After 12 years of being in school, I finally came face to face with my biggest fear: failure.

Not being able to graduate with my high school class was a really hard struggle for me. I had worked so hard the last four years to make sure I had all the requirements I needed to make sure I would graduate on time. I didn’t want to take the easy road my last year, so I challenged myself and took the more challenging math class.

I wanted to leave high school proud of myself, knowing that I did not take the easy road. Unfortunately, that math class was not only the first class I had failed, but it would stop me from graduating on time.

Being involved in sports for most of my childhood, I had always been told “failure is never an option.” I always feared failure. I worried that if I failed at something, I would be a disappointment to my family, or I would never be able to succeed at anything ever again. That might seem like an overreaction of a young girl, and maybe it was, but that was the mentality that I grew up with.

I felt like a failure. I had never felt more disappointed with myself. I thought that I hadn’t only disappointed myself, but disappointed my family as well. I saw friends that I attended school with since kindergarten receive their diplomas; I saw people I knew couldn’t care less about school and did the bare minimum walk across that stage.

“Failure is never an option,” kept running through my mind. I couldn’t believe that, after so much hard work, I would fail. I was actually now a failure.

It took me a while after completing summer school and graduating to get over the feeling of believing I was a failure. I was able to realize what my coaches meant by “failure is never an option,” or I at least made my own interpretation of it.

I learned that each of us determine what failure is. For so long, I thought that failing was when you do not succeed the first time at what you are trying to accomplish. I have learned that it is OK to not succeed sometimes, and that doesn’t mean you have failed. I believe that failing means that when you don’t succeed at something, you give up and don’t try again.

Some people will say that if you don’t succeed at something when you have tried more than once, then you have failed. I believe the opposite; you are actually succeeding because you have not given up when others have.

Do not let others define what makes you a failure or a success. I have spent too much of my life thinking that I had disappointed my family and myself because I had failed at something. Don’t allow yourself to believe that you are a failure when all you are doing is succeeding at not giving up.

If you fall down, it’s OK. If it seems like it is too hard to get back up, then stop for a moment, breathe and make sure you get back up.

It may have taken me a few years to realize it, but I can now say that I am not a failure. I may have not succeeded at something the first time, but I did not give up. I do not fear the words I have been told countless times growing up anymore. In fact, I live by those five words: “Failure is never an option.”