Austrian Adventures: joy in falling

By Eleanor O’Hagan

Since arriving in Austria, I’ve climbed quite a bit, and not just to reach my dorm room. From church steps, to wandering towns, from hikes to train platforms, I have climbed a lot!

And in each place, at least two to three times a day, I will trip, slip or simply lose my balance and fall on my face.

It must be quite something to watch; I myself find it quite amusing and use it as a time to practice humility.

And it’s not just physical falls. There have been quite a few trips in life at the Kartause.

I first started writing this piece after a particularly amusing stumble I had one morning while coming down a steep hill behind the Kartause. What started as a little realization that I will still be accident prone in Austria soon turned into a very unhappy reality.

Classes began to pile up, my schedule got all jumbled and travel plans fell through. Needless to say, these stumbles in the road were very discouraging and at times humiliating.

“Oh well,” I thought, “it happens.”

But God apparently doesn’t want me to simply shrug it off.

Something you will hear often about spending a semester in Austria is that you will grow.

After only three weeks I can fully agree with this claim, but it’s not just through the incredible trips and experiences that I have grown. On the contrary, I have found that it is in the failure and the falls that I have grown the most.

When something goes wrong, there are two ways to look at it. One way would be to raise your hands in defeat and accept that we are not yet in paradise and life on earth can really stink sometimes.

Or, you can look at the disappointment and learn from it a more positive way of thinking.

If God had wanted us to learn only through success, then I would never know that I can sprint across five train platforms in one minute, or that sometimes Google maps is wrong and I’m right in trusting my gut on how to get from point A to point B.

Failure can be disappointing or even scary, as in the case of missing a bus or being locked out of your Airbnb at 11 p.m.

While these situations are far from “having fun,” they are a perfect opportunity to look for joy even in hardships.

If there was one thing I’ve grown in so far, it would be growth in the ability to still find joy in failing and falling. While it is tempting to become discouraged and beat myself up, it’s not as fun and is a less meaningful learning experience.

So, whether you are trying to get through your first semester on campus, senioritis or just another day, I recommend trying to laugh and find joy in your falls.

This is not something you do because it is funny or you are trying to make a joke of yourself, but because the Lord is truly trying to get your attention. He wants you to try another way, to learn and to grow, and that is something to be joyful about.