The voice on the other end of the phone told me something was wrong. It wasn’t the words but the sound of desperation. It took only moments before the tears came. “I feel like such a failure,” she said. I recently heard those same words from someone else. They were spoken with the same sadness and fear I heard in her that day.
I empathized with both of them. I have said those words myself and felt the pain surrounding them. Failure-it is such a daunting word. The term “FAIL” or “EPIC FAIL” has become very popular. It is usually not spoken, but yelled when someone does something questionable. We rarely associate failure with simply making a mistake or not succeeding at a task. It seems much bigger.
Early in the fall of this year, I was beginning to have those old demons emerge. I was beginning to feel like a failure. I was out of work, getting divorced for the third time, and looking at the few material possessions I owned. At 61, I should certainly be sitting on my front porch watching the sunset with my husband of 40 years, planning an exciting travel filled retirement, and having an investment portfolio to sustain my lifestyle for the next 30 or so years.
The truth is that I have failed at many things in life. What I have come to understand is that while missing my goal or making a mistake may mean I failed, it does not make me a failure. Someone very wise told me the only thing that would make me a failure was if I gave up without trying.
I would never consider Oprah a failure, yet she was fired from her first job and told she would never make it in TV. Walt Disney was told his mouse idea was a failure. I would dare say that today we would yell, “EPIC FAIL” to the person who said that. J.K. Rowlings was certainly considered a failure as a divorced, single mother, want to be writer on welfare. Yet, she continued to write. Steven King’s manuscript for “Carrie” was rejected 30 times before it became a success. There are many examples of people who failed at something and we would never dream of labeling them failures.
I am convinced that as long I am alive on this earth, I will continue to fail. I will also succeed in countless endeavors. Neither success nor failure should define me. They are not who I am. I am many things but I am not now nor will I ever be a failure. I only hope my friends come to believe that as well.