“I have spoken to our director and other therapists at the clinic, and we would like to make you an offer for the position,” I read aloud to my roommate with excitement as I opened the e-mail from my first potential employer. One job application, one interview, and the career I have worked for will finally begin.
I turned on the music and began to prep for my daily workout- something new since being unemployed for a month. I decided to begin a new regimen today, one that I had been putting off because I knew it was going to kick my ass, and that I may not be able to finish it.
During the sixth interval of pushups I got to the point where I had to stop. I shook it off and proceeded. My cool down included a walk through the stunning hills outside my San Francisco home, with views of the city that often lead me to reflection with their beauty. Towards the top as I was thinking about that set up pushups, I heard the words- “why do I rarely fail?”
I have lived under the belief that failure is bad, and means that I am unworthy.
I look back on my short life of 24 years and on paper, I’ll admit it is impressive. I have paid my way through undergraduate and graduate school, completed a Master’s Degree, am beginning a profitable career, have maintained incredibly meaningful relationships, and have waded my way through (what I think were) some pretty terrible situations both personally and in my family.
I have been an athlete, a musician, a student, an employee, and a friend. Other people may look at my accolades and life accomplishments and think, “wow, she’s really got her shit together!” And, you know, I often believe that to be true.
But today, on that walk up the hill, I realized- I have never really failed.
Now I know what you may be thinking. “Really? How could that be true.” Absolutely. 100% agree. I fail every day in little ways I am sure- as a good roommate, a good friend, a good human being.
But in the big things, the things by which I and others measure my worth as a human, I have not failed.
I have never been turned down for a job. Never.
Every job I applied for I have gotten. I have never been turned down in a school application. I always got straight A’s. I always made the team. I always finish the workout. “I have spoken to our director and other therapists at the clinic, and we would like to make you an offer for the position.” First try.
Today- that 6th interval of pushups- was one of those few times I didn’t make it. It may seem silly and simple, but to me it opened up a profound message about my life.
I rarely put myself in situations which I think I may not succeed.
Why? Because I have been blessed with intelligence and talent, of which I honestly do not take credit for (thanks to the good ol’ Weeks parents). I can pass by as an impressive human being.
But really, I function at a level in which I push myself just hard enough to be a cut above the rest, but not far enough to have potential to fail. I chose a career and graduate school that I knew would be easy (for me) and applied for a job that I knew I could get. I work out at a level at which others may not be able to achieve, but I rarely push myself to the point of failure.
I succeed, but I don’t necessarily excel.
I look at the pictures of models in magazines and think, “I work out, why don’t I look like that?” Perhaps it is because those individuals have pushed themselves to the point of failure, over and over, every day, until their body adapts and they finally succeed.
Some may say my lack of failures mean I am responsible and talented. I say it is a life without risk.
I am not too big to fail, but rather am too small. I hide under my God-given talents and abilities, but never push myself past them to the point where I won’t succeed- to the point of true growth. If I never failed, does it mean that I never tried something hard enough?
I believed that failure indicates an inadequacy within me, and looked at others who fail as weak. But today I realized something completely different. Failure- after everything has been left on the floor- is an indicator of a courage. An act of bravery. It means I have pushed myself past the point of my abilities, and can learn where my limitations are and grow from them. Without failure, how will I ever know what it takes to truly succeed?
So I challenge myself today- don’t be too small to fail. Be too big to succeed.
Shoot high, take risks, do something where you will probably completely fail. Laugh. Cry. Move on. Grow.
Brenna is a young woman who has just finished her Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy, and is embarking on a career working with children with special needs. Her goal is to facilitate opportunities for them to function at their highest level, while taking moments to learn from each brave teacher she encounters.