You sit before me now, head down, while your face seeks shelter in your hands. “I failed,” you confess, sounding hollow and broken. I attempt to comfort and reassure you. When you finally look up at me, I’m not seen, and not heard. You’re so lost inside of your pain and disappointment that my words can’t find you. I can’t find you. We sit side by side, both feeling inadequate. Your hurting right now, feeling adrift and sick inside. In my silence, I try to communicate to you that you’re not alone. I’m here. Right beside you. And I still believe in you.
I decide to write you a letter – one you can carry in your pocket to remind you of my caring. A note to read when you’re more open to my message. I know it won’t take your pain away or magically transform your beliefs, but maybe it can hold a seed -one which will eventually emerge from the rich and fertile ground in which I lovingly planted it.
So you failed. And this failure wounds you so profoundly that it’s penetrated deep into your psyche. It may even have become an integral part of who you believe yourself to be. Today, you look into your mirror and see a failure. I look into your eyes and see the wisdom born of pain. And it hurts, this learning. I know. I know. I’ve felt its sting before. I’ve been thoroughly haunted by my own mistakes, miscalculations, and self-judgements. I’ve fallen too. Again and yet again.
Just like you, I forget during those moments when my folly is first discovered – what I know. What we both know. Defeat isn’t the theme of our unique stories, it isn’t what defines who we are, where we’ll go or who we’ll become. It only reminds us that we’re not alone. That we share the legacy of all human-kind, that we all will fail from time to time. Each of us stumbles and is wounded in the fall. Failure, my dear, dear, friend, is a natural offshoot of growth. We churn in it, learn from it, and we become stronger as we struggle to recover from it.
In a commencement address delivered at Moorpark College in 1989, James D. Griffen remembered John Kennedy O’Toole, a young writer who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, “A Confederacy of Dunces.” Imagine what it would have felt like to him to achieve this coveted award. How successful, how triumphant, how wonderful he would have felt. I say “would of” because we’ll never know how he might have felt. He’ll never know. We can only imagine on his behalf, because he never lived to claim his prize. After being rejected by seventeen publishers, he committed suicide. What a strange term, “to commit” suicide, when the act is above all else, a lack of commitment.
We must all hold fast in the darkness, for irregardless of the blackness which may surround us – light always eventually illuminates our path. Always…
Experience fully the pain of your failure. You must, bless you. I know you must. But when your body and soul grows weary of the sadness, the recriminations, the “what ifs” (and they will), accept the compensations, (however modest) that accompany your misfortune. Learn the lessons that follow behind them. They’ll serve you well. You’ll be wiser, stronger, and more prepared for the rest of your journey if you take them with you. Rest now if you need to. Grieve if you must. And when you’re ready to collect them, let me know. I’ll gladly help you gather them up.
So what’s the moral of this story? Your story? It’s not a story about loss, deficiency, and flaws. It’s a story about lessons learned, overcoming, moving forward and onward, and most importantly – it is a story about hope.
Some of my most cherished tales have touched my heart and at the same time they have made me weep. And though I’m sad for you right now, I want you to know my friend, that I love your story still…
Written by: Tammie Byram Fowles, author of BirthQuake: The Journey to Wholeness