The F-Word is unacceptable. When you hear someone say it, your knees kind of buckle, your mouth gets a little dry and you feel awkward at that moment. Although it’s frowned up–its’ a tempting word. I throw it around all the time. Growing up, if you said the f-word you got grounded. Or in my case, you got grounded and you got yelled at. Or maybe you had the kind of upbringing where a bar of soap got shoved into your mouth. But regardless, you were punished for saying it. And although you were forbidden to say it, you thought about it. And when you thought about it, you were even more tempted to say it although it wasn’t allowed. Have I lost you yet? Anyway, the point is, you were never supposed to say it. And lord help you if you did…
I hate the word failure. It is an overwhelming word that brings me down and bums me out. The word failure has a special kind of connotation. Failure carries this insane amount of weight. The feeling of failure can be quite destructive. No one wants to feel like they’ve bottomed out on accomplishing what they’ve set out to do. People will try to console you and pump you up with positivity. But it’s impossible to absorb that energy especially when you constantly live and breathe in the negative. And its’ even more of a struggle when you’ve been spoonfed that delectable treat since childhood.
In middle school, I was the definition of a bookworm. I loved to read. Goosebumps, Animorphs, Othello, Phantom of the Opera, Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events–I could go on forever. Existing in a different world other than my own was intoxicating. I mean, any other world seemed better than my own at the time. Being transferred to a new school where I had no friends–I disappeared the only way I knew how. I was the weird one who had transferred from another school and got looked at weird when I said the word— ‘dude’. I’m not exaggerating. I got picked on for that. I’d stay up late trying to push back as many pages as possible before bedtime trying to forget how miserable I was without any friends. After a long day at school as the weirdo transfer kid–I had no choice but to walk home since my babysitter forgot to pick me up (which was almost weekly) with my nose shoved in a book.
Yeah, it IS unfortunate that it wasn’t an A. Thanks for pointing out the obvious.
I’m a firm believer that whatever happens in your childhood–good or bad–that it will come back and manifest itself in other aspects of your life. If you come from a broken home, you may have an issue with developing a healthy relationship. If you grew up in a household where your mother always judged you, you may have a problem with opening up to people. If you grew up in a household where your dad screamed at you for not knowing the proper steps of solving a math problem–you may get anxious as hell when someone asks you to do quick multiplication…
Here’s the thing, my parents set the bar really high when I was young–in fact–I think they still do. They always thought I could do better instead of acknowledging that I did my best. They expected more from me. And because of that I always set the bar really high and when I’m not successful, I immediately think I’ve failed. And that’s the problem–feeling like you’ve failed when you did your best messes everything up. If you don’t succeed, you failed instead of realizing that the effort is something to be acknowledged.
Years ago, I became faced with a situation that threw me into the overwhelming void of failure. Realizing that I had bit off more than I could chew, I took far too many classes during my last semester of college and ended up failing one of my classes RIGHT before graduation. I was so shrouded in the toxic cloud of failure that I couldn’t bring myself to break the news to my parents. Thankfully, I was still able to walk with my graduating class, I just wouldn’t be able to receive my degree until I re-took the course I failed. Do you have any idea what its’ like to walk around the campus store shopping for a cap and gown feeling like a failure and a liar? It’s practically soul-crushing.
This was such a huge day for our family. I was going to be the ONLY one to graduate college in my family. And I screwed up. I failed.
It was a hard thing to accept mainly because I didn’t know how to accept it. I just kept thinking that I was a loser. I fell into a deep depression. Everything that I worked so hard for didn’t mean anything. The mini accomplishments didn’t amount to anything. This one class justified my entire academic career and all the successes that I had along the way. I improved my GPA enough to graduate with honors. I battled substance abuse. I worked full-time and went to school full-time. And because I couldn’t see all those little things–I truly felt like I failed my entire college career–and above all else–my parents.
