The Influence of Winnie the Pooh on Me
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” — Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne
As a small child, I adored Winnie the Pooh, a plump yellow bear with a fondness for red crop tops. Pooh’s attempts to get his paws on delicious honey often end in disaster. (In one such scenario, he pretends to be a raincloud and floats by way of balloon to a beehive up in a tree. Go figure.) Though he is a self-professed “bear with little brain,” Pooh stands out from other anthropomorphic cartoon characters for being constantly happy. Even in sticky situations — some involving honey, and some without — whether he’s escaping angry bees or trapped between Rabbit’s front door, Pooh’s modus operandi is to stay positive and “think, think, think” his way out.
This worldview resonated with me in high school. If I could only have one trait, I would choose continuous optimism, because I share Pooh’s unfailing tendency to constantly make mistakes. For instance: in my kitchen, baking endeavors are baking blunders. While lime juice, egg whites, and condensed milk thicken into the perfect creamy filling, substituting whipped cream for the milk makes a key lime puddle, not pie. I mistake salt for sugar, vinegar for soy sauce, flour for baking powder. Sunken sponge cakes and burnt bundts are common goods; I won’t even mention the terrible tear-stained tortes. Still, if I hadn’t confused Nutella for fudge sauce, I would never have discovered a more decadent, hazelnut-infused variation of the chocolate citrus custard.
Academic forays are just as messy. On the first day of my research internship, I spent hours on the microscope imaging sparkling quantum dots, blissfully unaware that I was actually gazing at a fluorescent lump of dust. When I write fiction, I’d pilot a superficially dazzling plot that crashes after a few strategic jabs. At university-hosted poetry readings, I would get hopelessly lost on campus…yes, even with a map.
Not surprisingly, messing up can be utterly demoralizing. My first submission to (and rejection from) a professional publication had the comment, “Your writing just sucks.” Still, in such moments of despair, Pooh’s reminder to “try, try, again” is a lifeline. Messing up and starting over is the only way to improve. After a literary rejection, I re-read my story to identify weak points, to engineer potential fixes and send them off to friends for review, and to edit over and over. I am proud to say that while many of my stories have faced repeated denials, each piece nevertheless found a journal to call home.
Looking at defeat not through disappointment, but through the optimistic and optimizing lens of trying again, is the best lesson I’ve ever learned. Without persistence, I would never have loved spicy food, single particle tracking, or Salman Rushdie. It’s no surprise that my interests are so discordant and different — repeated trial and error is the only way to fully engage in them. In high school, I was obsessed with computer science for its clarity, the way a clean solution slips to light through nothing but logic. I tinkered with (and sometimes broke) red-green-blue LED circuits on breadboards, learned HTML/CSS to code an animated calendar for my blog, and spent hours cackling over cow-themed problems on the USA Computing Olympiad. Had I not immersed myself so deeply in STEM, I wouldn’t be able to so determinedly declare an interest in English today. Though I still find computer science engaging, I can’t deny the immeasurable joy of shaping words on paper into vibrant narratives that come alive, or reading the influential texts that have started movements, made laws, broken laws, changed minds, and touched lives. Narratives like Winnie the Pooh’s have revolutionized my entire mindset.
Still, I expect to continue making mistakes in the future. Like Pooh Bear, I look forward to bumbling and singing my way through the grand adventure of life. (650)
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“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” — Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne As a small child, I adored Winnie the Pooh, a plump yellow bear with […]