Yes, you read that right. Failure is an option, and not only because it’s simply possible. I, however, have not given myself this option often. I don’t mean this mentally. I mean this literally. If I think I can fail at it, I just don’t do it all. Until recently, I’ve prided myself on being a perfectionist, on being someone not known for making mistakes, someone dependable, reliable, and, wait for it… safe. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying pride goes before a fall? Well, I fell.
In a Wal-Mart parking lot on a Sunday afternoon, I fell. It was then my prying, get to the heart of the problem, wonderful husband pushed me off my perfectionist cliff. It was that day that I looked at my life the way he had, and I had to concede and come to the same conclusion. I am terrified of failure.
When I started thinking back over my twenty-nine years on earth, it became so clear to me that I have always been afraid of failure. My sophomore year of high school, I desperately wanted to be accepted to Governor’s School for the Arts. It is a summer program for gifted high school students that had a creative writing category and there was nothing more that I wanted than to be accepted. After working on my submission, I let my German teacher read it. When he handed it back, he said, “That’s what you’re submitting?” I was heartbroken. I had let my soul pour onto that paper and he had all but said it wasn’t good enough. And it was the best thing I had ever written, in my eyes anyway. So, I didn’t enter my most prized piece. In fact, I didn’t enter a submission at all. I allowed my teacher, my German teacher at that, to talk me out of my dream. The fear of failure won out that year.
Flash forward to my last year of nursing school. I was older, supposedly wiser. I had a year of nursing classes under my belt and had successfully passed the LPN licensure test. I had worked hard, studied harder, and had done so after watching my mother take her final breath here on earth a week after finals my first semester of college. I didn’t take any time off, just kept going, kept pushing myself. Push, push, push, until finally, I started pushing against a brick wall. Lovely lady away from class, she was. In clinicals, a nightmare. There were horror stories about her. Probably still are. In fact, a few years ago, I heard she’d been removed from teaching clinicals because of her demeanor with the students. I hope it’s true. She, like my German teacher, made me to feel inadequate and unworthy of my dream. She told me I was too timid to be a nurse. She grilled me and treated me like I didn’t have a brain in my head. I was afraid she’d fail me. So, I quit just a few weeks into my rotations. I remember the day I dropped my classes she told me she would’ve worked with me. It was too little, too late by then, though. The fear of failure claimed me as it’s prey again.
This last one is so trivial I am embarrassed to share it. But, share it I will, because it shows how debilitating the fear of failure can be, has been for me. When I was a little girl, my mother would make pudding pies. They seemed simple enough. Mom used the instant pudding mix and the store bought graham cracker crust. Nothing to mess up on, until you got to the meringue. It was here everything got tricky. I watched her carefully separate the egg yokes from the egg whites and drop them in the mixing bowl. I watched as she began beating with the hand mixer. Beat to stiff peaks. Too much mixing and the meringue would be unusable. Not enough mixing and the meringue would fall. Now, I never really cared for the taste of this meringue anyway. But, I’ve always considered it the classic topping for pudding pie and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making the stuff. Have I? Nope. Why not? Because of the fear of failure. Any sensible person would realize that if it didn’t work, you’d only be out the cost of the eggs and the time you put into making it. This never occurred to me, however. The fear of failure saved me from any kitchen catastrophe that could have been.
I will never have the chance to be that wide-eyed junior in high school again. I don’t have any current plans of attending nursing school for a second time. And with my eighteen month old, making pies is low on my “to do” list. I’m lucky if I get to make dinner. However, there are things that I can be brave with. This blog is one of them. The thought I could write my heart out and no one read it…It’s a sobering thought for me. And yet, here I am, writing. Would I love to have 1,000 + read my work? Most certainly. I love to share my thoughts and experiences. I hope that others can benefit from the hard lessons I’ve already learned.
More importantly, though, I just love to write. I love the way words stringed together can evoke emotion long forgotten. I love the way a coma, a pause just in the right spot, can leave you thinking. I love the way my words over the years have helped to heal me, to pull me through when I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Because when I sit down to write, it’s just me and what I have to say or feel or hope for or forget or hold on to. It’s just me and typing keys and there is something special that happens. I let go. I breath again. I give everything I have to the piece at that moment. And when I’m done, I read it, and it’s like it’s all brand new. Some things I don’t even remember writing. I feel complete as I read. And I’m refreshed. Writing builds me up. So, I have to write. Doing so inspires me, even if it doesn’t do a thing for anyone else. If no one else reads a single word, I am still inspired, because writing is my passion. I can not deny it. It fills the gaps and holes that somehow day to day living manages to leave in my heart and fulfills a longing I didn’t even know I had until I started this blog. And I’m better for it.
Failure-3 Me- 1… And counting!
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