So, when I sat in the chair as the photographer was getting ready to take my graduation photo–I felt emotionally drained. It was difficult to smile. To be honest–I hate smiling for photos. My mother has to beg me to smile during Christmas photos and it’s the absolute worst. Our annual Christmas photo is like pulling teeth. As I sat there in my gown, the white robes that I earned with honors in my department and my cap tilted carefully to the side–I couldn’t help but stare at the class ring my father purchased for me. It displayed my birthstone, my graduation ‘year’ and my ‘degree’. How would he feel if he knew? Would he be angry? Or would he be disappointed? All those thoughts caused my eyes to well up. The whole thing broke my heart knowing that the one person who was excited about my academic career would be shattered if he ever found out that I wasn’t a college graduate like I said I was. I hate crying and I usually try to avoid it at ALL costs, but at that moment, I felt so incredibly broken that I could have sobbed for the camera if I didn’t pull myself together. My failure brought me to this moment and I had to smile in front of the camera and pretend that everything was fine when it wasn’t. Story of my life.
Id like to think of myself as this giant, delicious pie. Apple or Boysenberry if I’m going to be super specific. (Besides those are the most delicious pies. I don’t care what you say, cherry pie is disgusting.) I know I’m using food as a reference, but it also makes the most sense when it comes to talking about this. And this pie has a delicious pie crust with a streusel topping. Its’ well made and makes you regret eating it. But its also a work in progress. Each slice is composed of something different. One piece is my social life; crazy, fun and extremely active. Another has to do with my physical health which is currently being improved upon almost daily. A hefty slice has to do with my mental health which is associated with relaxation, my hobbies and things that make me happy so I don’t go insane. And the last but not least has to do with my professional life with has special toppings that involve my academic career.
When I’ve failed something, everything else becomes collateral damage. You start to have this meltdown. You start to have anxiety with all the other elements in your life. Let me explain. When you eat a pie, you use a fork, right? You take a slice and then you start chipping away at it. In other words–the feeling of failure is the fork used to eat it. You start off with one piece that you are experiencing that overwhelming feeling with, and then you start thinking about all the other aspects of your life and wondering if those other things could be better. You can’t help it. It’s very tempting to lose control and its also very easy to allow those feelings to consume you. So, you start BINGING the shit out of your pie until you reach that point to where your pants don’t fit. You go past any other food coma you’ve experienced. At this point–you’re past the bloated stage. And then you start wearing sweatpants. You become Regina George…
It’s taken me a long time to get to this point–obviously because I’ve rambled a shit ton just now. Sometimes I feel like I’m experiencing one giant uphill battle. And when you’re in that state of mind–you’re unable to see other aspects in my life that are going well. When you have such a narrow focus on the concept of failure instead of viewing it as a setback–you lose perspective. When you have that overwhelming weight pressing down on you, you just have to remember that it’s all temporary.
I honestly don’t know whats worse–the fear of failure or experiencing rejection time and time again and associating it with failure. It all seems like a swirling vortex of hell that you can’t seem to step out of once you’ve stepped inside it. Instead of having a healthy mindset–I’m dealing with the ugly ramifications that stem from the birth of that dreaded F-word and how I associate it with almost everything in my life when shit doesn’t pan out. You think about what you can do better next time and how to prevent it. But here’s the thing–you can’t. That’s not how life works. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you find you get what you need. The Rolling Stones know what they’re talking about…
There’s a saying that with every failure comes success. How can something so negative give birth to something so positive? I’d like to believe in something different. I can’t deal with the f-word. I’m sick and tired of thinking about it and letting it affect my life. Instead, I’d like to think of these unbelievable hurdles as setbacks. Because setbacks do happen. Set-backs prevent us from moving forward and guess what? Those are all temporary.
If you find yourself feeling consumed by this dreadful feeling–sit back, take a deep breath, eat a cookie and realize that it’s all temporary. We are meant to get off track so we can find our way. Remember–you’re doing the best you can and believe me–that–is enough.