A colleague of mine recently posted on Facebook this caption:
“Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.”
This resonated deeply.
Lately I have been feeling more like a failure than less.
It’s funny that no matter how much recognition and how many good things happen to you, all you need is one episode, one encounter that can make you feel like a failure.
Failure is that tiny drop that changes the color of the entire cup.
I know that failure is here to teach us. Failure is here to make us stronger. What I think I’ve learned the most is that failure is not a step down. It is just a pause on the way up. Every alleged failure actually prepares you for what you are asking for, for what you want. It makes you clarify the direction you are going in.
A few months ago, I reached out asking for help to furnish my “homie” Daniel’s apartment. This amazing man inspired me to no end this past year.
I watch him now and I know more than ever that every failed attempt he went through brought him exactly to the place he is at right now.
Daniel was incarcerated for many years.
He did his time, paid his dues and, upon release, found his way to Homeboy Industries.
Once you have a felony conviction on your record, every step you take in your new life, everything you try to create and do after that, is colored by the mistakes you made in your past. It does not matter how long you were in jail, that you have paid back your debt to society or even if you have been exonerated.
Daniel lived in a placement home upon release and then he wanted to rent his own place.
Failure after failure, application after application, doors were shut in his face making homelessness hang over his head. But he did not give up on his dream of an apartment.
Never, never, I say, did he succumb to the easy option.
The easy option would have been to go back to his old ways.
The easy option would have been to reach out to old gang members.
The easy option would have been to let failure paint his existence, rather than making it paint his hopes for the future.
But his resolve was as tough as nails.
I meet him only once a week. And I was so scared for him.
I felt incredibly helpless.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like to live through it every day 7 days a week!
I said to him in class, “Daniel, this is a step up. This is a step in the direction of where you’re going. This is a step on that stairway to heaven. You are just sitting and resting.”
Again, and again, I said the words I deeply believe in, trying hard to convince myself and him that what he is waiting for can happen.
I worried a lot, searching for ways to help.
And then when it almost seemed like it would NOT happen, he got an apartment!!
An amazing apartment!!
OMG! The joy, the joy!
With renewed energy he jumped two steps at a time.
And now he has enrolled in college!
Take that, failure!
So, failure is a pause.
Failure is a time to be.
A time to think.
In the dictionary the definition of failure is “lack of success.”
I would say it is almost a necessary step in the direction of success.
Meryl Streep, upon failing to receive the part of the woman in King Kong, says about failure, “This is just one opinion in a sea of thousands and I'm off to find a kinder tide.”
Failure will come and go.
Failure will test our intentions and strength.
Failure will leave us depleted and scared.
Failure should not define us.
There is ALWAYS a kinder tide.
We just need to have the patience and faith to hang in there and wait for it to come or go to a different shore to find it.
I look at Daniel and learn from him.
I look at Daniel and reflect on my own failures.
I look at Daniel and know that the stairs are there for us to climb
and failure is but a mere pause on the way up to wherever we are headed.
So, to those of you feeling the weight of failure today, hang in there. Don’t despair.
Befriend the beast and tell it to watch out, because the kinder tide is going to wash it away soon!
You are more than enough, and you are not a failure.