And Turned Around, Sooner or Later

The other day (as I write this, weeks before you read it), I was having a conversation about the importance of failure — the idea that it’s not only okay to fail at things sometimes, it’s probably necessary on some deep, inexplicable emotional level.

This was treated with no small amount of cynicism by the person I was talking to, and I get it: failure is meant to be a bad thing, and certainly isn’t the goal of any particular enterprise, especially in the early days. Moreover, I can remember surprisingly clearly how strongly I felt about the idea of failing at something when I was younger: how scary it felt, how overwhelming and horrifying the very concept of people seeing me not do the thing I set out to was at the time. How could I face them if they knew how badly I fucked up? I’d ask myself, mortified at even considering the possibility.

Since those days, I’ve failed at a lot of things, professionally and personally. I’ve screwed up, and I’ve been screwed up by others; it’s been difficult and awkward and, sure, utterly embarrassing at times, too; I’ve dealt with a lot of it badly, and with less grace and goodwill than I’d have liked, looking back, in many cases, too, to my regret… but I can’t deny that a bunch of those failures have been for the best, in the long run.

Not in the, “every failure was a step on the path here” way, exactly — but also that, as cliche as it is — but in the sense of, it’s good to learn your limits and find out what you can’t do as well as what you can. It’s worthwhile to step out of the wreckage and go, “Well, I’m never doing that again,” and know exactly why. There’s value in fucking up and learning from your mistakes, even if sometimes the real lesson is that someone else is a real dick.

I’m not sure how much of this translated to the person I was talking to, or how much they realized that (a) they’ve failed at something and that’s fine as long as they accept it, and (b) it’s better to fail and move on than pull everything down around them in an attempt to disguise the failure from themselves and others. I know that the me of even a decade ago might not have been ready to accept that. Nonetheless: sometimes it’s good to give in and admit that you made a trash fire.

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