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?


Vanisha @ Vanishas Life In...Australia said...

Oh dear, this sounds like me from a few years ago. Thank goodness we learn and grow! I now aim for a simpler, less complicated and drama free lifestyle. I'm not sure if I've ever thought of things that have happened as failure. And even now as I think back on my life and experiences I can't think of anything because I've learnt so much and grown so much from things that have gone wrong. If you learn then surely it can't be failure?

nancy said...

oh, you poor thing! I completely relate to this!! sometimes I'll decide (usually around 'that time') that I need to put 100% of my efforts into some extravagant task... like decorating for Christmas or baking or something stupid. it ALWAYS falls apart, and Rufus is ALWAYS my rock. he picks me up, kisses my forehead, and makes everything that much better again.

I don't like doing things like that (playing host) because I feel too much pressure. I don't like being in the spotlight (well, I love being on stage but not so much the real-life part), and the attention for that sort of thing is just too much pressure for me!

I hope you're doing well :)

ellie's desk said...

I'm very good at burning most things I cook. So maybe cooking shouldn't be a big thing for me. Especially, baking. I really don't need those calories.

Seriously, though, I'm pretty much a late bloomer. Stubborn. And sometimes, I wonder how well I work with others. Everyday, comes those little failures, but I try ..I do keep trying to be better.

lucy and sarah said...

Unfortunately, those failures just keep coming. Small ones. Big ones. Very sensitive co-workers who you find out are more sensitive to failure than you are. Which means, you have to be sensitive to their ways. Yet, even when there are times, you wish they would just listen, because you've been listening to them... forever. Yet, to take it with a grain of salt when they tell you like it is ..and what you did wrong.

But to have the idea to look at the little world you are in..isn't nearly as bad as what's really going on in the world.

Even so, someone else's world is so close and awful things happen like shootings and unbearable situations.

Its a beautiful mess that in the end you have to think it was a miracle to get through the day, after all.

keishua said...

failure is something that were are taught to fear but I wonder if it's just training wheels.

Kari said...

This right here is why I'm so happy you're back! You have such a lovely outlook on life; it is so inspiring.

New Life in Spain said...

I'm so glad to see you back here, have been missing your blog! And again I am blown away from your insight way of reflecting and learning from experiences! (both the last two posts) Congrats and good luck! xoxo

Victoria said...

Aww I totally feel with ya ! You put so much heart into it! That's what matters, and that's a great lesson learned right there :)

Brandi {not your average ordinary} said...

Would you believe that I'm lazy too? I just push myself. Constantly. The hardest is getting myself to go out and talk to new people. While I consider myself to be a friendly person, I'm also a bit socially awkward and I'm so concerned about what others think of me. It's bad, I know.

But my biggest failure? Grad school. It's both a failure and not. But I actually still have such feelings about it that I can't write about it here without crying a bit. And I don't even know if I can really go into detail yet. I'm still working through it.

I'm glad you're back. You always inspire me and always make me think.