Well hey. It’s been a while. But I’m back to share some thoughts I’ve had on a topic that I’m really well versed in, especially lately: failing.
Yep. The big scary F word I’ve been trying to avoid my whole entire life. But there’s a lot I’ve learned about failing and maybe I can give you a few pointers on how to be a failure too. Unless, of course, you’re perfect.
You see, it all started when I was a a young child. I specifically remember being particularly careful in my actions, always aware that someone, people, were watching. I was always quick to appease others. Being like them was good and being anything else was bad. The thought of anyone knowing that I didn’t know how to do something or not doing something well has been a constant anxiety for me and one I’ve never been able to shake. It occurred to me recently I’ve spent my entire life trying to please other people and be someone I thought I should be. Who I’m supposed to be has changed over the years as the roles have changed. Daughter, to a classmate, to someone religious, a mother, and wife. And through all of these different roles, and the expectations that came with them, I realized that I was deeply unhappy and completely exhausted in each and every single stage. I felt like Elsa from Frozen, “conceal, don’t feel. Don’t let them know.” I’ve been an imposter to everyone and to myself. Not some sort of shocking kind of imposter where I was leading a double life or making bad decisions. The quiet kind. The kind that never really tells you what’s on her mind, how she’s really feeling, what she really wants and needs. Always smiling, always putting on an act that life was perfect and yours can be too if you just try.
But reality, I felt like I was in a constant state of drowning. Drowning being a stay a home mom and not finding satisfaction in it, drowning in questioning my faith and religion, drowning in my marriage that wasn’t bad but wasn’t great either.
And somewhere, somehow it occurred to me that I was doing a really big injustice to myself, to my spouse, and children by drowning all the time. Did I want to be so young and so unhappy in my life? Is this what I teach my children? Lead a life that makes you so miserable you count the hours until you can just go back to bed? Do what everyone else will tells you will bring happiness and wonder what’s wrong with you when it’s not working? So after a lot of thought (and a bunch of really helpful therapy sessions) I started to finally ask myself what *I* wanted. What things will make Toni happy? The answers that came were surprising.
And now here I am at 26, looking back, and realizing I’ve wasted a lot of my time trying to keep up with the Jones. I don’t want to be the kind of woman that continues on this unrealistic portrayal of life. My life is not pinterest, my life is real! Why do I feel though I’ve been inundated that real life is not real though?
So naturally, such a shocker to most people when I came out on Facebook with, “Surprise! I’m divorced!” I go back and forth on if the shocker was my fault because of what I’ve portrayed my life as or everyone else’s for never cultivating a space where I felt safe enough to say otherwise. I’ve heard a lot over the last few months how Jesse and I were perfect for one another, how I seemed like such a happy individual, and it seemed like, for the most part my life was going swimmingly. It was the very reason it was so hard to come out and be honest with the people in my life. I feared the judgment I knew I would receive at failing in my marriage, at breaking up my little family. And believe me when I say, those judgments that I was so afraid of came on like the freight train I expected. It was a hard thing to feel like I disappointed so many people around me. That was, of course, until I realized that this was my life. If people wanted to feel disappointed about it then that’s on them. Failing is a natural part of life. Sure, I’m bummed too that my life and marriage hadn’t gone as I hoped but I don’t want to waste another second of my life feeling bad because it didn’t.
So now here I am at work and I had a lull in tasks. I started thinking about how satisfying my life truly has been lately and how I really owe it all to failing.
Here is a little bit of what I’ve learned since I started learning to be okay with failing:
First, it’s okay to be me. I’ve spent most of my life always trying to fit in some type of box of expectations. Whenever I felt something I wanted to do, or who I was, did not fit in that box I told myself I was wrong and needed to adapt. And you know what? I was wrong. Wrong because I shouldn’t care about boxes and expectations. I don’t want to adapt. I am me and I am okay as I am. It makes me sad to think that there was a time that I felt I couldn’t have opinions and questions, that it was not okay to be inquisitive, funny, and vivacious. These are all things my daughter is too and the very things I love most about her. What a shame I’ve spent so much time thinking that these parts of my personality didn’t fit into the life I was supposed to lead when all along they’ve been some of my most beautiful attributes.
Second, I’ve learned way more about myself that I wouldn’t have known otherwise if I didn’t allow myself to fail. I’ve discovered a lot of new hobbies I enjoy, a lot of skills I’m really good at, and have been forced to learn different subjects I wouldn’t have learned otherwise (read: all the car things). I know what I like, what I don’t like, certain things that matter and others that don’t. Most importantly though, learning more about myself has helped me realize how much I deserve in life. No, most things are not just handed, but I’ve learned to fight for the things that I know I deserve and then received them because of my efforts. I’ve learned I’m worth it, something I couldn’t see before because I was too busy thinking about how others saw me.
Lastly, it has given me the gift of compassion. Which is certainly not an attribute I’d say I had before. I have learned to be kinder to myself and others. Whenever an opportunity presents itself for me to judge, I often take some time to really consider it from their standpoint. There are so many variables we cannot know about other’s lives and really, life is not black and white. Bad decisions don’t necessarily equate to being a bad person just as making good decisions doesn’t necessarily equate to being a good person. We are all humans. Most of us are just trying the best we can.
So, yeah. I am absolutely failing at life and I’m okay with it. But because I’m failing, that also means I’m succeeding too. I’m taking risks and working towards big aspirations. Sometimes I trip up and it doesn’t work out so I sit down and revaluate and get back up and try at it again. And if that’s failing then I want to keep failing. I want my children to see a mom that doesn’t have it all figured out but keeps trying anyway. I’m just learning as I go and giving myself grace all along the way.
Just a thought for the next time things don’t work out. You’re okay; we’re all okay. Failing is just another part of this messy but beautiful life.