Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
– J K Rowling, in her commencement speech to a group of over-achievers known as Harvard graduates.
It’s all too easy to dismiss Rowling’s words, really. Afterall, she is a millionaire many times over and is one of the world’s best-selling author. What does she know about poverty and hardship and life’s disappointments?
I’m cynical, and the older I get, the more jaded I become.
Today, I truly felt like a failure. After six months at this job, I wonder if I have become any better at it. Failure is not something I am used to in my career. In my past two jobs, my bosses have liked my work, they had great plans for my career and they tried to get me to stay on when I decided to leave. Three months into the job, I became proficient at what I was doing, such that they were contented to leave me to my own devices, knowing that I would produce the quality of work they had come to expect from me. They spoke of plans to groom me to be an editor, to run the show myself. And I gave it all up for a dream.
A dream that’s fast unravelling. Like Rowling, I am terrified of failure. That’s what poverty does to you. You grow an extra thick and long spine but you also develop a heightened fear of failure, of remaining poor.
What do I fear most in life? I fear not having enough money to give my children the life that I had and never had. I fear being apathetic, to the point that I can’t see love or passion in any of the things I do, encounter and feel. I fear losing my loved ones.
And most importantly, I fear that the problem lies with me. That it’s me who is never satisfied. That no matter how hard I look, it is never good enough. All I want is to do something that I genuinely enjoy, to know that my work is valued and appreciated by my superiors, a job that gives me healthy challenges and yet respects me enough to allow me to have the privacy of my “me” time, something that gives me profound job satisfaction.
Maybe being a failure, like Rowling says, is not a thing to be feared at all. Failure does force you sit down and strip away the layers of lies, excuses and reasons that you concoct to pull yourself through. And perhaps through this, I can find my way.
Hold your own
Know your name
And go your own way
Jason Mraz is brilliant. I haven’t felt this way in a long, long while now.