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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.


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