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My Defeats

Updated: Feb 22, 2021

Most people usually write on social media to tell about good things they experience in their lives. I do that too. But I want to be honest in this post and tell about my defeats in the last months. As a Catholic person, this is a good moment of an experience of reconciliation because Catholics are experiencing Lent, a period that the Catholic Church invites us to examine our conscience and humble ourselves in an experience of mercy and reconciliation.

The institution where I work offered me a great opportunity to develop my research agenda. It offered a year leaving to dedicate to research if I can get external funding to help support at least half of this year. So, I applied for three fellowships and three grants. I thought I had very good chances in two of these three fellowships. My project seemed to be perfect fit for them. For one of them, I was approached by people from this institution and they showed me to be very enthusiastic with my project. Regarding the grants, I thought I had a very high chance with one of them. I heard now from all of them, and I didn’t get any.

Many questions came to my mind why I was not granted with any of these fellowships or grants. I was disappointed because my project was not chosen by any of these opportunities, particularly with the fellowships because I didn’t receive any feedback why my project wasn’t good enough. The only thing I received was an email with this standard phrase: “We regret to inform you that we were not able to award you a fellowship for 2021-2022. While your application was reviewed in the final round of the competition, it was not one of the selected cohort. We received many worthy proposals, and final decisions were difficult.” Another only told me informally that my project was not chosen. I was not awarded with any grants either, but I received feedbacks why my project was not selected. Although most of the feedbacks were vague, I appreciated that. They help me to improve.

The point is I failed, as many times before. First, I tried to find reasons why my project didn’t succeed in any of these attempts. Many things came to my mind, such as, my writing is so bad that evaluators don’t trust that I can do this project; I was too passionate in the interviews, talking with the heart instead of the reason to be objective as my interviewers were (I can’t help, I have a hot Latino blood); I was too honest and controversial that hurt some evaluators’ views; my interdisciplinary project did not fit in any of these departments because it was not healthcare enough for the health-related academics and too health-related for the theological scholars; and my project was too much about the poor and their voices and nobody wanted to hear these voices in an academic setting (the poor are not scholars for God’s sake).

In my Lenten journey of reconciliation, however, I arrived at the conclusion that I just filed. Therefore, I must accept that and be humble to recognize that I am far from being the great scholar I want to believe I am. My self-esteem is so high that very often it becomes arrogance and lack of humility. Whatever was the reason why these institutions thought I didn’t deserve an opportunity, I must be humble and recognize that I failed and lost. Humbly, I must accept that there are many people better than me. In this country everything is competition, for one to win, many must lose. This is a hard process because it includes recognizing that when I received something, somebody lost. I don’t like that. I am a community-oriented person who cares for people’s participation in the common good. But it is what it is. Be humble Alexandre.

At the end of the day, I am thankful for this learning. A few years ago, after a big mistake I made, a wise man told me: “I am glad this happened with you because you were forgetting you were not unbeatable. This mistake is for humbling you, so you can grow.” I should not be ashamed of my defeats, perhaps I deserved them for my growth and the growth of those I owe my services, the poor. In this Lenten exercise, I conclude with a prayer with the words of a prophetic bishop from Brazil, Dom Helder Camara, “It is a divine grace beginning well. Grace even greater is persisting in the right walk. But the grace of graces is never giving up.”

*Alexandre A. Martins is an assistant professor at Marquette University in Wisconsin, EUA. Author of several articles and books in social ethics and bioethics, such asCovid-19, Política e Fé: Bioética em diálogo com a realidade enlouquecida(Gênio Criador, 2020);The Cry of the Poor: liberation ethics and justice in health care (Lexington Books, 2020)

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