I don’t think you are a loser. For all of the countless times I have thought myself a loser, I am not one either. But I cannot get away from the fact that many of my plans have come up short. I’ve missed the mark on more than one occasion. I have full-face-planted failed more times than I’d like to count. It is part of being a human. But what if our relationship with failure changed? What if we allow our greatest losses to lead us to greater wins?
My mother always encourages me to try new things. It has always been this way. She has never been afraid of my ideas failing (…okay…maybe a few…). Even when she doesn’t see eye to eye with my proposed plans, she is supportive. She offers her wisdom and guidance, but knows when to step aside so I can grow through experience. Sometimes that includes failing.
Though I still struggle with coping with my failed attempts, this mindset has been foundational in my life as an entrepreneurial artist. It birthed new life into passions that died many deaths. Even though I had a firm foundation, the majority of my 20s have felt like a bootcamp for creative endeavors. They have been hard years, but equally fruitful in character building. I am thankful, now, for the lessons but I certainly never thought my path would have so many bumps in it.
Throughout my adolescence I was known as a goody-two-shoes. I excelled at school with minimum effort. Academia was a breeze for me. Other than math, I was always a top student. High school and college were particularly vibrant, joyful, and successful years.
I have medals, certificates, and plaques to commemorate my academic endeavors. I got along with most people and made friends with my professors. As a Vocal Performance Major, I was on stage in front of my fellow students throughout college. Though I never considered myself among the elite popular crowd, I was often on cloud nine. I had achievements and recognition, community and close friendships, meaning in my work and passion for a purpose.
Little did I know that the world was waiting to ‘pone this newb’ as soon as she walked off that graduation stage. My heart full of idealistic dreams would not be enough to put food on the table. As someone who reveled in her little momentary success, I was ill prepared for the world outside the walls of academia. Vision boards don’t create and sustain budgets on their own.
Perhaps it was pride. Maybe it was naiveté. It may even be the fact that I hadn’t ever had to put in much effort to succeed. Whatever it was, 22-year-old me would begin the long path of misfires that haunt me today as a 30-year-old. I have had my share of victories in the midst of the chaos. I do not mean to paint my life as misery. God has given me much and I hold that with great gratitude (most days). It’s simply that the life of imagined success had a very rude awakening.
If you look at the number of inventors, scientists, writers, musicians, businesspeople, and creators that failed more times than they succeeded you would think failure is actually an intrinsic part of success. You should never set out to fail. However, it would be silly to think that everything you attempt will hit the bullseye on the first try.
Failure is just a litmus test to see if your plans worked or not. It does not have an emotion nor does it have an investment in the outcome. It is simply a statement of where you are in the process of achieving your goals.
If you were to spin it just a bit, failure is finding out how NOT to do something. Failure still produces a success, of sorts. If you allow it, it produces greater character, growth, experience, and education. It seems so simple yet the fear of failure is often so intense that paralysis of trying again sets in. How do you overcome the fear if failure is an inevitable part of life?
After a certain number of tries I began to feel as though my worth was unequivocally tied to my filing cabinet of failure. There are only so many well thought out (and not so well thought out) plans that crumble beneath your feet before you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with YOU.
It was a very slow death of one dream and plan after another. If you don’t belive me, here’s the list of attempts:
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all of the crazy ideas I have tried in the past 8 years. I had some success in many of these areas. But overall, each of these steps ended somewhere on the spectrum of ‘total colossal failure’ and ‘didn’t go according to plan’. Most of them ended in tears, seeping of confidence, and creative paralysis.
I think there is an unspoken expectation we pick up along the way that we are to find success – love, financial stability, career satisfaction, peak physical health, perfect #squadgoals, spiritual enlightenment, and more – at a very young age. We recognize the dissonance, but we often live under the crushing weight of the unrealistic expectation instead of the healthy balance of reality.
I wish someone would have told me it is okay to find success (whatever that looks like within your particular context) well after your 20s. However ridiculous the notion is, I spent a lot of time berating myself for not ‘having it all together’ earlier. Many of my friends were finding fulfillment in their dreams while I was still wondering what groceries we could afford that week.
Again, I have a good life. It is not misery. And if I zoom out to gain some perspective, it is more than many others have. While it is definitely healthy to gain a little perspective, it is unhealthy to pretend the pain you feel within your own context doesn’t matter. You have to hold both expectation and reality in the balance to find a healthy path forward.
