Failure and envy and moving on

churchill quote // a thousand threads
Lately I’ve noticed, to my dismay, that every time I post a picture on Instagram, I both gain and lose one follower — like I’m stuck in some social media purgatory where the mediocre bloggers go to die. I guess I’m lucky that I’m not just losing them in droves, but it eats at me. It eats at me like the little green monster that wishes it had the talent of some and the luck of others… the same little green monster that just gets mad and doesn’t bother to look around for some perspective.

… and sometimes it eats at me so much it makes me want to erase everything I just wrote, put big black censor bars over the top and pretend I’ve got it all figured out.

Except I don’t.

… I didn’t get into any of the PhD programs I applied to.

I have a lot of excuses lined up to recite whenever someone asks: I applied to the toughest programs; I needed funding; my GPA and experience are good, but they’ll never stand up to the many applications I read every month from plucky potential interns with straight A’s and internships at the UN.

But really, when you wipe the excuses away (because that’s all they are) I just failed.

It happens…

And it’s not like it hasn’t happened before. I’ve been turned down for jobs I thought I had in the bag, I’ve competed for crowns (unfortunately I don’t mean that metaphorically) and lost, I’ve posted things I thought were brilliant and watched them flop. It happens.

But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’ve waited a few weeks to say anything because I wanted to pretend I had it all figured out — to write you an inspirational post with some tips on how to deal with failure. Because hell yes, I totally have those tips — in theory. One door closing and a window opening and hey it was all meant to be… but I don’t want to bullshit you. Because well, first of all let’s all admit that those lists we do in blogger-land (guilty right here) can sometimes feel a little contrived. I swear if I see one more “how to increase your blog traffic” post that tells me benignly to produce “quality” content I’ll gouge my eyes with a fork. When we do that crap we’re no better than a bunch of fortunetellers, just vague enough to say everything and still nothing at all.

… but maybe that’s a rant for another day.

The biggest reason I don’t want to bullshit you is because you folks out there who really are reading this like 25 paragraphs in? You are my success. (Really, thank you for being here.)

And you’re just one big, lovely part of my success – because for as many failures as I’ve had in my life, I’ve had at least that much success and more. And that’s kind of worth the crap when it all comes down.

So here’s the only advice I have to give. When things really, really suck — dig in, put your head down, and work a little harder. Use your envy as fuel. And try your very hardest not to beat yourself up.

The failure will probably always sting, but it will fade.

If you really want whatever it was, you’ll try again. And when you do, you might fail again… Lucille Ball starred in so many crap films before “I Love Lucy” that she became known as “The Queen of B Movies.” Fred Astaire, Thomas Edison, and Walt Disney were all told they’d never succeed, and Steven Spielberg was rejected from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts twice. It happens.

Acknowledge the failure, eat some ice cream, and move on.

Don’t let it make you scared, and don’t let it make you hard… Try to see the love and the luck and the beauty in the life that you do have. And try to appreciate it every day, even if you are still a little bitter about that time you let that guy talk you out of going to Julliard. It brought you to where you are today. And to be really real, it could be much worse.

Life is just a series of decisions, and some of them are shitty. But that only matters if we let them make us shitty too. And we do, all the time. We do it when we succeed and immediately move on to the next, bigger success. We do it when we’re never satisfied, and when we bullshit ourselves and believe that there’s a formula for overcoming failure.

The reality is that without the failure, we’re empty. And without the jealousy, we’re worthless. They give us drive, and – maybe even more importantly – they humble us.

So you can either accept that they’re there, and move on… or you can live a life of quiet hope, waiting for the day you’ll be so successful that they’ll both disappear.

42 Comments

  1. Posted April 17, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Mmm don’t we all know the feeling. Thanks for sharing your ‘failure’, it makes a change when all we see is the perfection of a person’s world via a computer screen. I’m an actor and am quite familiar with rejection though it always stings. If you are a good person and you truly want to make something happen – it will. I 100% have faith in that.

