13 May So You Failed…Now What?
During my senior year, I received a C+ on my research paper. A paper that I believed (still do) was a well-researched, enthralling piece on the controversial deaths of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungeon. It was the first time I’d made anything below a B in English. To this day I still believe that C+ was the result of my teacher not knowing or caring who Sid and Nancy were, and you know what? That’s her problem.
I knew how many hours I’d spent reading article after article on the couple and how much of my own money I’d spent purchasing the hard to find biography “And I Don’t Wanna Live This Life” by Nancy’s mom, Deborah Spungeon, so that I would have the most accurate view possible of Nancy’s life. I knew how excited I was to share a story I found fascinating with my teacher and the rest of the class.
Despite understanding how great my research paper truly was, it crushed my soul to get a C+ on a paper I’d spent so much time and effort writing, especially when my post-high school plans were all centered around becoming a writer. I had failed miserably at the one thing I thought I was good at. I could have wallowed in my misery, and to an extent, I did.
But then I found out that I was in good company when it came to failures. Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison were both told they were stupid by their teachers (they were obviously related to my English teacher). Walt Disney’s former newspaper editor told him he had no imagination or good ideas. JK Rowling was a broke, divorced single mom when she wrote the first Harry Potter book. And Abraham Lincoln failed so hard he was demoted from a military captain to a private by the time he returned from deployment. That’s not including the numerous business and political career attempts Lincoln made and failed at before becoming our 16th President.
I joke that I still believe my senior research paper was some type of unsung brilliance but the reality is, I didn’t write a paper that made the reader care about the topic. That didn’t mean I wasn’t a good writer. I just had/have some things to work on. To be honest, I sort of gave up on writing after my senior year. Though I did go on to college to study journalism, my heart was no longer in it and I didn’t really try that hard. My soul had been crushed and I was convinced that I needed to settle for some other, less fulfilling job that paid the bills. So I tried my hand at a number of potential careers including restaurants, retail, and beauty school.
I hated every one of them. I hated smelling like grease and refilling drinks for nontippers and I hated the smell of the chemicals used in salons. I hated working doubles and wearing aprons and uniforms. I was a terrible employee, too. I called in as often as I could because I just didn’t want to be at those jobs. Eventually, I gained some work ethic and stopped being such a terrible employee though I still hated the jobs.
Then one day, a former high school classmate showed up at my job as a produce manager for a local grocery store and said, “Why are you here? You’re too smart to be slinging groceries. I thought you wanted to be a writer.” A few weeks later, I left that job and started writing again. Soon, I had a flourishing freelance writing career that eventually led to my job here, working as a somewhat bonafide copywriter. And this is just the beginning of my story.
Perhaps mine is not the most awe-worthy failure turned success story, but I share it for a few reasons.
1) To share what not to do when you fail at something, which is giving up. For a while, I gave up and I was miserable. I can only imagine what would have happened if I’d kept right on trucking after my senior year and continued to pursue my dream instead of putting it on hold for eight years.
2) To share what happens when you believe in yourself, even if no one else around you does. I would love to say that my parents were completely supportive of my decision to leave a safe job with a steady paycheck to pursue a freelance career, but the truth is, they pretty much laughed at me. When I landed my first writing job, my mother questioned my husband if the job was “legitimate.” To this day, I don’t think my parents have read a single piece I’ve written.
Instead of letting other people’s apathy for my writing career deter me from my newly revived dreams, I let it drive me to work even harder so I could prove them wrong.
Then one day, I was offered a job writing for this company called ClearDoc in which I made an average of a $1,000 a week creating content for their new website. Not long after that job ended, my current job all but fell into my lap. And though my parents still don’t read my writing, they now have no problem bragging about their copywriter daughter.
Y’all, I have failed so many times I can’t count or recall the number or ways in which I’ve done so. But eventually I got back up and, as the old saying goes, I tried, tried, tried again and each time, I found a little more success. In fact, the only times I wasn’t successful was when I had given up and that is why I implore you, yes you, not to give up on your dreams.
Sure, you might have to change or adjust your dreams to fit reality, but don’t ever give up on them. It may take you longer than you think it should to get there. Van Gogh had only sold one painting in his life shortly before his death before he became one of the most famous artists in history. Stan Lee didn’t write his first comic until the age of 39. And Julia Child didn’t release her first cookbook until she was 50 years old.
Failure is not the end, my friend, no matter how old you are or how many times you’ve failed. What it really is is an opportunity to get up, dust your shoulders off, and try, try again. Trust me when I say, the only regret you will have from failure is the time you gave up on your dreams.