Saturday, May 19, 2012
I saw this in the halls of my old high school yesterday. My first reaction to it was to laugh.
But last night when I was driving home the long way, letting wind and music sort out my thoughts the way I've done since the very first time I had my own car...I thought about it a little harder.
Failure sucks. Failure can hurt. But it's not unacceptable.
One of the simplest truths I've taken to heart comes from the Magic School Bus, believe it or not.
Miss Frizzle always said "Make mistakes, get messy!"
It might be strange to take your advice from a fictional teacher who drives a magical bus and has a pet lizard. Ok, it probably is strange.
But failure, as the Mythbusters say, is always an option. (I'm full of TV quotes today, go fig)
Failure is not unacceptable. Failure is a chance to learn about yourself, about surviving, and it's a chance to find a different way.
I admit, just like most people, I have "Failure is Unacceptable" ingrained in my brain. I want to succeed, and it's obviously something to try for as hard as you can...
But I think it's damaging to be afraid to fail. To you and to others.
I failed at trust. I had my reasons...namely that the first person I put my trust in was for years taking full advantage of that trust and doing whatever he wanted. So I started to believe that everyone was like that, and I failed at trust. I expected excuses, and I expected to be left behind. It hurt me and it hurt the people thereafter who WERE deserving of that trust. It made me frenetic and anxious and sometimes overbearing. But if I wouldn't have failed at trust, and I wouldn't have recognized those patterns, I wouldn't have learned how to be still and believe in someone quietly.
If I'd never failed at love, I wouldn't have learned in a more clear way what love is and what it means. I would never have learned to believe in love at first sight, and I never would have felt the ache in your jaw to just be with someone. I wouldn't have learned what it was like to fight with someone and then talk through it and go home and watch a movie, and that was so important for me. I still remember a particularly passionate fight in which I lobbed shoes, though I never thought I'd be that person. And I remember, as mad as I was, that about 20 minutes later, I thought better of it, and realized not being together was more of a punishment. And shortly thereafter...the hug I'd been wanting even as I was yelling at the top of my lungs. I wouldn't have learned that there's a kind of love that waits. That bottles itself up, but that sometimes can't help but come out, even if it's a goodbye. And beyond that? I wouldn't have learned about love you weren't looking for, and love in the trenches. Love when it's not convenient, and what real selfless love is- which is downright ugly, hard and scary sometimes. It's not pretending to be a martyr, it's not 50/50...when it comes down to the bottom of the scariest trenches, as someone told me "Sometimes it's 90/10. Sometimes it's 99/1. And you won't be good at that." I'm in awe at how much failing at love will teach you about it. I learned that being loved for someone you aren't will never make you happy. I've learned about passionate love that you can't explain, but it comes out of your pores and can just be seen. I've learned that above all you have to be able to be you, and stand up for yourself if you have to, even if you're afraid it will make someone walk away. I've learned that it's not just about sticking by someone literally, and sitting at their side, but also knowing that sometimes you will need to love quietly, from a distance. Sometimes you will need to not be there physically and learn to trust that they know somehow that you're there anyway.
If I'd never failed at jobs, I'd never have learned more about what my strengths and weaknesses are, and I'd never have gone the places I'd went.
If I'd never failed on one of my biggest dreams-living out West, and come back here...well, I wouldn't have learned how to keep fighting, how to tear down my walls, and how to start over...all things I'm trying very hard to do now...
When I saw this, I felt like, as much as it was in my power to say so, I ought to say...if you think you failed, don't give up. Because it's what you do next that matters.
I may not be where I thought I'd be. I'm not at all. I may have scars and I might be afraid of things I was never afraid of before. For as many things as I've overcome I may be failing in some other ways.
But one thing I did figure out? All you can do is keep going.