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A couple of years ago, I applied to a rigorous academic summer program with very high hopes of attending. I put a tremendous amount of effort into the application, only to later discover that I hadn’t been selected for it. 

Needless to say, I was crushed. I felt like an absolute failure and began to doubt my intelligence. It didn’t help that I was struggling in school with friends and academics. When I was rejected from the program I so desperately wanted to be a part of, it felt like the universe was kicking me while I was down. 

Thankfully, things took an upwards turn toward the end of the school year. I was accepted into another incredible academic summer program, school became far less stressful, and the problems I was having with friends completely vanished. Overall, things were looking good. I couldn’t help but think that all of my previous hardships had led to these successes and that these failures had happened for a reason.

 “Everything happens for a reason.” This was the phrase I turned to every time I overcame an obstacle in my life. I heard it from my friends, my parents, and from various inspiring social media accounts (which were obviously impossible to argue with). It all made sense; the universe meant for these things to happen, such that I would eventually succeed. Right?

It was only recently that I realized the universe didn’t actually care about my actions and that all of those events just happened; they did not have a reason. I was not “meant” to get rejected from the summer program I had initially applied for––the fact is, I just didn’t get in.

Although our actions are a consequence of a previous doing, humans tend to rationalize their hardships by believing that they were a sign from the universe. What we don’t notice is that we often pick and choose the events that we apply this to. For example, as a woman of South Asian heritage, I can assure you that nothing good ever came from being ashamed of my culture. It led to many insecurities and I struggled for years with accepting my identity. 

Moreover, if everything does happen for a reason, what is the reason for homicide, homelessness, genocide, diseases, and hundreds of other unforgivable issues which are the reality for millions of people everywhere?

We take this phrase and apply it to the failures and difficulties that we surmount, but what I hope for people to recognize, is that the universe doesn’t make us fail purposely such that we succeed at something else––we succeed because we use our current circumstances to make the best out of the situation. When I wasn’t accepted into the program of my choice, I made the best of the situation by working hard and applying to another program. I wasn’t destined to fail––I failed, and I rose above it.

The next time you do fail, remember that you are in control of your life, and that the decisions you make have the power to create a positive outcome. When you succeed, don’t dwell upon how the universe purposely failed you in the past. Instead, take pride in learning from your downfalls and prospering despite them.

Side note: I’d like to mention that if you do believe in the universe controlling your fate, I’m in no way judging you for your beliefs. If that’s what motivates you and gives you comfort, go ahead and continue to stand by it. My goal was to offer a different perspective and show that we may be more in control of our lives than we believe.

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A 19-year-old university student who is passionate about global issues, self-growth, and awareness.
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