The number one definition of failure is a lack of success. The second is the omission of expected or required action. These are interesting definitions as success is probably the most ubiquitous word in the English language.
What it means to me will most likely be very different from the next person, however in the US I think the “accepted” version is that success means financial excess usually with a spouse, 2.5 children and a house or two that of course are owned, not rented. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this if it is what one wants it is amusing to me that as an American society we encourage children to be whatever they want, but then confine them to the most limited version of what it means to have reached the ultimate end goal.
The second definition of failure really speaks to me, “the omission” of expected or required action. That, that right there is what I am so guilty of. Recently I had to sit across the table from my father as he stressed to me just how mush of a failure I was, how I had done nothing with my life, how I should never have done Americorps or taught because it made no money, how the money he spent on education was wasted, my partner couldn’t provide for me (don’t even get me started on this one) so was therefore also part of my inherent failure, according to him I honestly don’t know why I was still here taking up space and “wasting his hard earned resources”. Obviously a waterfall of tears that I was trying my darnedest to hold back ensued, as I attempted to defend myself while at the same time admitting that in his eyes I was this massive failure, but in many others and most importantly my own I had been successful. Maybe not in a linear way or in any sort of traditional way. Nonetheless I have a supportive partner whom I helped through a major medical crisis and continue to help navigate Crohn’s Disease, I shaped the minds of many young people, worked to change a flawed educational system, worked for women’s rights over their own healthcare and advocated for youth. Most importantly though I finally found what literally sets my soul on fire social justice and health.
After the dust settled around that conversation with my dad I actually started to realize something, by having him look me directly in the eyes and tell me how much I let him down and failed him over and over again I had finally lost every bit of expectation. This life was finally mine to live. Sure, there was not going to be an ounce of support but that had never been there in the first place, there was just an illusion of it in financial backing. Every decision or lack there of I made completely on my own. My dad was so scared of being blamed for any choice I took in life that he never offered guidance or support just told me to do what I wanted, which naturally sometimes ended up beautifully but as can be expected sometimes ended up terribly, made even worse with him shaking his finger at me, telling me after it fell apart just how awful the choice was.
Consequently, finally after hearing him say you will never be even close to good enough for me, your goals aren’t worthy endeavors, you are a perpetual failure I was set free in a way I couldn’t have imagined. I am free to see him as the person he is and learn to appreciate and make peace with that , but most importantly finally I am free to determine my own success, to live life on my own terms and to fight for the life I have always dreamed of. If that makes me a failure that I am happy to stand among all of the other happy failures out there.
“Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.”