Failure is a tricky beast. If you look closely, he's a beast of many heads and many wonky legs. We've all encountered the failure beast a few times throughout our lives. He seems to poke his head in and out when we least expect him.
You're probably in the 99% demographic who sees failure as bad or wrong. I don't blame you for believing that. Failure is technically defined as the, "lack of success." That doesn't seem good, does it? How can it be anything other than terrible? When you feel like you've failed, you're depressed. You may even call yourself a few choice names that shouldn't be spoken out loud. In the end, you're just done.
Now, please bear with me as I make this announcement. I'm a failure and I'm okay with that. Yes, I can hear you right now stopping dead in your tracks. You may have just given me the best side-eye of your life. Turn those eyes forward and listen up. You'll get it soon, I promise. It may sound ridiculous, but I believe the only way you can move forward is to stumble backwards A LOT.
"….Failure is a delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end," says motivational speaker Denis Waitley. In other words, failure is simply a setback in a set course you must find an alternate route for.
If you're like most people, you plan from point A to point B. You plan your day, you plan your work, you plan parties, and you plan your future. It has always been my mantra, you plan for a life, you never plan for anything less. We are typically brought up to believe life has to be mapped out perfectly. For example, you,
Step One: Grow up,
Step Two: Go to grade school,
Step Three: Get into college,
Step Four: Get the career of your dreams,
Step Five: Make ALL the big money and be indefinitely happy
Those are the plans, right? At least that's what I was told.
Aside from your favorite fictional characters, how many times does that actually happen? Life isn't a map you plan out to a T. Most plans lose the T and end up looking more like a fuzzy and confused sideways Z that has lost its direction. That's just the reality.
Though, if you've gotten everything you've ever wanted, congrats, you're goals. You're what we aspire to be one day. But, step away now, my story is for those still searching for their internal pot of gold. Guys, I'm here for you. *Group hug*
If you're like most of today's younger generation, you've wound up where you've started … the beginning. This is my journey in progress. I'll see you on the other side.
I've lived a life most people would envy. I was raised in nice homes. I have supportive parents. I went to established schools and received good grades. I was the quintessential American suburban girl. I strived for the top of the mountain and kept heading for the peak. While I was shy, awkward, and didn't have many friends, I put my energy into trying new ventures. I was that girl in school you probably didn't know how to quite read. I marched to my own beat. I was the Nerd Queen. Buffy Summers was my hero.
Given my need to be the best, I always knew where I wanted to end up, it was just about timing. I entered college with high aspirations of becoming everything I ever wanted. It's all I had ever known. I had to be everything or I was nothing, there was no middle ground. I was going to go to Los Angeles and write for a magazine like TV Guide or Entertainment Weekly. I would write about television and interview really cool people. I knew it from day one. I was someone who set very specific goals and accomplished them. The expectations I had for myself were always high, so being less than that, was something I was never going to be ready for. I had to eventually learn that life wasn't all or nothing because I couldn't live like it was L.A. or bust.
During my first two years of college, I soared. I was captivated by my new world. I joined everything and fully invested myself. I transitioned pretty seamlessly from high school without much hesitation. I felt as if everything was falling into place. Not a lot of people knew me, but the important part was that I knew myself.
During my sophomore year, things began to shift for me. I needed a change. I had accomplished quite a lot, but I wanted more. I always appreciated change and knew I was meant to experience it all. I decided to transfer colleges and see where it would take me. I had started in a small college, but wanted to end in a big city.
I was fortunate. I had done well, so I got into the only college I wanted to attend next. That fall, I entered my new school attached with a new major. I had changed my focus from writing to television production. Other than watching every TV show ever made, I didn't have much production know-how. I just really loved television and thought it would be worthwhile to attempt. This is when I started to lose my pre-determined path.
I ended up not meshing with what I was learning. I struggled to keep up in a large school filled with thousands of other type-A personalities. I did my best, but it wasn't THE plan and I knew it deep down.
I worked my way through junior and senior year without much to my name. I attempted some activities; but didn't do so much more. I stalled and seemingly gave up. I felt like a lost little girl who was never going to find out why she was here on Earth.
