I have one of those some lines a day journal that lets you write a few lines every day for 5 years, and I’m currently on year 4. The writing space is very limited, and I admit that at least 50% of it is filled with mundane details like what I ate or how I slept or how tired I was from work (in my old office job). Nevertheless, over time it gives an interesting insight into the past 3 years of my life.
At some point – not that long ago, I would have looked through this diary and thought: “Boy I sure did fail at a lot of stuff. I’m spineless and lazy and bad at everything.” However, now I see a different story. Here are some of the things that I’ve tried/done in the last 3-4 years:
- Gone to a silent weekend retreat by myself
- Gone to figure drawing evenings with a bunch of strangers who are way more experienced and way better than me
- Taken (a few) singing lesssons
- Taught myself basic guitar
- Taught myself basic PHP
- Participated in a writing critiquing circle
- Finished the first draft of a novel and started on the second draft
- Finished the first draft of a memoir and started on the second draft (still in progress)
- Gone to dancing evenings and taken several 5 Rhythms workshops by myself
- Become a certified Modern Energy Tapping professional
- Decided to become a body image coach and ALMOST finish a course as a weight consultant
- Walk from Amsterdam to Berlin. By myself. 650+ freakin’ kilometres.
That’s a lot of stuff, right there. Next to partly working normal jobs and you know, regular life things. And it’s not even an exhaustive list.
It’s been years since I had a singing lesson. It’s been more than a year since I went to a drawing or dancing evening, and it’s been months since I got out my guitar. I’ve also discovered that I do not want to be a programmer or a body image coach. At least not for now. So, did I waste all that time? Did I fail? Should I have stuck with it longer?
I rather think not.
From each of these things I have learnt so much. About myself, my passions, talents and weaknesses. And I can honestly say that there aren’t a lot of things that I’ve wanted to do that I didn’t at least try.
There’s a lot of background stuff that has been going on of course, to help me on my way to failure. When I was a student in my 20s – perhaps a more appropriate time for experimenting with various hobbies and alternate career paths – I was too stuck, too afraid, and struggling too much with my mental health to have the energy and courage to do these things or even think these thoughts. So, there is something to be said for growing older after all.
The loss of my father, having a burnout and deciding to quit my job have also all been big experiences that influenced me over the past years. Not suddenly, but gradually. It was the realisation that even though bad and scary things were going to happen, it would ultimately be okay. And that bad and scary things would happen even if I “played it safe”. Life, as it turns out, does not play it safe.
And after a lot of therapy and working on myself, I am by no means cured, but feeling so much stronger and more self-assured. I still suffer from imposter syndrome and I doubt myself every day, but it doesn’t bother me as much. It’s just part of who I am. I still go out there and I do the stuff I feel is worth doing, is necessary. And when it doesn’t turn out like I wanted or hoped, I don’t have a complete melt-down and think it’s because I’m a horrible, lazy, talentless person. I think, “too bad”. Sometimes I even think “that really sucked”. And then I think “what have I learned from this?”. I treat myself with kindness and my so-called failures with curiosity.
I do wish I was better at drawing, and singing and playing guitar. But the fact that I haven’t prioritised these things in my life lately show me that I don’t want it enough. And at least for now I’m fine with strumming a few chords now and then, singing while I cook, and drawing the occasional really crap drawing.
One thing I have learnt from all of my failures is what I find most important in life. And that that can change. I have always wanted to be a writer, but I think I had to go through all of these experiences (especially the Berlin walk and finishing the first draft of a novel) to truly dare to give it a try.
So what am I doing now? I spend my time writing and I have a part-time job delivering mail. I don’t really have any money, but I have food and clothes and a bed and loved ones. And I’m happy. I feel quite fulfilled.
Yesterday I wrote a poem. And as always, when I published it on various platforms, I was hoping for a big response. A feeling of recognition, understanding, acknowledgement, and yes – even success. I got a few nice comments and some likes, but nothing extraordinary happened. Yet I wasn’t disappointed. And miraculously, I still love the poem just as much, regardless. I still think it’s wonderful, and I’m proud of it. I have finally reached a place where I feel like recognition would be nice, but the value of my work is completely separate from it (admittedly, if people had actively said negative things it probably would have been a different matter). And that honestly would never have happened if I hadn’t made myself go out there and do all of these things that I was scared of, and realised that even though it didn’t turn out the way I had imagined, it was still okay. I still had fun. And I learnt something. If only it was that programming is kind of boring, and that the proportions of the human body confound me.
So, I guess what I’m saying is: I encourage you all to go out there and fail at everything. Imagine how much you’ll learn! I know I personally cannot wait to find out what I’m going to learn from my next failure (though I expect it’ll have something to do with the publishing industry or making a – very poorly drawn – comic).