On and Off Campus Blog: Persisting after failure

January 3, 2024

By Caroline Dudzinski ‘26

It was expected that when I was 14 I would get a summer job. My first summer job was an
unexciting desk job, and I was waiting to turn 15 to become a lifeguard. When my mother was a
teenager, she was a lifeguard and told me stories of donning the red uniform to guard the waters. As a competitive swimmer, I knew I was a strong candidate.

Once I turned fifteen, my mother signed me up for an all-weekend lifeguard certification class.
Before the in-water training, I completed seven hours of online class and passed the exam. I was
confident going into the in-water portion, but my confidence turned to trepidation when I saw
that most of the other attendees were college students whereas I was a high school freshman.

During the final in-water test, I let my nerves get the best of me, and I floundered and failed. I
was devastated and embarrassed. As I cried in the pool shower, I vowed to forget about
lifeguarding. The next weekend I found a position as a gift shop cashier; however, I could not get
something out of my head. I am not someone who quits, and that is what it felt like I was doing.

I decided I needed to take the course again to prove to myself I could do it. I knew I would have
regrets if I did not. Two weeks later, I was back in the pool at the lifeguard certification class, not
thinking of my past failure but focusing on the goal at hand. My nerves settled, and, with hard
work and concentration, I passed. The first day I worked as a lifeguard, I felt so proud as I sat
high above the beach in my red uniform because I had persisted after failing.

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