Lessons in Failure

Your late twenties (in my experience) are a time when the decisions you made in your early twenties come to their full and logical conclusion.  Having been made in your early twenties, when inevitably you think you know what you’re doing and equally inevitably, you don’t, this generally tends to look like failure.  My example is in the marriage I started at 23 and that came crashing down around my ears at 27.  Within my value system, there was no greater failure imaginable, and I wasn’t in the habit of thinking of myself as the kind of person who failed.  Nevertheless, there I was with my personal life in ruins, having failed in every way imaginable.  I had no idea I was going to be that person, no idea that I’d make a promise about ’til death do us part that wasn’t going to work out the way I said it would.

Rocked me to my core, it did.  And it took me a solid five years (and the support of some lovely people and a handful of wise books) to put myself together again.

Don’t let it take you five years to rebuild a sense of self.  Be more resilient than I was.  Be thoughtful, of course.  Earn your answers – they won’t stick if you don’t earn them – but don’t wallow like I did.  It took me way too long to figure out that failure isn’t fatal.  That failing is better than not trying.  That it doesn’t have to mean everything.  That getting hurt is proof of life.  That nothing’s final until you say it is.  That there’s beauty in the breakdown, joy in the effort, that the natural trajectory of things inevitably leads to an end, whether it is the death of a relationship or the death of the person you are in the relationship with.  And that to avoid all of it, to be perfect and unscathed is a kind of death.  At least death itself is clean, a full-on state in which whatever is you gets untethered from the body and goes on.  Dying in your own skin trying to avoid pain, failure, disaster…  It’s a worse thing.

It’s okay to make mistakes.  It’s okay to try.  To throw yourself at the impossible and hope for the best.  In fact, that’s all there is.  That’s living.  That’s joy and love and sex and life.  It’s all there is.

But it takes a minute to get your head around that.  It takes time to come to an understanding with yourself, a sense of ownership in the lesson, the embodiment of the corporal acceptance that fucking up isn’t the end of the world, that fucking up is the price of trying, and that trying is infinitely preferable to the alternative.

It’s okay to be exactly who you are, warts and all.  I promise.  Just please, pretty please, don’t take five years to own it.  Be smarter than me.  Be braver.  You’ve got a lot of living to get to.

Lessons in Failure

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