So enough rambling. Kayla, what are you suggesting is the way forward?
Become an expert at failure. You will undoubtedly fail in your life. There will be times that you have a passion, ask for guidance and wisdom, plan well, put yourself out there, and fall flat on your face. It is inevitable because it is part of the human experience. How else do we grow, mature, change, and learn? As Babe Ruth said, “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”
Become passionate about reframing your failures. Figure out what went well and what didn’t. Listen to others’ constructive criticism without attaching their assessment to your worth. Then, look at your failure as one step closer to your ultimate goal.
Become an advocate for others’ success. Bitterness comes knocking quickly living in the shadow of someone else’s success. The question, ‘why them and not me?’ begins to creep in in an instant. There is no benefit to a bitter heart. Instead, be relentlessly genuine in your celebration of others’ wins. In doing so, you remove the stumbling block of resentment and add fuel to your own fire.
Finally, become obsessed with getting back up. No matter how many times you get knocked down, make a commitment to always get back up. The dreams/passions/plans may change over time. And that is perfectly okay. But no matter what, never allow yourself to give up. If you feel like it is too heavy, then surround yourself with people who will hold you up when you can’t do it on your own.
As I sign off here, I want you to know that I am preaching to myself. As always, these words are as much for you as they are for me. Your failure is not your end. It can be a beginning, a turning point, a lesson learned, and experience gained.
I know it can be hard to look over your list of failures and feel like less of a person. But your worth does not come from what you do. Your worthiness is not tied to the number of plans you had work out in the end. You are already chalk-full of value because you are a human being, created and formed for a purpose.
It’s okay to mourn. Heck, I’ve had my fair share of pity parties. Just remember, friend, to not stay there for too long. Success doesn’t look one way and your failures can be leverage to get to your greatest wins. Just remember:
I have been running from something for some time now. There is a part of me that knew it. There is another part of me that did not. I am a pretty serious empath and tend to care too much about what people think about me. Though I have been working on letting go of what others think about me, there are areas of my life where the fear of peoples’ opinions still has a stronghold.
I’ve felt called to be a writer, musician, speaker, artist, and traveler. These have been lifelong dreams that I have had glimpses of, but have not been fully realized. I have had many phases of fear moving toward my purpose in these things. At first, it was the run of the mill fear that made me feel like I was not capable or worthy of such dreams.
Then I moved through self-doubt and years of low self-esteem following one of the hardest seasons of my life. Of course, I cannot leave out the many months of laziness, lack of motivation, and Netflix binging. Interspersed in there were bouts of indecision, creative overwhelm, time spent in my counselors office, overcommitment, perfectionism, and endless attempts to start something new. I recently thought this was it – I had figured out my ‘elevator speech’ and focus point for my blog – only to be frustrated by another creative block.
Many of you know where I stand in my faith. I believe in God. I believe the Bible is true and authoritative for our lives. I have been a Christ follower my whole life and I am not ashamed of that. Or…was I?
Growing up in the church I became painfully aware of how cheesy Christians could be. It was like we were trying to pass knock off versions of Girl Scout cookies as the real thing and call you a liar if you found out. Now, if any of the mainstream Christian media/entertainment world is encouraging and meaningful for you, more power to you. It’s personal preference.
But when I was growing up dealing with suicidal thoughts and deep familial tension, the weird Bible-study-based-on-the-latest-blockbuster-release-in-order-to-be-relevant just wasn’t cutting it. It was cheap and honestly just pissed me off. I had a deep and meaningful relationship with God but the platitudes of people who called themselves Christians just made me ill. God was complex, faithful, beautiful, and near to me. So why was our “Christian Culture” so far from that?
The list goes on from Christian movies, books, conferences, retreats, curriculums, blogs, and more that slapped the name ‘Jesus’ on it but hovered around surface level at best. It may feel like I am being harsh, and I am. What I see in Scripture doesn’t line up with what many Christ followers are offering the world. Not every person and/or church is like this. I have met many wonderful and deeply inspiring Christ followers that I see as role models and mentors. The faith community I am a part of now has been a place of extreme healing.
