Thursday, April 12, 2012

Learning from failure (the story of my life...)

I read this lovely little zine called ‘Spoonful: A Happiness Companion’ that is…well it’s a happiness companion. It features quirky poems about happiness, well-written stories about appreciating every day things, and, my favourite, a section about celebrating failure. In it, people write what their biggest failure was and what they learned from it.

Since I like the idea so much, I decided to do my own today. Firstly I would just like to point out that this isn’t my biggest failure. Being awkward, uncoordinated and impatient has led to quite a few failures in my twenty four years, not the least being dropping out of not one, but two degrees (yes, you read that right) with less than six months to go.

But one thing I have noticed in the zine, and in my own experiences, is that it’s the little things that can really break you. Things that are absolutely no big deal can seem like the most important thing in the universe for reasons that no one else could possibly understand (and which you often don’t understand either).

So my biggest failure, or the one that stands out in my mind the most, was this St Patrick’s Day. You see, I suffer, or used to suffer, from a case of laziness. I was one of those people who was always coming up with ideas but never following through. It wasn’t until I was drunk in Dublin and rambling on about coming back in October with absolutely no intention of actually doing so, that I realised, why not? Why shouldn’t I go back in October? And with that thought, I decided to finally start committing myself to the things I said I was going to do.

The day before that life-changing decision I had told Joel that I was going to have a party for St Patrick’s Day. So, with my new-found doallthethings persona, I WAS going to have that party. When I got back I told everyone about it, looked up recipes, went shopping for decorations and was generally running around being awesome at life.

When the day rolled around I got up early, put on the new green dress I had bought for the occasion, filled the house with streamers and stuck cardboard four leaf clovers on the wall, and by the time Joel woke up I had beef and Guinness stew simmering away while I danced around to Irish music I had downloaded.

And gosh I was proud of myself. Here was I, probably the most hopeless person on the planet, actually getting things done and more importantly, not messing things up. It was symbolic for my new found life- one where I didn’t get lost or trip over or forget anniversaries or never do what I say I would.

So, understandably, I had a mild panic attack when a few of the streamers came down and we were out of blu-tak. Joel, being the amazing husband that he is, offered to go out and get some. Since he knew how important this was to me, he drove around to four different supermarkets to try and find some.

When he came back, triumphant, half an hour later, he was greeted by this sight: The house so full of smoke both me and cats were choking, cupcake batter everywhere, all of the streamers on the ground, and me covered in burnt beef & Guinness stew crying “I b…b…burnt my fingerrrrrrrr!!!!”

It was disaster. I had burnt all the food, ruined my dress, and being in a crazy amount of pain for such a small injury didn’t help much either. I fell apart. Absolutely feel apart. For reasons I don’t really know, I had decided that this day was It would determine my entire future.

I had put in so much more work than I normally would, tried so much harder than I normally would, and yet it still feel apart just like it normally would.

So I cried for about an hour and almost cancelled the whole thing.

But while I was crying Joel got the stains out of my dress, put up the decorations, bought a heap of chips and lollies and brought me a glass of whiskey and coke (not going to lie- this was probably what helped the most). He dried my tears, tried to comfort me, and ended up in uncontrollable laughter.

And it was then that I realised how stupid I was being. I had placed so much importance on something that really wasn’t a big deal- and something that was probably a bit ambitious for someone like me. I’m not neat, I’m not organised, I’m a terrible cook, and every single time I have tried to organise something in the past it has ended up exactly like this.

I learned that day that I will probably always fail at things like this. I learned to leave all the planning, cooking, and decorating to my talented friends. I learned to always have a back-up plan if I ever feel the need to attempt something like this again. I learned that stories like these are part of the reason why my friends and family tolerate love me.

And most importantly, I learned to laugh at myself, which is a very important lesson indeed.

What is your biggest failure? And what did you learn from it?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Not quite six months....

I know that I said I would be away for six months, but since my last post things have changed. Or rather, I changed things. I guess I just got sick of living my life based on expectations of myself that were, for lack of a better word, stupid. Boy oh boy were they stupid. Here was I, the least practical person on the planet with no commonsense and a bad habit of daydreaming at the most inconvenient moments, studying TEACHING.

Apparently you need common-sense and an attention span better than that of a goldfish to teach the new generation. Who knew?

So half-way through the semester, with six months to go, I dropped out. I realised that the only reason I stayed with it for so long was because of fear. I was scared of venturing from the nice, safe, career-orientated practical, to the uncertain and risky creative.

But I’m NOT practical. I am a creative dreamer without a shred of common sense and realism in my body. Unfortunately creative isn’t safe. Creative leads to degrees and dreams that scare people; to the kinds of ideas that prompt them to say “so...what job will you have exactly?” Creative isn’t embraced in our society because it is risky. It doesn’t lead to an automatic career and therefore it is seen as worthless.

That’s the way that I was brought up and it’s so hard to shake the shackles that bind me to the straight, predictable and narrow. Not that my parents at all forced that on me; instead it was my own play-it-safe self that was too scared to see any other way.

But I’m not like that anymore. I need to be true to myself and I need to sparkle in the way that only I know how. I see so many people watering themselves down, never being as bright as I can see that they could be, and I am terrified of ending up like that.

So now I am doing my Masters in Writing and Literature, and you can bet I’ve heard ‘”So...what will you do afterwards?......” maaaany times in the last month.

And the answer is: I don’t know. But I’m tired of being governed by fear, of clinging to what is safe, of ignoring who I am, even if it that doesn’t necessarily lead to a job of sorts.

Understandably my parents were a little confused when I first made my decision. After all, it was ‘just six more months’, why couldn’t I finish it off and then pursue what makes me happy? And it makes sense when they say it. Six months is nothing, right? And to us, it isn’t. We rush through each six month block, trying to get to the next one. We stay in jobs we loathe, finish off degrees we don’t care for, straining at the bit for the future and all of the promise that it holds. But when we finally get there we’re off again, looking towards the future once more because we’re too scared to admit that we’re unhappy and dissatisfied where we are. And we stay unhappy and dissatisfied until one day it is too late, and we realise how precious those six months were and regret how carelessly we tossed them away.

I don’t want to look back knowing that any six month block of mine was filler. I refuse to waste my life like that, waiting for the future to come so that I can really start living.

I don’t really know where I’m heading at the moment, but for the first time I’m really truly excited. There is a sense of expectation in the air that wasn’t there when I was hiding behind back-up plans. Because there is nothing more cowardly that having a back-up plan, not when it comes to your dreams.

When I was Europe I was looking for a sign. A sign to tell me that I was doing the wrong thing, a sign that called on me to focus on my writing and stop messing around. It didn’t hit me until I got home that the looking WAS the sign.

Most of the time we know exactly what we want. Waiting around for the universe or whatever else you believe in to give you the ‘okay’ is a cop-out, an excuse not to try for fear of failure.

I don’t want to waste time doing things that I don’t love. That’s not to say that I’m expecting to fall into my dream job and won’t settle for less. I understand that life, as wonderful as it is, is not like that. It’s about compromise. I would like to write all the time but I also like having money to go out to brunch, to do fun things with friends, and to see that world. Hence I will get a job that allows me to do that, but will also give me the freedom to write in the evenings and maybe provide the funds to intern somewhere amazing if the opportunity comes up.

So...I’m not entirely sure where to go to from here and I have NO idea where I will end up, but for the first time I’m just enjoying soaking up every minute of the present.