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2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
The Match-Deciding Goal
As I watched the football bounce off of my head and sink into the goal, my heart followed suit.
It was almost the end of the first half. Neither side had scored yet. This was the semi-final game of the last inter-school tournament of the year. Insignificant to most spectators - most significant to those they spectated. For every player on the field, it was our last chance to prove ourselves . It all came down to this moment. This was it.
I held my head high, sporting my usual calm. As the center-back and captain, I was the backbone of the team. A sudden interception, a swift turn, an ankle-twist later, I saw the ball lobbed high into the air. I locked onto it whilst jostling with the opposing team's striker. It bobbed and weaved in the air, inching nearer and nearer. It's trajectory suggested that it was going to go over my head. Regardless, with gritted teeth and stubborn pride, I leaped - instantaneous regret searing through me like Icarus' wings burning in the sun's flames - I rose too high and was about to come crashing down. The jump was mistimed and I felt the ball strike the top of my head. I turned around desperately, almost as if to turn the clock backwards. I made it just in time to see it float over our keeper. The referee's whistle screeched- it was an own goal.
Except, the story doesn't just end with me single-handedly crushing our chances at the tournament- although I did end up doing that.
The team huddled, field silent, air dense- like a packed mosque on a warm friday afternoon. Coach spat out instructions but my teammates looked on blankly. Their energy and spirits drained. Could I blame them? 1-0 down at half time due to an own goal by their so-called reliable captain. My friends avoided bringing it up - their sympathy must have been holding them back. I stared at my shoes the entire time. I felt like I had failed my team. But something had to be done. We didn't stand a chance with the team's morale being this low.
"Dost, are you sure you don't want to swap positions? I'm clearly doing a better job at scoring headers", I said to our striker with a cheeky grin. That snide comment earned me a few colorful names and slaps on my back. But I could not help but notice the smile tugging at the corner of my teammates' lips. That's all I needed. The atmosphere lightened. It was like that first breath of fresh air after leaving the mosque. We could give our all now.
I wish I could say that this rather dramatic rendition of my highschool tournament ended with our triumphant victory, but reality isn't that kind. I did, however, discover something about myself that would end up better equipping me for this not-so-kind reality. I realised that I could take whatever dismal situation life threw at me and swing back at it with my own twist.
What I learnt that day on the field is that we can't always control how things play out and sometimes they happen exactly opposite to how one hopes. However, we can control how we respond to these challenges. As for me, an unwavering smile and a touch of optimism does the job.