I am teaching poetry workshops again, so last week I asked my students what they like to write about. “Failing,” one girl said and I scribbled it down furiously, in both the ways I can mean that.
We live in a society that focuses on the negative, on the ways we fail, on how we’re not good enough.
These kids are in high school, and already, they think they are failures, before they’ve had the life experience to know what that truly means. They are not failures. They are amazing kids who sometimes don’t get treated like it.
So tomorrow we will write what we think it means to fail and succeed, not what people tell us it means. So often we think we are failures because people tell us we are, not because we are. Then, after we purge that, unlearn what we’ve been told, we will write how we succeed. As little and ordinary or as big and parent-approved as that may be.
Like today I succeeded by running and practicing yoga and writing a lesson plan and some letters and taking my kids to the park and bathing and finally, getting the boys to eat spaghetti.
In bigger ways I’ve succeeded by bringing three beautiful children into the world. I have graduated from high school, then undergrad, then grad school. I have taken my jobs seriously and been a good employee. I have worked hard at the craft of writing and completed three manuscripts (working on the fourth). I have cared deeply about those I love and I work to show it with words and actions. I have failed, sure (at raising my first child, at marriage, at meeting everyone’s expectations, at achieving some prestigious job), but in other ways, I have succeeded.
Maybe that could be important instead.