First, Sketchbook

2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

I gasped when I peeked into Christine’s sketchbook, a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors and eye-popping characters. Hoping to see more of her drawings, I eagerly tried to befriend her. Although Christine covered her sketchbook at first, she slowly let her guard down and opened it.

As we became closer, we would sit at our circular table in the cafeteria and talk about our common interests: drawing and social justice. Passionately identifying the micro-aggressions around us, she often asked for my view. I felt naturally indignant about those injustices, yet too shy and immature to express my opinion. Frustrated, I joined the speech and debate team to keep up with Christine. I competed as an expository orator to better articulate my ideas and a Lincoln-Douglas debater to polish my arguments.

Heavily involved in debate, I spent less time at our circular table with Christine. Although we were still friends, I only heard snippets of her life. So when I heard about her decision to forgo college, I was astonished. Knowing her potential, I was convinced that without a degree, her artistic talent would go unseen in this materialistic world. I needed her to go to college. I returned to the circular table. Surprised, Christine immediately introduced me to her post-graduation plan of working on her web-comic. She reached for her sketchbook, only to gasp when I shoved it aside. Understanding both Lincoln-Douglas and her character well, I bombarded her with preemptive arguments regarding the importance of college.

Had there been a judge sitting in front of me, no doubt that I would have won this debate; except there were no ballots, only a girl who cowered back to clutch her sketchbook.

Indulging in the echoes of my eloquence and naively expecting a token of appreciation, I barely noticed when Christine took her sketchbook and left without a word. Since then, she has scarcely updated her art blog or talked to me. I couldn’t believe that what she pushed me into, debate, was the very thing that pushed her away from me. But how? After all, everything I said was in her best interests… Or was it? I tried to apologize, but I was the inarticulate one this time. Even now, her sketchbook remained closed to me.

Debate had taught me that there was little to fear if my message was clear and selfless. But communications were not like debates. Under a condescending assumption, I arbitrarily told Christine how to live her life. In fact, I hardly listened to her feelings because I was too busy feeding my voracious ego and arguing for the satisfaction of arguing, instead of for Christine’s future. Ignoring her feelings, I misinterpreted debate as a panacea to communicate with a dear friend.

Now, sitting at our empty circular table, I regret not listening. I hope to never lose friends like that again. Since then, I have switched my style from attack to exchange in Lincoln-Douglas debate. I felt calmer and more confident once I stopped worrying about not being the skilled one. As a result, I found fresher perspectives of the subject-matter and articulated my ideas clearer.

I used to enjoy showing off my clever yet impractical methods to the students I tutored. Now I try to withhold judgement, patiently observe how they approach the problems, and then kindly point out potential mistakes. We currently work together to correct fundamental misconceptions we originally overlooked.

What my stressed out friends need most is not a bombastic preacher, but a firm shoulder to lean on. So, when they come for consolation, instead of forcing my opinions on them, I appreciate their trust and respond with unconditional positive regard while listening.

Now, I would prefer to be kind rather than right in communications. Unlike speech and debate, my aptitude for speech is useless until I looked at other people’s sketchbook first.

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