“Sorry, you were not admitted to our school,” the emotionless words on the computer screen reflected blankly back at my numb face. About three years ago, I sat in front of the desk in my room with my heart pounding, gazing at the computer with my parents behind me. As those words slowly began to sink in, I felt the air being punched out of me. All hope immediately evaporated. They say the first time is the hardest - but this devastating despair I felt was beyond my imagination. I had failed to get admitted to Cheongshim International Middle School, the most prestigious boarding school in Korea which I had desperately strived to reach for years. “Failure is the mother of success” was a cliche I had always seen as a lazy excuse for failure, but I was determined to overcome this one by making the quote meaningful to me.
When I was 10 years old, my English teacher recommended that I apply for Cheongshim International Middle School. His reasoning was the “exceptional English skills” that I had developed during my three years in the U.K. After discussing it with my parents, we decided to listen to my teacher’s advice. From that day on, even as a young and innocent elementary school student, I was abnormally passionate compared to my peers. At an age when most kids go out and play, I was focused on maintaining outstanding grades. The temptation to hang out with my friends was the most difficult to endure. While my peers enjoyed their time playing computer games and hanging out in the playground on their bikes in the gorgeous weather, I refined my resume and digested books to broaden my knowledge in preparation for the interview. Yet I was able to overcome this hardship because I possessed a steady and definite life goal.
However, despite my seemingly painstaking efforts, the outcome turned out to be unpleasantly surprising. My parents turned away and pretended to be indifferent after viewing the result. Little did I know that they were almost as shocked and depressed as me. I was too young. I couldn’t understand the reason behind my failure at that time; I merely focused on the disheartening emotions that swirled inside my mind. Only after three years, when I matured enough, could I reflect back and comprehend that the problem was in the amount and quality of effort I had made. The problem was that it was more of my parents and teachers who made me artificially set up for applying, although at that time I thought I had actually worked really hard. I pretended to write my resume with all my effort to meet my parents’ expectations, but in fact I sat in my room with the door closed, texting all day and daydreaming, and sometimes even secretly sneaked out of the house without my parents knowing to meet my friends in desperate need for freedom and joy. These distractions continued to hinder my determination, wavering my thoughts away from the single goal that I was supposed to concentrate fully on. Compared to three years later when I prepared for Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies, another elite boarding highschool, I was deeply submerged in subterfuge and dissimulation. I knew I had to change, and I was determined to become a new person.
Still struggling to escape from the shock of the failure, I started middle school in a daze, as if I were dreaming. But it didn’t take long for me to wake up from that dream when HAFS appeared. My parents and I had decided to face another challenge by once more applying to a selective school. Yet this time, everything changed. I started to study not for my parents but for my own self, and gradually took in the importance of my task. I was elected school president, founded an English debate student club, became the concert master for a philharmonic orchestra, and pushed myself to the limits on every test. The new and hopeful goal was the pumping engine that motivated me to really “seize the day” and bring the most out of myself. In the end, this tremendous change emerged as the lesson I learned through my earlier failure three years before.
“Congratulations! You were admitted into HAFS!,” the jubilant words on the screen reflected back at my numb face. However this time, my face was numb with pleasant bewilderment as my ears were filled with music. My chest swelled with pride and excitement as I began to imagine the countless opportunities awaiting me. And it was then that I truly realized cliches have been around not to be used for lazy excuses, but for people to figure out the deep meaning buried underneath the words. Although three years was a short time, the many ups and downs in my rollercoaster life over that period taught me a valuable lesson: attitude and diligence can and will change the outcomes. Whether those outcomes turn out to be positive or negative is up to you. Failure, indeed, can be the mother of success.