College had come in like a warm wave in July and ended like a splash in the cold ocean in January. I returned home and sat for a whole year in utter confusion. I didn't know where to go or how to get there. I was in full self-loathing mode. I didn't care anymore. Months passed as I became a mashed up coach potato. I did everything I could to not move on, until an opportunity presented itself. A friend of a friend had a room in Los Angeles and offered it to me. That's when I realized I had to stand up and open the window to something new.
I left my home with giant flashing question marks hovering above my head. Why was I doing this? What kind of life would I lead? What was I thinking?!
I arrived in L.A. with no financial means or connections to a living soul. I was on my own. You may know Los Angeles personally or through pictures, but it's not an easy place to live. It's big and will swallow you up if you aren't a shark. I wasn't a shark; I was more like chum in the water. You couldn't tell, but I had the Jaws theme song playing in an invisible boombox over my head. I swam the shark-infested waters for a good while. I participated in any opportunity I came across. But, without many connections, it was hard to get involved. I even tried background extra work just to be on a television show set. While it was chock-full of positive memories I come across in reruns, it was something I never wanted. I officially had anchored myself down in the choppy waters of the city.
I soon learned my life would take yet another detour Waitley had referenced. I found out I had thyroid cancer. I had to leave L.A. and deal with what was coming. I returned home and had to have surgery. After radiation, I was given a clean bill of health and the chance to do whatever I wanted again. While I should be been doing a happy dance, the experience caused me to retreat. It took six months, but I forced myself to try again. I was able to put the ordeal behind me and make my next move. I ended up heading back to Los Angeles.
I spent another year and a half working my tail off. I took meetings, I did gigs, and I went back to being a background extra. While it still wasn't what I wanted, I spent my days next people like Amy Poehler and that was pretty darn swell! I was admittedly lost, but appreciative to be around such talent. In its own small way, it gave me a reason to exist. But, I didn't win. I ended up treading the water, until I sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The L.A. sharks had done me in. I had run out of money and couldn't keep myself afloat. It became the world versus me. Los Angeles: 1, Alicia: 0.
My parents saw my struggle and suggested I come home and start over. I had become the statistic we are all too ashamed to talk about. I was in my late twenties and had to live with my parents again. I felt deflated, but I realized I wasn't down for the count. I had to make something positive come out of something so negative. I was determined to change my situation for the better.
I was able to gain new skills. I learned a variety of jobs to better myself and better my resume. I put together websites and tried out catering. I worked for colleges and even a laboratory. I did data entry and also helped others. I was a renaissance girl. While none of the skills I garnered were skills I had learned in college, they were still important. I had found ways to live that prepared me for a life if plan-A was never an option again. I was finally able to see what a life could look like without a mapped out plan in place.
As I sit here, I honestly have no idea what's next. I can't end my story on a definitive because there is no definitive answer. The original flashing question marks still shine bright over my head. However, this time, they have become beacons of hope and possibility. They are my own personal Bat signals for everyone to see.
I don't know if I'll ever write professionally or work for television. You may see this as sad, but ultimately it's the very definition of life. You see yourself as going one way, until a sharp turn takes you somewhere else. Waitley saw failure as a detour and currently I'm at the half way mark of mine. Lately, I've been on many roads with some scary yet very beautiful scenery. Sometimes I've wanted to get out of the car and ask for a ride from someone else. Other times I've kept driving, opening the door to random and unique opportunities. Regardless of what happens, I'm determined to follow the ugly neon signs until the guy in the orange vest tells me the path is clear from debris.
Failure is like a bouncy ball you get at the grocery store. For every high bounce you experience, you see that gravity will ultimately pull the ball to the ground. For every up there is a down, but for every down, there will be ups.
Heck, if you're like me, you'll fail many times before you get it right. If you're perfect, where's the fun in that? Failure opens you up to experiencing two sides to every moment. One side of the moment will always be potentially light and the other side will always be dark. If you can walk through the darkness then soon enough you'll see light at the other end waiting for you. If you can accept that life has multiple directions, you'll see that it's more than fine to fail. Failure is a part of the human experience.
Hello my name is Alicia and I'm a failure, won't you join me?