Story Time: When I was a Failure

I have never been on a roller coaster before. From the little kid that I was to the half-ass grown man I am today, I’ve never felt the urge to risk my life and all that belongs to me physically and mentally within the confines of a small mechanical cart travelling on a set of flimsy metal rails while it goes up and down in varying elevations and twisting and turning in all sorts of directions.

Unless — maybe I’ve been on a roller coaster before. Experiencing the anticipated slow creeping to the top of a peak or accelerating down to the bottom at a traumatizing speed with no hope in return to glory. Taking in the exhilaration of a cruise through a short flat section  and appreciating the ride for just one brief moment until you get overturned by a sharp twist giving you moments of unimaginable hell.

If any of you out there are human, then you would be very familiar with what this particular roller coaster is called – Life. The same way that all humans have different and unique fingerprints, I find it equally interesting and amazing that all of us live through a life on a unique set of tracks. Whether some of us have easier rides than others or have more thrilling ones than the rest, the universal truth behind all roller coaster rides is that no matter how you get up, you’ll have to come back down… where 99% of the time you’ll find yourself coming down faster and lower than when you started.


In the months between January 2015 and May 2015, I truly believed that at one point in my life things were going to be so bad that I thought I would never be able to return to where I was. But it didn’t start that way. Leading up to those months, life was OK. I had short term and long term goals that I worked towards and consistently saw results that led me closer to achieving the best version of myself.

(DISCLAIMER: I realize everyone lives a different life, therefore we have different perspectives. Some people like apples, some don’t. Please read with an open mind.)

I was also starting my third year of Mechanical Engineering in September of last year. It was this year that engineering students like me would start to consider whether or not they wanted to apply to different engineering positions with various employers to gain valuable knowledge (and of course, some $$) through our internship program. Given that I had a summer position the previous year in a engineering role, I was very certain I was going to secure an internship even with the immense competition and the eventual downfall of our Alberta economy.

Now I don’t know how most people would value having an internship during their educational careers, but what I do know is how much I value having one. It’s way beyond learning some engineering tools and having a number in my bank account. For me, the single reason why I wanted to have an internship was for my family. It meant everything for me to get one for them. No questions asked. From the moment in time I realized I was at the age where I fully knew and understood the situation I was born into, every choice I made, every action I took, every thought I pondered about was always for my mother, father and brother. An internship represented a milestone that would bring me a hell of a lot closer towards my own perception of success.

I had my first interview in early January right after the holidays. In fact, I had three interviews within two weeks. My initial thought was: “I’m going to nail these interviews down, all three are going to give me offers and I’ll be able to choose who I wanted to work for”. Three weeks later, I had seen no calls, no e-mails. Nothing. It was heartbreaking. I had three incredible chances to work with great companies and they all fell through.

This is where shit really hit the fan. For the next five months, I kept getting interviews left and right. All in all, I think I honestly had about 20+. But all of them ended with the same result: nothing. It was unbelievable to think with all those opportunities to progress myself forward, it only took me back further. I started to question a lot of things. What am I doing wrong? Why don’t they want me? Am I fit to be an engineer? All of these questions and self-blame translated into a period of sadness and hopelessness.

The one thing I never did was give up. I knew I had until the end of August to find a job, therefore it meant there was a blip of a chance to still get an internship or else I would have to continue onto school. By late march, it wasn’t even about the internship anymore. It was about overcoming this huge obstacle that was preventing me from achieving what I wanted to achieve. This is where music helped me get through this challenge.

I listen to music on all occasions. Whether I’m happy, excited, anxious sad, angry, lonely, … you name it. I don’t think I could tell you in words how listening to the words of various artisrs have impacted the world around me. It’s like therapy to me. I use the power of music to help bring me back to life and realize the reality of any situation that I’m in. Through all my interviews and other activities that were going on around that time, it was turning on my iPod and scrolling through songs that meant the most to me and brought me the greatest memories.

Before every interview I had, I would always arrive a little earlier and stay in the lobby. Right before it was time to go up in the elevator, I would always play “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” by Kanye West. I would listen through the entire track to allow myself to collect all my thoughts and bring forth the energy I needed. Imagine an anxious 20-year old, dressed in low-budget suit topped off with a tight-around-the-neck tie trying to rock out to some Kanye West in a professional environment. But I didn’t give a shit. In that situation all that really mattered for me was myself, and that’s what the song is all about. It served as a reminder to me that if I wanted to get something done, I had to block all the negative energy and just go for it.


All in all, I was finally able to get an engineering position in mid-June. Of course I was absoutely stoked about it, but was by far the most mentally consuming period in my life and it taught me a whole lot about myself. I would have never imagined that it would’ve been that difficult for me. The support of my family and friends and the out-reach to music really helped me get through this humbling experience. I really do believe that the analogy of a roller coaster applies to life. I think the evolution of ourselves is dependent on us experiencing the downs to appreciate the ups and respecting the nature of a balance between the two. The experience of going through that is something I’ll never forget, and the one memory that stands out against the rest is when my mom found out and gave me the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on her face.

– Raymond

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