So I just finished watching Oprah’s Lifeclass with Susan Sarandon and I had the overwhelming compulsion to write (I love it when that happens!). She’s always been one of my favorite actresses and I’ve greatly admired her stance on political and human rights issues but after watching this I realized just what an incredibly intelligent and wise woman she is too. The entire episode was full of those kind of inspirational quotes you see shared (and that I often share) on Facebook.
One of the topics she talked about was the idea of failure. She sat for a moment in front of the camera and tried to think of something in her life that she would consider a failure then she looked back at the camera, smiled and said, “Nope, can’t think of any.” I absolutely loved this because it got me thinking about my own life and all of those things that could be deemed a “failure.”
I thought about losing my job twice. Did it feel like a failure at the time? Absolutely. I thought I wasn’t good enough or hadn’t tried hard enough, but the reality was the jobs just weren’t right for me. That wasn’t where I was supposed to be at that point in my life and that was life’s way of telling me that. And you know what? They brought me to some of the greatest things in my life. Because I lost my job the first time, I was able to move out from living with my boyfriend in an incredibly tough situation; a decision that eventually led to us breaking up which was exactly what needed to happen.
The second time I lost my job, I had a completely clear head for the very first time in my life and you know what happened? I started to write again. I started this blog and I had something published for the very first time…some of the greatest events of my life to date. And the end of those three months, I had found a much better job and had the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing people.
I’ve had the only serious relationship I was ever in end and afterwards I dated a decent amount of guys, none of which ever materialized into a relationship. It can be damn near impossible not to feel like that’s been a failure because so many other people around me seem to have no problem finding relationships, but you know what? Even that isn’t a failure. Obviously I’m having a great moment of clarity here but there isn’t one of those experiences that I didn’t learn from. Susan herself said that what we really learn from are our mistakes. Our victories fade but what really stays with us are the lessons we learn from the mistakes we make and allow us to grow as people. And I have without a doubt grown from all of them. Individually, maybe not all of the experiences have had a huge impact, but compounded they are quite powerful and I am so thankful that they have led me to where I am today.
I had never thought of failure as a matter of perspective before but in so many ways it truly is. Failure is really in the eye of the beholder. You can choose to look at something as a failure or you can choose to look at it as a learning experience. You can choose to beat yourself because something didn’t happen the way you thought it would or because you made a mistake or you can choose to see it as something that needed to happen along the path that is our life. You can look at it as a segue into something even better; a way to get where you are supposed to be.
So thank you Susan Sarandon for that. I am officially taking “failure” out of my personal dictionary.