Failure. The word itself is filled with weight.
I used to live in a world where the gravity of failure could be paralyzing. The idea of not succeeding or not attaining my personal goals was unthinkable to me.
It’s not as if my life was perfect and did not have its share of setbacks. Still, I feel I always lived a blessed life, and, for the most part, I had always been able to achieve that which I set out to do. This is, of course, until life served up a healthy dose of reality that allowed me to open my eyes to the truth. I guess that’s what maturity is: the clarity of vision that’s achieved with the passing of time and the accumulation of experience.
My closed door begins with a love story. It’s the tale of a young lad who falls head over heels for a princess, a princess betrothed to a knight and living comfortably in her castle. The young boy, who himself is committed to someone else, is so blinded by his love and infatuation that he forsakes the bond he once held true in order to pursue the princess, a woman he knows with absolute certainty is his ‘one true love’. The princess returns his affections in kind, and the two of them dream of a happily ever after together.
The story, however, does not conclude with a fairytale ending. Rather, just as the boy is running to the castle gates to claim his princess, she orders the gates be slammed shut. The boy is left to fall into a cavernous mote and anguish as he’s consumed by the metaphorical beast that is failure.
(Aside: Creative liberty and dramatic flair are probably my two favorite things about being a writer.)
So you get the point. I went all in on what I thought was a winning hand, and I ended up losing it all. As I look back on the pivotal moment that changed my life, I still remember the numbness I felt in my body at the realization that what I believed with all my heart to be absolutely true turned out to be false. It was as if a bomb had gone off, and I could hear a ringing in my ears that was literally blinding.
The door to my dream had been slammed shut.
In keeping with the theatrical writing, I would like for you to imagine a movie scene you’ve seen a million times. The hero takes a fall or is ambushed and hit in the back of the head. The screen goes black. Next, you see the hero groggily opening his eyes and trying desperately to find his orientation or figure out where he is. That’s what happened to me.
Following my life changing failure moment, it took me a while to figure out what came next. Yet once I was able to open my eyes to see and understand things from a new perspective, so many things became clear to me.
I’m nearly forty years old and I can say without equivocation I’ve lived more in the last six years since that life changing event than I had prior to that point. There is no doubt in my mind that moment of failure was the best thing that ever happened to me. I would, in all likeliness, not be writing at this moment if not for that event that crushed my heart and left me emotionally dead for a period of time.
To put it into better perspective, that moment was not a closed door that lead to an open door. It was a closed door that lead to a million open, wonderful, amazing, unbelievable, and exciting doors, and it’s been an absolute blessing to have been able to walk through them all. Just about everything I have today which I cherish and which makes me complete as a person stems from the people I’ve met as a result of that one door being slammed shut in my face.
The saying goes, “This, too, shall pass.” I admit it’s very hard to see down the road when all you can see is a closed door. But when you find yourself in that situation, remind yourself that failure is not an ending but rather the beginning of something new. Failure is indeed full of gravity that can pull you down, but success is measured in your ability to get right back up.
For additional perspective on this posting, please see my older posts “The Great Debate” and “untitled“.