bitterly with shame. Deeply perturbed by the event, the couple decided to cut their own meal portions in order to adequately provide for their son’s daily activities. When the boy saw his parents weeping, he misconstrued it as an implication that he had dishonored them, as he was not able to complete his test. His ignorance on this matter gave him a heavy heart, and forcibly motivated him to study harder. He vowed that this would be the last failure of his life.
As time progressed, the boy made remarkable progress in school. He was accepted into a top university in his country with a reasonable scholarship, and, with the small amount of wealth his parents accumulated over the years, he was able to attend. But a regrettable calamity fell upon the boy and his mother a few days before his departure, as the boy’s father passed away.
“Your father was very proud of you,” said the boy’s mother, as she accompanied him to the train station where they shared their last moments together.
“I have made you proud too, have I not?” asked the boy.
“You are what I am proud of,” replied the tearful mother. The boy kissed his mother goodbye, and with a last swift glance, boarded his train and left.
The loss of her husband, and now the departure of her son created a bittersweet sense of loneliness for the boy’s mother. She attempted to absolve this void through keeping herself busy, namely by occupying herself with a job at the local restaurant. Realizing that this was a monumental opportunity for her to earn a little bit more money, not only for herself, but also for her son, she worked extra long hours, often exhausting herself to the point that she would have to rest there for the night so that she could ready herself more swiftly the next day.
Every year, the boy’s mother would battle the harshest of winters to see her son on his birthday. She always brought with her a basket full of home-made delicacies, for she knew that this delighted the boy. Due to the distance that needed to be covered for this trip, she would travel many days and many nights – an increasingly difficult adventure for an aging woman, though she always would paint a smile on her face when she embraced her son.
A particular year shed a little luck on the mother, for the restaurant owner passed from an accident and willed the restaurant to the mother. Upon selling the restaurant, she immediately planned for a surprise visit for her son with the extra money. What she saw, however, was not a sight to be beheld. Her son was distressed, for he had no money to purchase his textbooks necessary for school.
“Do not worry, mother. I promise I will make you proud,” said the boy, not acknowledging his mother’s unplanned visit. “I will keep my promise.”
“But son, you are what I am proud of.”
Seeing the boy in such a state upset the old woman. She stayed with her son for a week, and while he attended his classes, she sat in his study, copying the textbooks word by word for him. This was no easy task for the old woman, for she was rather uneducated and had a hard time reading and writing, but she nonetheless worked day and night until she had transcribed all of the books her son needed. When she proudly displayed her pained work for the boy, he rebuked her and said, “Mother, to do such a thing is against the law! I cannot possibly use this. I cannot even read what you have written. What will people think of me if they see me studying from this?” The old woman, rather taken aback by his reprimands, saw that she was no longer of any use to him, and left early the next morning.
The boy’s success in his education grew, as he soon graduated at the top of his class. After a number of years of researching at the university, the boy was able to chart unknown grounds in his field of study in the sciences. The boy’s mother continually made her annual trips, and he began to understand her ever faithful love for him. Upon winning numerous scientific prizes and awards, he was able to buy his mother an apartment next to the university, so that she could visit him whenever she pleased.
“Mother, I have now made you proud,” he boasted.
“You are what I am proud of, son,” she replied.
His fame rose, and the boy was soon regarded as the most prestigious scientist in his country. Seeking further ambitions, he set out to be elected as the National Secretary of Energy. “I have yet to fail, and I shall not fall at this,” he thought to himself, as he communicated this goal to his mother. But his naivety blinded him. The boy’s soaring confidence only amplified the pain of his fall when he was not elected into his desired position. At first, he was unwilling to accept the truth, and when he finally realized that he had failed, he was unable to come to terms with the reality.
For months, he isolated himself out of pity and agony. He paced back and forth in his room, repeating “I have failed, I have failed.” His mother became very worried after trying to visit him time and time again, to no avail. She realized what must have happened, and wrote him a letter.
The boy, however, started having mental breakdowns. He resorted to self torture, as a response to his one failure. Seeing his mother's letter, he did not open it, but rather became more distressed. He feared that his mother wrote to chastise him, and that she would no longer want him as a son, now that he had once again dishonored her. The boy hid the letter in a clandestine drawer so that he would not have to bare eyes on it.
He began to obsess over his failure, analyzing the seemingly illogical reasoning behind it. The boy imprudently concluded that it must have been spite that led to his downfall. He believed the public must have been envious of his past success and wished him to fail. As he contemplated this, he conjured up ideas for his vindication. “People never fully appreciate what they have until they no longer have it,” he said. “They will forever regret the loss of their top researcher.”
On a particularly cold day, he went out in the blistering snow and laid down on the train tracks. Moments later, darkness. What he didn't know was that it was his birthday. What he didn't know was that his mother, now being financially stable because of the boy, baked him fifty cakes, one for each year of his life and placed it in front of his doorstep, moments after he had left. What he didn't know was the true meaning of his mother's repeated words.
When the government officials and university staff received the news of his devastating death, they mourned sincerely for a day. A speech was made, in which, the boy was addressed as "a bright lad, whom we shall miss dearly." The next day, all else resumed, as if the boy never existed.
But when the mother heard about her son committing suicide, she broke down and cried until she fainted. She was sent to the hospital immediately, and was pronounced dead three days later. Heart failure.
Some time later, after the boy's house was sold, the new owners stumbled across a dusty letter. The handwriting was nearly illegible, though it was evident that excruciating effort had been put into writing it. The letter read:
I understand that you are upset because you did not get the position you so desired. Please do not see this as a failure on your part. For these past ten or so years, you've made me proud every single moment. A failure is nothing more than a bump on the road, and you can change failures to successes by learning from them. Do not make this obstacle a true failure by letting yourself suffer from it. Son, I am always proud of what you do. You have succeeded at everything you’ve done, but even if you had not, I would be just as proud of you. What I am trying to say is this: I am proud that you are my son, because I love you, not because of what you've done, or what you plan to do. You will forever be my boy.
Your proud Mother