It is safe to say that I am immediately rolling my eyes if someone says, “hey, you should check out this Christian thing”. There is some jaded-ness in there I’ve gotta work on, I know. But when I felt God tugging me to be a writer, musician, and speaker, I TOLD Him that I wasn’t going to be a Christian one. That world already had too many ridiculously cheesy and not helpful ones and I didn’t want to add to the noise. I am sure at this point God shook His head with a gentle sigh and said, “Alright, go ahead and try it your way”.
I tried the trying-to-be-cool-and-subtly-letting-you-know-I’m-a-Christian approach. I felt like I was being genuine. It was only recently that God showed me I was really being Amy Pholer in Mean Girls proclaiming, “I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom. I’m a cool Christian”. I laughed and simultaneously gagged a little at what I was attempting. I cannot separate myself from my faith. I see everything through the lens of what God has done for me and what He is doing in the world. I cannot pretend to be ‘cool’ to the world when it comes to my faith because my faith is not ‘cool’.
I don’t know how many times I have said it, but I will say it again and again and again. God literally saved my life. From suicide. From crushing anxiety and depression. From fear. From giving into addictions. My faith isn’t some ‘cool’ thing I ascribe to and derive meaning from. It is my foundation and the most intimate part of who I am.
With that harsh yet enlightening discovery, God said to me, “I never asked you to be another cheesy Christian writer. I never asked anybody to be that. I asked if you would be willing to be vulnerable with people, share your stories of victory, eat at the same table, and let people in on what I am doing in your life. I want you to be different, that’s why I made you that way. Would you be willing to do that for me?”
I was trying to do this whole thing without including my faith in God. I’ve been destroyed by multiple churches before so I know what Christian people are capable. I know what people are capable of. I know that there are abuses in the past and present that come from people who share my faith. I was afraid that if I ever truly spoke openly about my faith with others I would be grouped into the same group of people that hurt me most. I was afraid of being labeled as all the negative things that come to mind when you think of the ‘crazy Christians’ (in a bad way lol).
I am human. I am going to make mistakes while carrying my cross of Christ. I am going to say things and make assumptions about people in a way that makes Jesus look like a farce. I am simply on a journey to becoming more like Him even when I mess it up. And it is a looooooong journey of transformation. I have a long list of mistakes that continues to grow, hopefully at a slower rate over time. But my hearts desire is always growth. I know that and do not have to try and convince others of that. My life will have to hold the evidence of the fruit.
The truth is, people may group me in with the same people I don’t want to be grouped with. I cannot control that. But to separate the most intimate part of my life from my deepest longings and dreams while trying to tout it as ‘being real’ is fake, irresponsible, and not fair to you. I have always promised to be vulnerable and open with people. I cannot do that apart from my faith.
Overall, I think the vision I had for the Rooted Journal was always what God had in mind. I’m writing this declaration for myself, so that I can set this as a cornerstone for the future. I also am writing this for you. I will be writing more about my faith. You may not believe the same things that I do. You are always more than welcome. But, I also understand if it isn’t something you want to participate in either. Either way, there’s always room at my table. I may not be perfect, but I am progressing.
I’ll be focusing a lot of my writing on faith related topics as well. I still want to talk style, beauty/fashion, home DIY projects, health and fitness, gardening, and more! But I think it is unfair to everyone, myself included, to keep my identity as a Christ follower in the shadows in an attempt to gain a wider audience. Wow, that sounds really ugly writing that out loud. Yet, I promised I would be honest.
Thank you for sharing this space with me. This is who I am and I cannot pretend to be anything else. I think my years of creative blocks and creative overwhelms are proof that running from yourself really doesn’t work. Know that I love you and I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. May this weird blog confession thing find you in good health and good spirits!
Last Fall I started a compost pile. To be completely honest, I have no idea what I am doing. I have read up on all the latest information on composting and I have found it may not be for me. I have promised myself to give it until this upcoming Fall and reassess. If you are not familiar with composting, it is a way to recycle organic matter like grass clippings, fruit/veggie cuttings, coffee grounds, ect. When you throw this all together in a strange lasagna type concoction, it breaks down over time to create a nutrient-rich soil. Many farmers and gardeners call this “black gold”. It is highly sought after because it helps create a healthy foundation for plants to flourish.