    Sophie x

    http://your-girl-is-lovely.blogspot.co.uk

    • Laicie
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Haha don’t I know it. 🙂 It’s hard to put it out there, but behind the blog we all have the same experiences. I have to hand it to you, Sophie, I’m sure the rejection is hard. When I graduated high school that’s actually what I wanted to do, I moved to LA and wimped out so fast it would’ve made your head spin. My best friend is an amazing playwright who’s out there following her dream every day, and in a lot of ways I envy you both. Blogging and writing and my other creative pursuits are the dream now, and I’m trying to make up for all of those wimpy decisions I regret making as a kid. Some of us take a little longer to work up the guts — good for you for being one of the brave ones. I really do believe that with hard enough work you can achieve anything, and I’m more than certain that you will.

      • Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:50 am | Permalink

        I don’t think any of us see ourselves as brave, but that’s lovely to hear 🙂 To all our of big & brave & wonderful dreams…

  2. Posted April 17, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Great post – quality content and inspirational!!! Sorry you didn’t get on to a PhD program like you wanted to. I’m currently struggling with my entire life being a failure and working out where to go from there!!!

    • Laicie
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

      Thank you!! And man do I know how you feel. But hang in there and keep plugging away, that’s all we can do. That, and be here for each other. Which I am anytime you wanna talk. 🙂

  3. Posted April 17, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    i’ve had a problem with that “big green monster” lately! i see the companies that i aspire to be one day and then i look at my own and seems like my business just can’t get off the ground! i find myself being angry at them for their success instead of gaining inspiration from them. i know i need to turn that around, but i haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet. it’s a daily struggle, and it’s annoying!

  4. Posted April 17, 2014 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    I love how real this post feels. I’ve read it twice. Thanks for keeping it real and for being willing to share!

    • Laicie
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for being here and being willing to listen!! Truly lady, it keeps me going. It really does mean a lot.

  5. Posted April 17, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    i’ve been dealing with the “big green monster” lately. i know that my company is very young and it takes time for people to learn about it and working with vintage, not everyone is going to like the product, but i find myself being jealous of other’s successes instead of gaining inspiration from them. i have so much passion for what i do, but i still have to work a full time job to pay the bills. i think that’s where i feel like i’ve failed. if i can’t give my all to my company, why do it at all…i know that eventually i’ll be able to, and i have a plan to get there, but it just seems so far away.

    it’s frustrating, every day.

    • Laicie
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      Oh man do I know how you feel. It’s rough to juggle so many things, but don’t give up! If you don’t keep working at it then there’s only one outcome — it won’t happen. But even if you can only give your business a little sliver of your time, you’re out there and making it happen. It might take a little longer, but it will happen, and that’s what really matters in the end.

      (At least that’s what I tell myself too. ;))

  6. Posted April 17, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I love this truth telling. While we’re at it… in high school I got deferred from Yale when I applied early (and eventually rejected). I didn’t go to school for a week. Truth. I survived just fine. 🙂

    • Laicie
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

      Oh, honey… those high school failures were the worst, weren’t they? Because not only does it suck a whole lot, but your emotions are running so high? I remember crying for days once when I broke my arm and disqualified myself from a summer of competition on my horse (I know that doesn’t really compare at all… but it felt like the end of my world at the time, and obviously it so wasn’t. :)) The point is, we all move on — and hopefully to bigger and better things!! xoxo

  7. kislanykim
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m so sorry you didn’t get into the programs you wanted. That sucks! May you find the right way forward, whether it’s reapplying in a year or two, or adapting to another path. You sure do have an awful lot going for you, don’t forget that either. As they say here, Bon courage and hang in there.

    • Laicie
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

      Thank you so much, it sucks but I know that eventually I will either make it happen or as you said, adapt to another path. For now, it’s on to the next big move. 🙂

  8. Mom
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Love this quote and the person who posted it on her blog (-:

  9. Posted April 17, 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I have read your blog for a long time but never commented before. Thank you for your honest writing. No bullshit advice from me, just a hearty “that really sucks”. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off. It seems to me that you live a life surrounded by love – failures hurt but your ‘threads’ lessen the pain. Onward!

    • Laicie
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

      Kate — thank you so much for speaking up today, I can’t begin to tell you how much it means. And I’m so glad you did because you’re awesome. Thanks for throwing it right back at me. 😉 Today I’m eating my ice cream and putting on my big girl pants and moving on to the next big thing — and it’s that much easier to do, knowing I have so many wonderful people behind me!

