Why Failure Matters

There once was a girl who failed at nothing. She graduated with honors, entered the workforce with ease, married her best friend, and raised two perfect children who also graduated with honors. Her husband never left the toilet seat up and her parents never criticized her parenting style. Of course, discipline was of no discussion because her kids never threw tantrums in the middle of a church service or in a booth at the Golden Corral. Her puppy was born house trained, and her Lexus never ran out of gas. She lived happily ever after in a castle that never required a mortgage. The end.

Meanwhile, in the real world, I wonder for the 20th time, “Why are my keys in the refrigerator?” “Does this shirt smell clean enough to wear to the gym?” “Will they really issue me a ticket if I’m short one quarter at the parking meter?” The answers are as follows: My keys are in the fridge because my milk has been on the counter all night. The shirt is not in fact clean but is ‘clean enough’ for the gym. And yes, the quarter is very important.

How I make it to the end of the day on most days is both a mystery and a blessing. I fail many times. Sometimes my little fails lead to wasting a lot of milk and paying small parking fines. Sometimes my big fails make me question my previous successes to be flukes. The loss of important contracts, failed professional exams, speaking engagements that I don’t land. I fail. I fail … but it’s okay.

As I get older, I worry less about failure. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen? I allow myself to go there, but not dwell there. The truth is failure has marked me. Just this morning, I looked in the mirror and noticed a few lines, a few dark circles and even a few scars.

I have never felt more beautiful. Perhaps it’s because I appreciate the quiet dignity that was not present in my youth. Or maybe I feel as though I am moving beyond the point of victimization and into a place of strength. It’s hard to say, but I’m pleased. I’m pleased with my frame; it’s slenderer than it was in high school. I’m pleased with the dedication I have invested into my health and fitness, demonstrating a discipline I lacked in earlier years. I’m pleased with my laugh lines, evidence of a recently acquired skill to laugh at the days ahead, trusting myself in ways that I never have before. Trusting God more also.

Aging has done something marvelous for me. It has taught me that failure is not final, that I can turn bad situations around, and that God truly does work all things out for my benefit.

So, there once was a girl born into poverty with a speech impediment. She was raised through abuse, survived unhealthy relationships and made some bad decisions. She has lost her temper, her mind and her keys. Her hair is, to this day, never just right. She struggles with a potty mouth and a caffeine addiction. She works hard. She is kind and generous. She manages two companies, loves her friends, and will probably never house train her dog with 100 percent confidence. And she lives mostly happily ever after. The end.

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