In my last year of high school I was voted both Most Witty and Most Likely to Succeed. Even though I went to a small Texas high school, I never expected to be voted “most” anything. This is what we call a “self-esteem” issue, something never lacking from the high school experience (and something most of us spend our adult lives trying to prove wasn’t true about our high school selves).

I’m proud of the Most Witty moniker, although I think I won that title because we didn’t have a category for Most Punny. In a small Texas high school, I’m not sure most people knew the difference, but I’m not complaining. It worked to my advantage. I could be witty on occasion, but I might also be saying that there wasn’t exactly a lot of competition, which sounds egotistical, but, then again, as an adult, I’m still trying to combat the self-esteem issues that plagued my high school self.

But I digress.

I’m most comfortable with holding the title Most Witty for the fact that it’s something I am, and not something I have to do.

Being noosed with Most Likely to Succeed is like lugging an albatross to every job interview, new relationship, or writing endeavor. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not an overpowering obsession – This must succeed or else! – but it’s always there, in the backpages of the yearbook of my mind, leaving me notes like Better luck next year!

As an above-average student, I was never allowed to envision a future in which I didn’t succeed at everything I attempted. (God bless my mom!) In some ways, this helped me. It gave me a confidence in my abilities that should have otherwise been sorely lacking, given my self-assessed status of band geek, classic-book lover, introvert, and wannabe writer. Despite those “flaws,” I tackled obstacles in my paths, both academic and professional, like a linebacker bent on making the state championships.

Then I met a girl, got married, and settled down. I was content. I was happy. I was as successful as I thought I could be. I could tell myself, confidently, that I’d finally fulfilled the destiny prophesied by my senior class.

Then the things I had built my life around began to fall, one by one, like band geeks tripping over themselves at halftime. But instead of it being a forgotten event a week later, or a laughable anecdote at a ten year reunion, this experience left lasting scars. The healing would take years. Will take years.

This is not the life I had envisioned. Not in the least.
I’d truly and spectacularly succeeded now, at failing.

Self-esteem? Gone.
Hope? Dead.
Love? As if.
Most Likely to Succeed?
Only if Bob Dylan was right: “There’s no success like failure, and failure’s no success at all.

In counseling and DivorceCare, I heard it wasn’t uncommon for the newly divorced to feel as if they were going through puberty for a second time. In the aftermath of this devastating year, I became my high school self. My voice started cracking (through the strain of unexpected emotion). I started reading again. And drumming. And writing. And praying. And remembering how ardently I used to try to love God. Doing the things I used to do, for no other reason than the joy they brought me. I started to become serious about the man I’d always wanted to be, the man I’m afraid I always should have been.

In this renewal, I became keenly aware of my shortcomings and faults and failures, and it wasn’t until now, with an abundance of time to simply think, that I could own these failures and take responsibility for them. With God’s help, I grow gradually prouder of the man in the mirror these days. In light of what I consider a colossal failure, I’m learning to lean on this verse in a way I never had before:

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses…” (2 Cor. 12:9, ESV)

I’m proud to be Most Likely to Succeed now. It’s either still out there waiting for me, giving me something or someone to look forward to (hope/love), or I’m learning what it means to be content in all circumstances (faith). In my dictionary, making those three words a part of my daily life defines success.

Whatever the case may be, I’m still Most Witty, and have been successful at that for most of my strife… er… life.

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