The Little Engine That Could Still Can
When a drop of water falls, gravity pulls that molecule quickly toward Earth’s surface until the tiny speck becomes one of the thousands that form a puddle. When a drop of water falls upon the windshield of a moving vehicle, it defies the norm and travels upward, far from the puddle its peers have all joined. This drop inches toward the roof, eventually evaporating, but not before leaving a trail of smaller droplets behind.
For some, life takes the same route as the windshield’s drop – they touch down at an accelerated rate, moving nowhere but upward, blazing a trail behind them. But for many, life is like landing in a puddle. Blending with the masses, these people fall to the ground, remaining stagnant. Many fall once and give up, but even rain drops get a second chance. Sooner or later, each drop evaporates, returning to where it once began, starting the cycle all over again with hopes of landing somewhere amazing the next time around.
We spend all our lives falling, literally and figuratively, but getting up again is the only way to stay standing on our own two feet. If we never fell, we’d never have a reason to pick ourselves back up again – we’d never learn how to make things right.
Defeat, harsh words and rejection are a part of daily life. We all cannot soar to new heights on our first attempt. Sometimes we just need to flap our wings feverishly and wait until the wind is right. But never should we let failure overpower the possibilities of success.
From a young age we are taught to believe in ourselves, an important lesson at a time in one’s life when individuality is not a blessing, but a burden. We learn that, despite what others may say or think, if we believe in something and try hard enough, we too can leave a trail of greatness behind. “The Little Engine That Could” is a classic children’s tale about a small locomotive asked to lead a long train over a tall mountain. Though small, he repeats the optimistic phrase “I think I can” and succeeds despite all odds.
Of course, as we grow older, the lessons of childhood are no longer as clear cut as they once seemed because the bitterness of reality sets in. We begin to notice that things don’t always happen the way we’d like them to work out and a hint of pessimism flavors every one of our decisions. But a wise man once warned that such thinking will lead us nowhere:
“All I ask of you in one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism – it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing thing will happen.” – Conan O’Brien
Having been dealt a serious blow, and as a notably popular figure amongst the younger generations, O’Brien’s brilliant speech given upon his departure from The Tonight Show sets a high bar for all those who have unexpected curveballs thrown their way. Acting out and showing disdain for those who have hurt you only breeds hatred. Instead, we must look at failures and setbacks as lessons and those who hurt us as the teachers who unknowingly put us on a new path to opportunity and exploration.
Those who hurt you and bruise your self-confidence are merely like tires running over the puddle, sending the collected drops splashing in all directions. Though your position may have been unfulfilling, at least the water was calm for a time. But this raucous interruption may just be a blessing in disguise, for you may just land somewhere unexpected – the place you were always meant to be in the first place.