*Warning: Naughty language ahead.
I was having coffee the other day with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years.
She had recently moved from a small town into the city, and our conversation began as these kinds of conversations often do—“what are you doing?” “how are you settling in?” and “what are you working on?”
As we dropped into her current experience—pursuing acting in a bigger way—I asked her point blank if she even wanted to be an actress anymore. From my side of things, it sounded like she was speaking of someone else’s dreams and aspirations. There was no zest.
She told me, without hesitation, that she wasn’t sure if acting was even her passion anymore. But she was afraid of what other people would think if she quit before having any success; she was afraid to go back to her small town and face the people who would say “oh, it’s really too bad you weren’t able to book anything.”
My response to her?
“Fuck those people.”
We began speaking of failure, and our cultural idea that failure is not an option.
I told her how I believed that my parents saw my lifestyle (saying no to a nine to five job) as “alternative” because of their fear that I was failing. Their anxiety and pressure to push me to a more “normal” life path was based on their belief that there is no space for failure—for failure is doing it wrong.
My belief system?
It’s okay to fuck it up and do it wrong.
It’s okay to reach out, make the call and send the text—“Hey, I need help. I messed up.”
What’s the worst that can happen when we admit that we messed up, we failed, we don’t want to do this thing anymore?
We quit the job that no longer gives us joy?
Shift our projects?
Get extra support from our bosses and become humbled?
It’s okay to make room for failure. Failure is part of being human.
We are always fucking up and doing it wrong. And the end goal isn’t to stop failing, it’s to hope that we get it less wrong over time.
I spent three years studying philosophy and we often spoke of how even in science nothing can be proven, only disproven. We can say, “the sun will rise tomorrow,” but we don’t know that for sure. It only takes one day of the sun not rising to change that thought. We can say, “all swans are white,” but it only takes one black swan sighting to turn that belief on its head.
Our minds are faulty in nature and our biases and conditioning literally screw up our perception of reality. We were designed to fail, and try again, and fail and try again.
And it’s okay to fail, and just fail.
I have an issue with most self-help preachings about failure, because so often the dialogue is, “Accept failure! Embrace failure! Know that if you fail enough times this thing you are doing will work out!”
You know what? Sometimes things don’t work out.
I do believe that even when things aren’t working out in the short term, life is pushing us gently on our path and things end up as they are supposed to. But when it comes to projects, aspirations, careers? Sometimes it’s okay to just fail.
It’s okay for the plan, the business, the project to bomb, and for us to just accept that it bombed and move on to something completely different.
We fail because we are human.
We mess up because we are human.
Doing it wrong does not make us wrong.
Doing it wrong does not make us failures.
Open up the space for failure in your life, because fucking up is how we grow. Doing it wrong is how we learn to do it less wrong.
We are human and we are worthy. And failure is not a dirty word.
Author: Annabelle Blythe
Editor: Nicole Cameron