When he failed, the boy did not cry. He'd learned that early on. He took a quiet moment and walked into the woods nearby. With a stick from the forest floor, he laid into a young oak tree, lashing at it over and over until its bark was torn and its flesh dripped sap. The boy hurt the tree until he no longer had the strength. He returned to the weighing eyes of his father tired and dirty from the woods, but never with his face streaked from tears. Each time failure threw him down, he suffered, and the tree suffered with him. Each failure marked the tree with scars and streaks of residue sap the boy spilled. He continued to pass his failures on to the tree, fewer each year, until he stopped striving, stopped driving himself to be something more, just to avoid the pain.
Years later, the boy returned to the tree a man. What had once been a young oak was now a mature tree, tall and strong despite its wounds. The man touched the bark, feeling the marks he had left on the tree so long ago, and cried, mourning the boy who had tried.