From Failure to Success

Lorenzo Talbot-Foote

I don’t use failure as a dirty word, because each failure is an opportunity to grow.

Lorenzo Talbot-Foote SEAS’19 said his passion is helping other people see the good around them.

Perhaps that is because Lorenzo has been on the receiving end of such help from friends, advisers and mental health professionals since he arrived at Columbia University. The heavy course loads in biomedical engineering and the difficult transition he faced from high school to college all contributed to the anxiety and depression he soon developed.

Lorenzo describes his first two years at Columbia as “filled with failure.” With help, he now has a different way of seeing.

“I don’t use “failure” as a dirty word, because each failure is an opportunity to grow.”

Initially, friends helped him when he found himself emotionally and physically exhausted toward the end of the first semester of his third year on campus.  

“I had the worst anxiety I’ve ever had and experienced insomnia for the first time,” he said.

Ultimately, friends alone weren’t enough. Lorenzo made a critical decision to attend open office hours at Counseling and Psychological Services, where he met with clinical psychologist Aisha Holder.

“Dr. Holder helped show me a productive way to manage my stress and put it in perspective and deconstruct my overwhelming anxiety into less complex whelming chunks,” he said. “She really helped me address my mental health issues for the first time.”

With far less anxiety, Lorenzo does a much better job responding to the stress.

“It took me two whole years to figure out how college actually worked for me,” he said. “My biggest regret is getting into the mindset that I had to do whatever everyone else was doing, instead of figuring out what I needed to do.”

Today, he trusts himself more and better understands what he needs to do to succeed as a student.

“My academic life taught me how to know myself better and be true to myself in school, but it also helped me learn to do that with the rest of life.”

As a result of what he has experienced, Lorenzo encourages other students to take a different approach to the resources available on campus. He suggests they seek guidance and information before they think they need it.

“Ask for more help and see all of the resources as an opportunity rather than a last resort,” he said. “You are not as alone as you feel when you first get to college, and you have to have patience with yourself.”

Lorenzo said Holder shared some advice with him in one of their first sessions that he remembers still. He hopes it helps other students understand that they, too, have what it takes to meet the challenges they face.

“Know that you are enough just by the virtue of your breath.”