Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Failure Is An Option

I’m sorry to be the one to say this, but failure isn’t the worst thing that can happen to us. Not only that, I’ve found that it IS an option! I have a long history of failure, dating back to when I was learning to walk, and fell down. Oh sure, I caught on eventually, so it wasn’t a permanent failure, but I have had plenty of permanent failures, the sort that come back to haunt me later, even when I’ve put it behind me.

At my age, you get used to that sort of thing.

How else was I going to find out how many things I wasn’t suited for, if I hadn’t tried and failed? Turns out I’m not really suited for much. I’m not one of those people (you know the people I mean) who have great success in a variety of fields and can expound at length on a variety of topics. I’m not, for example, at all suited for being any kind of employee. I tried it many times before it sunk in that I’m unemployable.

Not that I don’t earn a living, because I do, but I certainly don’t do it as an employee.

When I was in college studying English I thought, “This is fun! I can be a writer! Of course I can. So can half the population, the literate half, anyway, so I’m not claiming anything that most people can’t do.

Then when I was in college studying accounting I thought, “This is fun! I can be an accountant!” And I could, but it turns out, I wasn’t on my way to anything the least bit impressive, despite my expectations, though it turns out I am pretty good at fixing things.

“Fixing things” is not in and of itself a career. It’s useful, and I find it comes in handy, though I do need to point out that the things I can fix are not physical things. I can fix numbers, and words, and I can fix inconsistencies to make them consistent, and I can get everything in some sort of order.

Along the way to finding what I was good at I tried selling things, and failed miserably, and I tried being an employee and a manager and a variety of things, all of which ended without me making any sort of impression on anyone anywhere. Eventually most things were not what I wanted.

I wish I had been a scientist, but I think I’d have to be smarter.

So many times we want to blame ourselves when things don’t go as well as we’d hoped, whether it’s our fault or not our fault or no one’s fault. I failed. I wasn’t perfect. I made a mistake. I blame myself for anything that goes wrong pretty much anywhere, which gives me far more power than I could ever really have. You might think this is irrational, but I never claimed to always be rational. I carry with me heavy expectations, perhaps because no one ever expected much from me, and I fail to meet those expectations most days. It’s very exhausting.

Today my husband’s computer quit shortly after he started work. Without a computer, he can’t work, since it’s all remote. He took it to the computer repair shop, to the guy who knows what to do, and later he said to me, “I just keep wondering what I did to it.”

My husband is charming and smart and fabulous, but sometimes he says silly things.

“Maybe it broke,” I said, “Sometimes things break because nothing lasts forever.”

The computer guy verified my supposition. Sometimes things break, and sometimes people fail.

But it doesn’t make us a failure. We can fail every day, and it still doesn’t make us a failure.

I fail regularly. I fail spectacularly, and I fail without fail.

Sometimes I don’t fail, so that last may not be exactly true. It may be a bit of hyperbole, which is one thing that I rely on heavily. I’m working on using it in my favor instead of against myself, but it’s an ongoing sort of battle.

There’s one thing I can say for failure. My high rate of failure does indicate that I’ve at least been active in trying things, which is, so I hear, a good thing. I’m not pleased about the high rate of failure, but I’m still here, and I keep going because, as I said to a friend today, it’s easier than jumping off a building.

(Which is actually way more work than it looks like. First, there’s finding the building. And it just gets worse from there.)

So on with failure! And every time I fail, that’s something else I can put behind me, and maybe not do again. I say maybe, because I also excel at repeating my failures because I’m 1) stubborn, and 2) a slow learner.

Keep doing stuff. Sometimes you’ll fail and sometimes you won’t. Sometimes it’ll be your fault and sometimes it won’t. And after you fail, it’s okay to withdraw and lick your wounds for, oh, twenty minutes or so. You don’t have much time because then it’s time to move on.

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