  10. Posted April 17, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Everything you said resonated with me, Laicie. I feel like I’m going through a little tailspin myself, hence the lack of posting and social media interactions. I really just wanted to step away from all that, and spend time with myself – working so far 😉 Thank you for keeping it real, and sharing with us – we’ll always be here to support you!

    • Laicie
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      Oh V — I hope you know that we’ll always be there to support you too. You are so incredibly talented it blows my mind. I miss you! But I’m so glad you’re strong enough to step away and heal, and I know eventually you’ll be back stronger than ever. 😉

  11. Posted April 17, 2014 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for being real and writing this post. I have been feeling like a failure all week, but I am not giving up. I have more chances to try again and maybe just one of them will be the one that makes the difference. Keep chasing your dreams!

    • Laicie
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

      You’re right, you never know when the time will come — that’s why you just have to keep pressing on! 🙂 Good luck lady, I hope your time comes soon.

  12. Posted April 18, 2014 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing this! It must have been really hard to make a post while feeling like that and still being coherent (this happens to me a lot, but most of the time it doesn’t lead to a helpful, coherent post like yours did). This week I found an article about rejection letters sent to famous people and you wouldn’t believe how many of them “failed” at first! It boosted my morale and hopefully it could do the same for you! But anyways, your blog is amazing and so are you, so keep on keepin’ on! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

    • Laicie
      Posted April 18, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      Oh my gosh, Audrey, thank you so much for all of your kind words and thank you for this article! I’ve never seen these, and they’re so amazing!!

  13. Posted April 18, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Oh Laicie, this is why I love your blog so very much. You are honest and real and AWESOME. I know there’s a tendency to wait until we’ve “learned our lesson” to tell others about our failures, but then it can feel less authentic because the pain isn’t as fresh and we’re able to stamp some nice words and a smile at the end. So reading this was a breath of fresh air. Oof that may sound rude – I don’t mean that about your pain, but the way you are able to talk about it. So sorry that you didn’t get in anywhere. I’ve had a few of these closed doors myself lately and it can be so discouraging. My advice is not to take it personally – just because you weren’t chosen, don’t mean there is something WRONG with you. You just haven’t found the right fit. (advice for me just as much as you) <3

    • Laicie
      Posted April 18, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Emily this is why I love YOU so much!! Thank you, lady… for being here now and for such a long time. You are truly one of my very favorite people and we’ve never even met. 🙂

      Hang in there, I know we’re both just moments away from finding the right fit!

  14. Posted April 18, 2014 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Oh Laicie! I’m so sorry you didn’t get into the PhD programs you wanted, but thank you thank you thank you for writing this awesome post. I struggle with a lot of similar feelings, and it often makes me want to just stop trying and throw my freakin’ computer out the window. “Acknowledge the failure, eat some ice cream, and move on” is my new mantra 🙂

    And for what it’s worth, I think you put out really amazing content, and I look forward to visiting your blog each day!

    • Laicie
      Posted April 18, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Oh, Gloria… I feel the same about your blog!! But I know we’re all in the same boat, we’re our own worst critics. I think we need to plan to eat some ice cream together someday soon. 🙂

  15. Lisa
    Posted April 18, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your honesty! This is something that hits home, especially right now. I’ve been in a funk the past few days for something that I was working so hard on but didn’t get what I wanted. This is just the thing I needed to hear. I will dig in, work a little smarter and not give up.

    • Laicie
      Posted April 18, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      It happens to the best of us!! But I know you’ll make it happen if it’s what you want!

  16. Posted April 18, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    I’ve read and reread this post no less than 5 times in the last day, trying to figure out how to tell you how much this means to me. I didn’t get into any of those dreamy PhD programs either, but I didn’t even have the courage to tell my own mother for weeks. Thank you for being so brave, and so incredibly generous–with yourself, and with us. Now let’s toast to our future successes, and let these wounds heal!