Three months ago I was planning content for The Rooted Journal and its social media accounts. After some thinking and praying, I decided to center around the word “Cultivate” in the month of April. With the world in upheaval, I had no idea how perfect it would all fit into the present. The dictionary defines cultivate like this:
There is a four letter cuss word that cultivate hinges on: work. Everyone enjoys the produce off a lush garden. But talk to any farmer/gardener and they will tell you it is hard work. It takes a lot of sweat on the back end in order to enjoy the organic produce from your back yard. It comes as no surprise that Jesus often used farming metaphors to impart wisdom or teach a concept. Our hearts and lives are a lot like the soil in a famers field. It is has the capacity to produce a harvest if we cultivate it. You cannot have a healthy harvest if you have unhealthy soil.
Where do we acquire this healthy soil to sow seeds for a harvest? We recycle the “unwanted parts” of our lives. When you chop up veggies for a stew, there are “ugly parts” you take the blade of your knife to. The stems, ends, and rough parts were all part of the entire plant at one point and essential during the growth process. When it comes to harvest them, however, we slice those pieces off. In the same way, there are moments in our lives that look or feel ugly that we want to chop off and throw away. Maybe you were at a party and felt lonely because you didn’t know anybody. Maybe you lost a friend. Maybe you are an extrovert stuck inside for an indefinite amount of time. Maybe you have no idea when your paycheck will start up again.
There are pieces of our lives, both big and small, that we want to cut off and throw away. But may I challenge you that perhaps these are the moments to compost rather than trash. Though we often throw away the cuttings from the kitchen, they can be essential food to produce a healthy composted soil. What was once unsightly and disposed has now been graphed into the foundation for a healthy crop that will one day find itself on your kitchen counter again. May I submit to you that the unsightly, bruised, and unwanted moments of your life can be “composted” to create a fertile foundation for growth and abundance?
Life is a cyclical journey of growth with changing seasons. We want to live fruitful lives. Valuable things come from valuable time invested. As you find yourself in this new season I encourage you to take a look at the moments you can compost. You are stuck inside during this pandemic. Compost it. Perhaps that time can become the pivot that your family needed to reconnect and flourish. You don’t know where your next paycheck is coming from. Compost it. Maybe this is a time for you to reach out to those who love you for help. You are missing your elderly loved ones. Compost it. Now you are finding time to recognize what your heart has taken for granted.
Those are just a few examples specific to walking through this pandemic. But the concept applies to every area and season of our lives. In our eagerness to complain about uncomfortable moments, there is a harvest waiting to be cultivated. I encourage you to take this next month to turn your perspective to a positive one. Preaching to Facebook choirs is rarely profitable for anyone. What is profitable is establishing a new rhythm of prioritizing positive perspectives. It is not disingenuous or gullible happiness. It is changing your lenses to view life through peace. Take in the good. Then acknowledge the things that need to be grieved, trim them, and compost them. As you continue to compost these moments through life, you will always have healthy soil on hand to sow new seeds in. Then, you wait for your harvest.
Good Things Come To Those Who Work
It happened again the other day. I was sitting in bed, eating (non-dairy) chocolate chips, watching Golden Girls on DVD, and having an existential crisis. My mind was slowly slipping away into a pit of despair as I contemplated just how little I had accomplished in my life. As usual, I spent a fair bit of time moping about and wondering why life was blocking me from moving forward. It took about a millisecond to come up with a laundry list of reasons why I was unable to make any headway in my dreams/goals. It was then that my hubby began to talk me off of the ledge. He said, “You’ve been talking about being a writer and musician since we got married, yet in the five and a half years of being married you’ve never really done anything about that. Why do you try so hard to push against those dreams?”
I have heard “your dreams don’t work unless you do” enough times to make me physically ill. I gently nod my head with a yeah, yeah and move on to continue my dreary and dramatic moping. When Darryl asked me about my dreams, goals, and desires this mantra came to my mind. As he questioned where all my whimsical determination had gone, in typical fashion, I came up with an array of excuses why life had set me too far back. He gently continued to coax me to dig a little deeper. It was not long before I had run out of excuses and had to face the music. I was not moving forward because I was not working. He could see right through me.
