The Panda Blog

Attempts at understanding life

Moving On and Looking Ahead

Sorry, I apologize for the lame post yesterday. Even though I had plenty of time, I wasn’t really feeling at the top of my game. I’ve been able to shake off some of my lethargy due to the competition yesterday by being semi-productive today. Thus, this post should be kind of a self-reflection and motivation speech.

I failedI failedHow could I have done so badly? Where did all of my preparation go? What am I even doing with my life?
Along with a sense of numbing despair, these were the thoughts that were running through my mind yesterday as the coordinators of my competition called up the top 16 places. My name was not among them. Of my team of 4 people, I was the only one that was not called up, even though I had consistently scored higher than at least one of them in the past (no offense to any of you guys). Worse, there were several others there that I had gotten to know through the internet, and developed a friendly rivalry with them, at the competition. Almost all of them were called up. My dreams of standing up there on the stage as one of the top 4 competitors were forever slashed.
In retrospect, I was being really egocentric at the time. Why should I be up there? What have I done to deserve being called up? While I did not do well according my own standards, there are many others that would have loved to be in my place, including those that have dreamed to even be at the competition. After my initial shock had worn off, I worried that my dismal performance that day had brought down my team too. Luckily, we still ended up winning 1st place, since the other three members of my team got 1st, 2nd, and 9th place. My rank? Well, let’s just leave it at the fact that it was >16.
Afterward the competition, I really felt bad, but in a weird way. Although I didn’t experience any especially extreme emotions, I really felt like I didn’t do so well without actually feeling anything. Maybe it was just so much of a shock to me, or maybe I really wasn’t expecting much in the first place, but I was logically disappointed in myself yet emotionally fine.
By now, I’m almost completely over my depressing performance yesterday, but I still feel very guilty about the team portion of the contest. While the other 3 members of my team received some of the highest accolades possible, I was there at the tail end of the group, the weak link, the dead weight. This wasn’t a matter of my overall skill, I had just somehow overly under-performed. Thankfully, the stellar achievements of my teammates kept the total team rank up there. I felt very undeserving of the first place trophy I held in my hand while standing on stage with them, so I ended up wearing a weird expression while everyone else was smiling for pictures. So, in addition to almost failing the team, I ruined all of their team pictures at the competition. (Sorry AKA, if you guys are reading this)
But this post isn’t about me wallowing in the depths of my failure. It’s about what comes after this, what is next in life.
Everyone will experience defeats and misfortunes, no one can get through life unscathed. The important thing to do with these incidents isn’t to remember them forever as the one thing you failed at, or, on the other side of the spectrum, completely forget about it and pretend it never happen. What we should do is to absorb and learn from our ordeals, so we may become better in the future.
I’ve subtitled my blog “Attempts at understand life”, and even though I don’t believe life can be summarized in a simply sentence, or even a whole collection of posts, I do think that one major part of life is to learn and grow. The time I have in this body is limited, so I wish to make the best of this life. I want to be the best person I can be, and I can’t get better without making, and perhaps more importantly, learning, from mistakes.
I try to make that a mantra I repeat in my head after something goes wrong in my life. Yesterday though, I just didn’t feel enough to think about what I can do next in life. I just went mindlessly about in the rest of my day, not really processing what I was actually doing and just completing most of my mundane tasks. Until I received the following message (partially cropped) from chezbgone2, someone who is infinitely (more accurately, an uncountable infinity) better at math than I am and someone who I admire and look up to a great deal (things in brackets are my own thoughts):
…I just want you to know that even though you think you failed [0.o how did he know], I’m still really proud of you. You worked hard this year [maybe not as hard as I should have…], and learned a lot, and even though you didn’t make it, you had a lot of fun learning and preparing for this day…
…now that [the event] was a year ago for me [he’s a year older than me and competed last year], I realized that it doesn’t really matter now. You have so many opportunities ahead of you, and you should know that [the event] isn’t going to be important to you in a few years.
I didn’t share the whole message, but seriously, after I read it, I felt like I legitimately just woke up. I don’t know what makes this message so special, but it really struck a chord inside me and inspired me. Somehow.
I received another message shortly after the one above from someone else that I can describe in a similar way as chez:
In all honesty I felt the same way last year that you feel now, [she did better, yet in a way, worse, then almost everyone else] but after one year [the competition] is stupid. But like you look back and everyone’s like why did I care so much?
After I read this message, I went back to something else another close friend of mine, who wishes to be referred to as Twilight Rain, wrote for me earlier in the day:
Math isn’t about competitions. You [expletive deleted] adore math. Like, if you don’t, I’d be really surprised.
And that’s as important as whether you do well in these competitions. You’re voracious with your learning [not sure about this], you’re dedicated [or this either], you screwed up in one competition.
You can be a gaga. [proceeds to explain how she fell and got back up again] It’s going to be alright, love [just what he says :P] – cheer up, lift your head up high. Be ready for the next competition – I believe in you.

(At the time he first sent it, I wasn’t really functioning so I didn’t read it very closely.)

I’m so lucky to have so many supportive friends that are there to pick me up when I fall, even when I don’t know it. Thank you.

Life is too short, too valuable, to waste on brooding on things that don’t go my way. It’s time to get up and look forward.

Don’t let your setbacks become the pain of your past, make them the fire that guides your future.

Thanks for reading,

7 comments on “Moving On and Looking Ahead

  1. amburger
    March 9, 2015

    dang…..with you reflecting on what has happened and looking ahead, this is far from being a failure (i mean, come on, you made states! :D) as your friends have said, it’s not about the competitions. deep down, each of us mathletes should hopefully find that our motivation to compete comes from the fun of learning things, the thrill of tackling each problem, and the joy of winning – when we find each solution.
    can i just mention that i also “failed” state? apparently i could achieve top 16 in 7th grade but not in 8th. i don’t care anymore 😛
    and oh, the writing is fabulous (but this comes from someone who can’t english xD). the last sentence is my favorite. 🙂


  2. Allen Chen
    March 10, 2015

    Royal, its fine. The actual competition doesn’t change much in the world, but your experience as a competitor, especially if you use it as a learning experience, will benefit you forever. I know ur really mad at urself cuz u think you were horrible but truthfully, it doesn’t matter. Don’t beat yourself up because of your “failure”, just look forward to the next competition, contest, anything really *cough* JHMC. When “someone” beat me, I was disappointed, u could probably tell. But I looked to the Countdown because I needed to move on. Your thoughts are probably along the lines of “I suck”, “I should’ve been better”, etc. Don’t. Look forward to your next opportunity. (someone has to tell my parents that).
    Don’t dwell on the past. LIke you said, go to the future. I hope you stay the positive influence that you already are. Don’t let one average outing be the reason you miss your time to shine.


  3. Howie Guo
    March 10, 2015

    You basically did what I did last year. I scored lower than our alternate and was 17th. Good luck on AIME


  4. Ria Jha
    March 11, 2015

    Sometimes it’s better to be a contender rather than be a champion. You learn more from failure than you learn from success. No need to feel super depressed.


  5. Max
    April 8, 2015


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This entry was posted on March 9, 2015 by in Analysis and tagged , .
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