Nope, You’re Still Not a Failure

I’m writing this post for all of us because although we live in a world where ambition is admired and accomplishments are revered, I think sometimes we could all use a reminder that none of it needs to have any bearing on how we feel about our actual selves.

In other words, when it comes to our basic worth as human beings, our accomplishments don’t mean shit. Isn’t that freeing? (Unless of course you’re hugely accomplished and have placed all of your esteem in said accomplishments. Then I suppose it might be less freeing and more like that scene in Star Wars where Darth Vader went all “I am your father” on Luke Skywalker and shit got real.)

I’m all about striving for our full potential and creating our best lives. But when things don’t go as planned, let’s not beat ourselves up. Whether we win or lose at reaching our goals, we can still always choose to be whole without the validation of outside decision-makers. Let’s stop being “successes” and “failures” and instead just be humans.

And so…

Are you eighteen and headed to your back-up school this fall because all your dream colleges rejected you in spite of the fact that you aced the SATs and worked your ass off on every single application you submitted?

Nope, you’re still not a failure.

Are you not going to college at all because it just wasn’t feasible for whatever reason?

Nope, you’re still not a failure.

Did you recently get divorced from your spouse of ten years after tying the knot “way too young,” according to certain well-meaning but insensitive assholes in your life at the time, and now you’re wondering if they were right all along?

Nope, you’re still not a failure.

Are you an overweight fourth grader who dreads the state physical fitness test administered in gym class every year because they humiliatingly make you attempt to do pushups and run a mile even though you’ve never even once come close to doing either successfully?

Nope, you’re still not a failure.

Are you a recent or even not-so-recent grad who’s struggling to find work “in your field” and feeling like your life won’t truly begin until you get one of those adult jobs that all your friends have?

Nope, you’re still not a failure.

Do you sometimes feel like you have no friends at all?

Nope, you’re still not a failure.

Are you Mariah Carey and is your latest album — ALTHOUGH A BRILLIANT MASTERPIECE — struggling to perform commercially?

Nope, you’re still not a failure. (Rather, you are a deity.)

Did you naïvely choose to incur six figures of student loan debt to “find yourself” in grad school only to graduate and end up in a job that you find totally unfulfilling yet feel trapped in due to your massive debt?

Nope, you’re still not a failure.

Have you been spending the past two years working on draft after draft of a manuscript for a book that still hasn’t been picked up by an agent?

Nope, you’re still not a failure.

Do you subscribe to New Age wisdom and believe that our thoughts attract our reality, and so when something shitty happens you tend to blame yourself and your negative thoughts entirely, thinking, OH MY GOD I’M THE WORST AT BEING SPIRITUAL?

Nope, you’re still not a failure.

Do you sometimes just feel like you’re not enough? Smart enough, hot enough, funny enough, eloquent enough, doing enough, saying enough, being enough, acting enough, tweeting enough, creating enough, exercising enough, living enough, socializing enough, trying enough?

Nope, you’re still not a failure.

And actually? You’re enough.

StillNotAFailure

The revolution will be tweeted. (Side note: even these trees with no leaves aren’t failures.)

P.S. I struggle with this often, so this piece is just as much an affirmation for myself as it is for whomever else it may happen to reach.

P.P.S. Is it just me, or did that whole “Nope, you’re still not a failure” response thing have a very Catholic-mass-“Lord-hear-our-prayer” feel to it? Maybe I should just be a priest.

P.P.P.S. Oh my God, no. I love cursing and alcohol and being gay too much. I’d fail so hard at being a priest.

P.P.P.P.S. But it wouldn’t matter! Because nope, #StillNotAFailure.

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Sometimes Life (and/or Oprah) Gives You Exactly What You Need When You Need It

Like many writers – cough, Cheryl Strayed, ‘achoo! – I enjoy taking long, meditative walks.

I used to walk all over my hometown as a kid, so walking all over my current town kind of reconnects me with my inner child. Plus something about being alone and surrounded by nature gives me the sense of space and freedom I need to contemplate shit that I might otherwise leave bottled up.

The results of any given walk are typically healing and awesome.

During my after-dinner walk on Sunday, though, things didn’t start out so well.

After thinking about my career aspirations for a few minutes, I found myself on the verge of falling into a spiral of self-pity over the fact that I want to do everything. I want to write everything. Book concepts, blog ideas, freelance gigs, ALL the essays, short stories – these things ganged up on me like a mental army of “YOU’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO DO IT ALL!”-screaming assholes.

I started thinking about how beginning one project always feels a lot like neglecting another project, which, given the fact that I have a full-time job and a highly active social life, feels a lot like making a big ass commitment to something that might not be the best project – which then makes it really easy to just be like, “Okay, fuck it. I’ll do nothing.”

I approached a big hill and kept walking. As my elevation increased, I moved on to feeling pity for myself over the fact that I’ve already devoted two years to finishing a book which is still yet to be represented. Then I felt more pity for myself over the fact that it’s probably because I don’t have enough space or time to write (or edit, for that matter) to my highest potential, because again: full-time job and highly active social life.

These are ironic and silly things to be upset about. These things are blessings.

So then I went into angry, tough-love mode on myself: Why are you so fucking impossible to satisfy? Boo-frickety-hoo, Nic! You work for a great company and you’re just too popular? Man up and figure your shit out. Stop sleeping so much. Maybe don’t go to happy hour. Maybe write. You could be writing right now instead of walking. MAKE A DAMN SACRIFICE, ASSHOLE.

And then finally I gave in and was like, Yeah. I just need to write. Start something new. I’ll do that.

And then I thought about all the book concepts, blog ideas, freelance gigs, essays, and short stories I want to work on — and I soon found myself right back at square. Fucking. One.

This walk had set me off on a mental cycle of doom, and it was a problem.

I started picking up the pace and feeling extremely tight and anxious – sensations that are usually reserved for when I obsess over my career in less tranquil scenarios such as when stressing over my workload at the office and/or peeing in dirty commuter train bathrooms.

As I reached the top of the hill, I saw an intriguing piece of litter sitting by the curb outside someone’s driveway. As I got closer, I saw that it was a coffee sleeve.

I soon recognized it as one of those new green Starbucks coffee sleeves that are given out to promote Oprah Chai – the new Oprah-Starbucks-Teavana partnership that benefits educational opportunities for youth.

I immediately thought to myself, WWOD?

(Note: This means “What Would Oprah Do?” and I should mention that it’s unusual that it took me coming across a discarded coffee sleeve of hers to finally ask this question in this situation. Usually it’s the first thing that comes to my mind in periods of distress, sleeve or no sleeve.)

The timing of this query couldn’t have been better, as each Oprah Chai sleeve comes complete with an inspirational Oprah quotable.

I bent down and picked it up to read my fortune:

Live from the heart of yourself. Seek to be whole, not perfect.

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And THIS is why Oprah fucking WINS. AT. EVERYTHING.

Because of Oprah, litter is no longer litter. Because of Oprah, litter can now change lives. Or at least momentarily brighten them.

Because of Oprah, my anxious, existential crisis-y, mental-cycle-of-doom walk led me straight to an undeniable sign from God that everything is going to be okay. I can trust my intuition. I don’t have to be perfect. I do have to be myself.

Everything is going to be okay.

And then I saw a bunny.

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It was less blurry IRL; this is just what happens when I quickly take a picture of a moving bunny while my phone camera is all zoomed in. Is it just me, or does it kind of look like a Monet?

 

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