They say that good things come to those who wait. Honestly, I think it could also be said that good things come to those who work. Work has become a cuss word to many of us. It does not matter what your background is, many of us struggle to embrace the idea of work as a good thing. We associate work with a dreaded 9-5 job where we are simply another cog in the machine. Of course this incorporates a type of work, but it is a job. A job is a place of employment. Work is action. Perhaps part of the problem is first finding purpose that is meaningful and therefore worthy of our best work. But even when some of us find that kind of work, there can be major mental blocks that stop us from ever putting in the effort. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s past hurt. Maybe it’s new limitations we have to learn to live with.
Or maybe you are like me and realize that you put just enough effort in to make it look like you are working, but not enough effort to create forward momentum. I am the master of working a lot and never getting anything done. I don’t want to be thought of as lazy so I do a lot of things. I also enjoy the path of least resistance and quickly jump from task to task to avoid conflict and/or hardship. But I had to face myself in the mirror and recognize that some of the reasons why I’m still stuck in a rut is because I expect 110% reward for 20% effort. And that my friends was a very ugly truth I had to face.
I never set out to be that person. I do work hard but I also work on peripheral tasks that take away from meaningful work. When I spend so much time on tasks that distract me its easy to feel like I am getting a lot accomplished. At the same time I’m only ever really moving laterally. Many of us have been there before. Let me set the scene. You want to have a profitable blog so you dreamcast, create the perfect vision board, find your perfect niche, and get your branding on point. Now all you need is the content. Suddenly, you’re struck with paralysis but decide you’ve got to start somewhere. This blog isn’t going to write itself.
You begin with the goal of writing one blog post. That is manageable and realistic. You get distracted when you get to your desk because your office space has clutter so you decide to quickly tidy up. As you are cleaning off your desk you end up with a pile of papers that need to be organized. Since you still have a fair bit of motivation you figure you’ll get those organized. Once you finish organizing those papers, you notice you have no folders or place to put your newly organized pile of papers. After looking around you settle on a shelf you can rearrange to make space for the papers. As you do that, those items need a new home and decide to take them to a shelf the living room. When you get to the living room, there are a few odds and ends lying on that shelf that need to be moved in order to re-home your displaced items. This continues on and on and before you know it, you’ve gathered laundry, done the dishes, swept the floor, begun organizing your pantry, cleaned out the car, organized your purse, taken the dog on a walk, ran to the store for folders, stopped at your favorite coffee shop (and stayed for a half an hour chat), run a few errands, stopped by a thrift store, grabbed a few groceries that were on sale, washed the dog, and made umpteen number of lists for various projects. Finally, you sit back down at your computer to write that blog and realize you are completely out of motivation and the day is gone.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish I actually got this much done by accident. If you are in a similar boat as I am, you can definitely relate to this rat race. But I am trying to prove a point here. If writing that first blog post is the first step in your dreams/goals, then all those other tasks have derailed you. Another day has past and you’ve half-way and haphazardly checked off some to-do items but haven’t really gotten anywhere. You have focused your best energy on tasks that don’t require your best energy.
I am a huge victim of this. I waste the best of myself on tasks that do not actually require the best of myself. It was such a brutal realization to come to, but I have reached the end of my long list of excuses. A lot of life has happened and that definitely counts for something. Eventually life does move on with or without me. It does not wait for me to be fully prepared to jump back in. Eventually, I have to look at myself in the mirror and accept that the healing process is complete and I am allowing fear to stagnate me. As a millennial I hate being labeled as ‘entitled’ but there are definitely times I can feel myself leaning into that identity. I want life to be easy. Who doesn’t? I want to run at the first sign of resistance. But resistance creates pressure. Pressure creates power. And that power can be wielded to accomplish some really amazing things.
I am reclaiming the concept of work as a lifelong purpose rather than a dreary-some burden. I am learning to accept when resistance comes and leverage it for purpose. I am trying to promise the best of myself to the most meaningful work first. It will take time to reset that mindset, no doubt! But I want to give my best effort to the work that is most meaningful to me. If the journey truly is the destination then the end success isn’t the highest priority. The highest priority is waking up every day and giving your best energy to the work regardless of the outcome.
Disclaimer: This is an online journal of my personal musings. They are here as I wrestle through life as an encouragement to you. I am a Christ follower and my faith is very important to me. If we don’t share the same faith, political stances, background, or opinions, I believe you are of great value and hope you find a slice of encouragement just as much as someone who does. I disable comments to avoid trolls and my own ego, but reach out directly to me if you’d like to converse.