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"I went floating down the Clark Fork River at night and got attacked by beavers."

D'oh.

So is this one: "In my junior year of high school, we had a bunch of guests come to my physics class. Many of them were wearing college sweatshirts. Thinking they were in college, I started hitting on a couple of the female guests.

"Turns out, they were 8th graders."

Oops.

This month, the University of Montana's Curry Health Center is putting on a project called "Best Fail Ever" to raise awareness about the importance of failure and resiliency.

Wednesday, wellness director Linda Green and graduate assistant Amy Thompson posted a graffiti board in the Lommasson Center to solicit students' and others' stories of mistakes. The boards are making their way around campus this week.

In a 2016 health assessment, an estimated 61 percent of UM students reported feeling anxiety, and 87 percent reported feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities, according to Curry Health Center.

"Successful students aren't the ones who do everything perfectly," Green said in a statement. "Successful students are the ones who ask for help when they are struggling."

On the board, writers shared experiences about staying in abusive relationships, turning in poorly written homework, and failures on the job.

"I dropped mashed potatoes onto a customer's hair while serving at an expensive restaurant."

Uh-oh.

"My car's radiator literally blew up on a first date ... when she was in the vehicle."

Well, you can kiss that one goodbye.

Tiffany White, a freshman from Minnesota, said early on in the school year, someone kicked her while she was down, and she didn't fight back. She noted the failure on the board as a reminder to herself to stand strong in the future.

"I regret not standing up for myself," said White, in the wildlife biology program.

In exchange for their stories, participants could help themselves to a notebook, stress ball or tissue packets – failure can make you weep, after all.

"A lot of students think they're supposed to do everything right all the time," Green said.

The exhibit gives people a chance to examine what they might gain from experiences that don't go as planned, she said. It also reminds students that counselors at Curry are able to help, as is the Office for Student Success in the Lommasson Center.

"What happens when you fail? What does it do for you?" Green said. "You can quit. You can give up.

"Or you can learn from it."

***

Rhys McKinstry, who shared the story about accidentally flirting with middle school girls when he was an upperclassman in high school, laughed to himself as he read the handwritten stories on the board.

The geography major decided to share his story because he hoped it would fuel others to share theirs as well, and the result would be a large collage of fails for people to peruse.

"It's an embarrassing experience, but it's funny," McKinstry said of his own tale.

The graffiti boards will be set up in the Gallagher Business Building on Thursday. Then, from 8 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, the boards will be part of an art exhibit in the Real Good Art Space with Jack Metcalf and other artists at 1205 Defoe St. 

"An essential trait of an artist – or anyone in a creative field – is the ability to cope with rejection," Metcalf said in a statement. "If not, the individual would not have much longevity in their field."

To learn more, go to http://healthnut.umt.edu.

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University of Montana, higher education