It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is, without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite shows [seriously – I’ve seen every season about five times]. So, when I found out that Charlie Day, one of the show’s creators and main characters, gave a commencement speech at his alma matter, Merrimack, I had to read it. I wasn’t expecting much from the speech because when I think of Charlie Day, I think of his character on the show, Charlie Kelly, who is, well, an illiterate man in his 30s who is essentially a janitor and eats cat food and huffs paint to help him fall asleep.
What I took from the speech, though, was so much more – a lesson that was much needed, especially after receiving a couple of disappointing grades from this past spring semester.
“Do what’s uncomfortable and scary and hard but pays off in the long run. Be willing to fail. Let yourself fail. Fail in the way and place where you would be proud to fail. Fail and pick yourself up and fail again.” These few sentences really resonated with me, and couldn’t have come at a better time. Let me explain, this past semester I took tax law, a decision I regretted about, oh, one week into the class. The material was dense and difficult to under stand, and the final, oh that final. I walked out knowing that I didn’t do well. The grade I received in that class is the worst I have ever received in law school thus far – a B. I was extremely disappointed and beat myself up over it for days. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking “Sarah, a B is not a bad grade!” But, I had set very high standards for myself as soon as I received my acceptance letter, and care about grades much more than I did when I was in college. Reading Charlie’s speech made me think – a B is not the end of the world. Law school is incredibly challenging, and all I can do is pick myself up again, work harder, study more effectively, and be proud that I gave it all that I could.
“You don’t have to be fearless just don’t let fear stop you.” I had heard the horror stories of the socratic method prior to my first day of law school, how professors cold called and fired questions, seemingly in attempt to trip the student up on purpose. I thought, how bad could it be? I’ve given plenty of presentations in college, spoke before high level executives at work, and presented to large groups of people about digital marketing – stress always made me perform better, speak clearer.
My first year of law school was a rude awakening, I found myself afraid to speak up and absolutely terrified of being called on. In fact, I experienced my first real panic attack during my second semester, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I started to feel sick – I was hot, I felt faint, and my hands started shaking. To make things even worse, my contracts professor called on me and after I gave a brief answer, I went to the bathroom to splash water on my face, which didn’t help my situation. I stared at the clock, counting the minutes, and once class was over I put my head in my hands, and all of a sudden tears were streaming down my face. I tried to get up – but I couldn’t walk. Two of my friends sat with my as I tried to eat a few pretzels, and they carried my books for me as I walked down the hallway and into the elevator; I couldn’t manage taking the stairs one flight down. I have never felt so powerless, so helpless over my own body. After this experience I could have given up, have thought “well, maybe law school isn’t for me, maybe I just can’t take the pressure.” But I didn’t. I kept going, studied harder, and wound up receiving an honor for the best oral argument in one of my classes. I could have let the fear of getting called on, of getting up and arguing in front of a panel, stop me from achieving my goal of becoming an attorney. But I didn’t, and I sure as hell wasn’t always fearless.
My lesson in all of this? There will probably be people who are better than you at what you want to do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be great or make a difference – don’t ever let that discourage you. There will also be times when you will fail miserably and want to give up – don’t. You’re failures will pale in comparison to what you will achieve if you pick yourself up and try harder.