How Contributing to Flipping Failure Impacted Me

portrait of woman in magenta shirt

Many times as a student at MIT (and quite frankly, in life) I often felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I changed my major three times, and didn’t really have a direction I wanted to walk towards. Even after I had settled on a major, I was still reluctant to admit my struggle because it seemed like everyone around me had long ago decided what they were going to do, and the curious questions my story elicited made me feel like maybe I shouldn’t have even had this problem in the first place.

Then, during my senior year at MIT, I learned about the Flipping Failure series, a campus-wide initiative for students to share stories about struggles they have faced at MIT. It featured a series of interactive storytelling workshops during IAP to help students tell this story. When I heard about this, I knew I wanted to participate. I wanted to help any students who might be facing a similar problem as I was three years ago, and my story of choosing a major is not an uncommon one among undergraduates. More deeply, it is really a story about the indecision we feel when faced with seemingly big life choices and the tendency to compare ourselves to peers. 

But contributing to Flipping Failure impacted me in another way I couldn’t have imagined: it helped me come to terms with my story. Though I felt unsure about sharing my story for everyone to see, especially because it was an experience I felt insecure about for so long, refining my story and actually saying it out loud helped me face my past self with intention. By telling my story, I chose to own it. I faced these struggles, but I made it out to the other side and learned a valuable lesson from it. 

Still, just because we overcome our struggles doesn’t mean we have vanquished them forever; I sometimes still face the same insecurities I mentioned in my story. It’s easy to take this as a sad thing, that just because we defeated our struggles once doesn’t mean they will be gone forever. But our growth is often not linear. We may think we have climbed the mountain, but sometimes we’ll still be brought down by a cold wind. Maybe we need to climb a little slower, but when we look back we realize how far we have come and how the experiences we had laid the foundation for us to get here in the first place. Making it as far up the mountain as we have reminds us that we can do it again. 

Listening to my fellow students’ stories also made me realize that none of us are ever as alone as we think. Some people are just better at hiding it, because who would want to openly admit that they don’t have it together? I know I certainly don’t. But initiatives like Flipping Failure encourage us to be more vulnerable with sharing our stories and realize that it’s okay to do so. I hope that this can help us continue to make it more common to talk to others about the things we’re struggling with, and reach out to others for support. People are often more willing to help us than we expect - plus, it’s more fun to climb the mountain with others by our side anyway.