    • Laicie
      Posted April 18, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Oh, Lena… I wish I could toast you in person, and give you the biggest hug. I couldn’t tell my mom at first either, I was so heartbroken. But I know it just wasn’t our time, and damnit, the next time around we’re going to kick those schools’ ass. 🙂

  17. Posted April 18, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    This is just beautiful my friend

    • Laicie
      Posted April 18, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Thanks lady 🙂 xoxo

  18. Kami
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Well put

  19. Posted April 20, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Laicie, there’s no failure in trying (vs. failure when one doesn’t try). Do you know how encouraging you are to so many bloggers? (Including me aka a sporadic blogger, who gets inspired by people like you!!) Keep it up and keep it real like you always do. I just wish there were more bloggers and friends like you. xoxo!! Sending air hugs your way!

  20. Posted April 22, 2014 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    You are actually the best. My favorite, real, honest blog to read. Keep on keepin’ on. Rejection SUCKS but it gets better, and you’ll prove em all wrong.

  21. Posted May 2, 2014 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Wow. Great post. I’m having the exact same scenario with the IG followers, it’s so weird/random and makes no sense. But then I think… “Who am I posting those pictures for anyway?” I’m certainly not gramming my brother’s graduation or dates with my husband for strangers. These are my moments and my memories and if, by chance, they inspire a few people than great. I know I don’t have 350 friends or family members – so there are some people out there that follow me “just because”.

    I also completely relate to this…

    “I swear if I see one more “how to increase your blog traffic” post that tells me benignly to produce “quality” content I’ll gouge my eyes with a fork. When we do that crap we’re no better than a bunch of fortunetellers, just vague enough to say everything and still nothing at all.”

    I have so many great post ideas and thoughts of what my blog could be. But, when I actually take the time to produce something or develop a plan, it feels like a total waste. It takes so much time/effort to put together and it feels so watered down and unimportant. Plus, it doesn’t pay anything. And I actually hate sponsored posts by big box companies, they feel very soulless and empty. So what would I be working toward anyway? I know I have much to offer this world – in a good way, and I am confident in that, but I don’t think that blogging and social media is the answer or the focus. I read this quote ( http://tinyurl.com/l56roz ) the other day and felt that it totally summed up my perspective.

    Anyhow, that’s a very long winded way to say, your realness is refreshing, I can relate and I wish you the best of luck in whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.

    • Laicie
      Posted May 2, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      It’s hard, but I’m learning that you just have to hang in there. I can’t tell you how often I wonder what the point of any of it is ha, but I always come back to the same thing. It’s what makes you happy. If it makes you happy, regardless of what anyone else says or does or doesn’t say, then it’s right! Only then. Thanks for writing, Mary! I wish you the very very best of luck too! (Oh, and your header might be my favorite ever ever. You have a beautiful blog.)

  22. Posted May 2, 2014 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Just wanted to say, I just came across your blog and was so impressed with this post! I really admire your incredible honesty and willingness to talk about these tough issues! Feeling rejection absolutely sucks, but I keep trying to tell myself that I’m only finding rejection because I’m willing to put myself out there, and at some point that will pay off. Best of luck with everything — I’ll be following along and excited to see your upcoming adventures. 🙂

    p.s. this is minor thing, but makes me feel better when I lose instagram followers — my understanding is that Instagram is currently culling some of their spam or fake accounts, so most people can expect to lose some followers this way. 🙂

    • Laicie
      Posted May 2, 2014 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      Thank you SO much, Diana!! I couldn’t agree more, and just found myself telling someone today that you have to hear lots of no’s before you get to yes. The trick is getting used to hearing no. And I’m totally looking at every lost Instagram follower that way from now on — good point!! So glad you found your way here. 🙂

      And good luck to you too!

  23. Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this really real post, Laicie! I’m sorry I missed it when it came out, but thanks for linking to it today 🙂 I know the feeling of failure. I like to pretend for a few days that it’s not happening, but then I get to the point of having to just soak it in and just wallow in it for a little while. Then, I find that you’re able to pick yourself up quicker and embrace new opportunities! Like you speaking at Alt!! So exciting! Ok off to comment on that post… 🙂

2 Trackbacks

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    […] am. The recognition is huge, and such an honor, and such a welcome surprise after a few weeks of feeling sort of discouraged (also a good reminder that those welcome surprises almost always come when you least expect […]

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