Let’s talk about failure

The thing about failure is there’s this idea that it’s impossible to overcome. One mistake and boom, you’re done. At least that’s how I used to think of it. So in my early 20’s when stuff started hitting the fan, I felt like I was no good and fell into a major depression.

Now, I can look back on that time and realize how much better I am for it.

The folks over at The Well Daily addressed this topic in a post called “Update Your Failure Resume.” List five of your life’s biggest setbacks and then describe what you’ve learned from them. Some of these are embarrassing, but here we go:

  1. I didn’t go to college where I wanted. I wanted to go to the University of Texas at Austin. That got a big “no” from the parents. Second choice was Texas State University in San Marcos. But I was told that I’d have to live at home and commute (SM is about 45 min. away from my folks’ place in San Antonio), and this was when I-35 was an under-construction nightmare. That ruined it for me, so I said “forget it” and stayed in town to go to UTSA.
  2. I was cheated on and dumped by my college boyfriend. I didn’t date in high school, so this guy was my first real boyfriend ever. I was 18, he was 22, and I had no clue what I was doing. We got along well as friends first so I assumed we would work as couple. It turns out we were too different. But I was determined to make it work and put up with a lot of crap before accepting that it was just not going to happen.
  3. I dropped out of college. I changed my major 3 times in 2 years, desperate to figure out what I wanted to do in a place I didn’t even want to be. Then the depression came and I couldn’t even bring myself to care to try anymore.
  4. A bunch of my “friends” turned their backs on me. Some work drama ended with a friend of mine being fired for something ridiculous. Another friend and I complained about the unfairness of the incident to our manager (which fell on deaf ears) and then to the corporate office. Once corporate got involved, people got fired left and right. Somehow, even though it wasn’t just me, I ended up as Enemy #1 in the eyes of a lot of people.
  5. I got fired. Not from the job above; from my second job as a dance teacher. During a self-evaluation at the end of what turned out to be my last year, I said I’d like to spruce up the curriculum because the students seemed to be a bit bored. The owner didn’t like that, because when we met to discuss it, she handed me a letter that said I was canned for being complacent and negative. (This is not what she told my students. To them she said I was too busy with school to continue teaching.)

So, yeah. All of that happened between ages 19-24. Not great. But here’s what I got out of it:

  1. I resented my parents for a while for what I felt was a selfish attempt to hang on to me because they weren’t ready to let go. I still don’t think that’s fair in general, but I don’t have resentment anymore because eventually I learned how to make the most out of where I was.
  2. Nobody will ever get away with treating me like crap ever again.
  3. Taking time off gave me perspective. I realized the value of doing something good for myself. I went back to UTSA because I wanted to, and when I did I figured out that I wanted to be a writer. 🙂
  4. If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it the same way. For a long time I was bitter at how I was singled out, but not long ago I realized that it happened because I was strong enough to handle it. My other friends who had just as much a part to play were not strong, so the people who were mad at us pointed all their anger at me because they knew I would withstand it. And I did.
  5. It took about five years before I could even talk about this without getting furious. Now, I realize that I wanted something my boss was not willing to give. I understand that she did what she thought was best for her business; that was more important to her than anything else, but that’s also why it felt like such a betrayal. I’d been with her for 20 years and never expected it to end like that. I still hate that she lied to my girls and let them believe I would just leave them without a word. But people have different priorities, and as it turns out, I am better off not being around her negativity.

There’s a lesson in every situation. These five examples have taught me that I can withstand just about anything. Are the odds of getting this book published stacked against me? You bet. I’m going for it anyway. It’ll only be a real failure if I don’t try.


12 thoughts on “Let’s talk about failure

  1. Pingback: What would you tell your 14-year-old self? « stefawrites

  2. I have been meaning to comment on this post for a while. How brave you are – not only to put all these things out there, but also to learn from everything that’s happened and to become the great person you are. 🙂

  3. BRAVO…you go girl…it is the trials and tribulations and the handling of such that create character and strength…proud to say you are part of my family…love you

  4. As I have always heard, it’s not about WHAT happens to a person, it’s HOW you handle it. Another advantage of looking back at events in life, you are looking at it from a different perspective. That’s when things make a little more sense. Life’s situations always have so many angles. It shows growth when they can be seen from many if not all. Good job!

    • OK, it just occurred to me that that comment could be read sarcastically, which is not at all how I meant it. What I was trying to say was how impressive your bravery and strength and openness are. It’s hard to talk about things that hurt us — even when they were long ago and we know we are better people for the pain. As always, you make it look easy. (Both the talking about it and the getting through it/learning from it.)

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