I’ve talked about failure on this blog kind of abstractly, whether it was about my quarterlife crisis or feelings of self-worth. I think, in a lot of ways, this blog is more about cataloging all the ways I’ve failed and still managed to put pieces of my life back together. Stitching and gluing, laboring and sweating over this fragile fabric I call life and somehow coming out a little warier but wiser, a little more cautious but much more confident, a little less naïve but more optimistic. Infinitely more than my accomplishments, my failures have framed who I am. Not just how I react to bad news or how I behave in a crisis, but how I approach a situation and how I actively try to learn from an experience rather than passively letting it happen.
So why don’t we talk about failures more often? I think of all the people I’m inspired by, not just celebrities or authors or poets, but friends and family, and everyone I can think of has been relatable in the most basic way: they have failed and they are not afraid to admit it. Even the media takes it upon themselves to whitewash people’s pasts to erase what they perceive as failures (re: Maya Angelou’s past as a sex worker, something she wasn’t ashamed of but news outlets have eschewed discussing because they see it as some kind of moral failing). And in this “Golden” age of social media where people constantly seek affirmation and attention just to believe they actually exist, we see that less and less. I’ve mentioned before why you should never believe anything on Facebook – because it will drive you crazy. Constantly comparing your torn up stitched up life to pristine images people have put up for others to admire will drive anyone into a deep complex. I’ve fallen victim to it in my darker moments. This is especially true of the South Asian community where we engage in a ceaseless game of one-upmanship, whether it be education, jobs, or those colossal wastes of money that we call weddings. I’ve seen my own mother, who I consider pretty rational and level-headed, go toe-to-toe with family friends in a subtle fight over whose kids are better (and by proxy, who is a better mother) based on their eating preferences. If you’re South Asian, just eavesdrop on a group of aunties at the next function, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
But back to the point at hand: Failing is hard. It will bring you down and sometimes, even break you. You will inevitably experience something tragic and traumatic but the difference in coming out the other end, perhaps a little tattered but, still whole and strong, is whether you learn something. And I mean REALLY learn something that will make you a better person, which means, learning something that will benefit you and those around you for the rest of your life. And then TALK about it. Talk about how this really shitty thing happened to you and this is how you dealt with it (and yes, it might take you a few tries to get it right but talk about that as well), and this is how you survived. That’s what makes you a real person, that’s what makes you not only grow, but flourish.
*Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey fucked up pretty hard and the title of the movie is still “It’s a Wonderful Life.”