Back when I was a youngster, schoolchildren were given a standardized test every year or so. I remember the teacher handing out the results, and gleefully seeing that I ranked in the 99th percentile in every category—the highest score possible. Oh boy, I was a proud Little Miss Smarty-pants! My head was so swollen I could hardly contain myself. I looked around at my classmates and yes, I was the best, the smartest, and clearly superior to them. I dashed home after school, handed the report to my parents, and waited for their inevitable praise.

Instead, my father scanned the page, looked at me standing there with my swollen head, and said, “So, Karen, all 99th percentiles. Why not 100%?” Yikes! I'd gotten the highest possible score! I'd achieved greatness and wanted to be worshipped. Instead, I felt like I'd been kicked in the solar plexus. I'd reached the summit of greatness at the age of 8, and there was nowhere to go from here but down. Life was over at 8.

That's my earliest memory of what it feels like to fail. Not the feeling of failure that happens when you know you haven't done your best, but the feeling that happens when your best isn't enough. It's a feeling we've all experienced. Whether it's an audition for the local theater group, the long pass at the end of the homecoming game, a job interview, or a failed romance, we've all had the wind knocked out of us at one time or another. Probably more than once.

In high school I had a series of crushes on boys, none of whom ever reciprocated my feelings. Not a single one. No. Dates. Ever. I was the girl who worked the punch table at prom, because I had no date. I had the dubious pleasure of watching all my classmates have a great time and then go to their afterparties while I cleaned up their mess after they left. Talk about teenage angst! I was sure I'd never have a date, ever. At 17, my destiny was sealed on prom night. As I cleaned up that room, I thought about becoming a nun, because at least they have each other, like in The Sound Of Music. But I'm Jewish, and I love being Jewish, and there are no Jewish nuns. So, I was destined to be an old Jewish Cat Lady who lives alone with a houseful of cats. A hundred cats. And me. At 17 life was over.

And I flunked typing in high school. Yeah, I know, how can anyone flunk typing? Near the end of the school year, the teacher met with me and said I was a hopeless typist, but she was going to give me a B for my final grade because she knew I'd need a scholarship to go to college, and she didn't want a failing typing grade to ruin my chances. Talk about a bruised ego! I was the poor kid who flunked typing and got a "pity B". Not only was I never going to get a date, ever, but I couldn't even count on getting an office job to support me and my 100 cats. Life was really, really over at 17.

But after my dad deflated my overblown ego all those years ago, I continued excelling in school, and gained some humility in the process. I may have been the best on that test, but I never again looked at my schoolmates as dolts. The boy next to me could draw much better than I ever would. The girl behind me could play the piano. We all are gifted in one way or another. And none of us is perfect, not at any age. Decades later, I've forgotten a lot of my school learning, but that lesson in humility helped form my character forever.

And after the dating debacle that was high school, I met the love of my life on the first day of college. And I knew it, that very day. The difference between a crush and your bashert is as wide as the universe. If I'd met him in high school, I wouldn't have been ready. All those rejections were just preparation for the real thing.

And after flunking typing, I knew I'd really better get that scholarship, and get a good education, because I'd never be able to hold down an office job. So I worked hard, and did indeed get that full scholarship! Looking back, if I had to flunk something, typing was the thing to flunk. Nowadays, with spellcheck and autocorrect, there's no need to be a flawless typist. But if I hadn't flunked typing back then, I may not have worked hard enough for that scholarship and have never gone to college. Funny how that all worked out.

I’ve learned that bruised egos heal, failures are just pre-successes, and rejections just sharpen your aim. We bang into emotional walls, but we bounce back. We hit a barrier and find a way around it. One person says no, but another says yes.

King Solomon says that “a righteous person can fall seven times and rise, but the wicked shall stumble in evil.” In other words, it’s inevitable that we will get knocked over by life. It’s up to us to choose whether we will get up again, rising stronger and wiser, or if we will stay on the ground, deflated and beaten.

One can say that life is like a pinball machine. The bumpers are the rejections and failures we have to deal with and maneuver around. But the game's not over until it's over. So keep on playing!