Column: The mindfulness of failure


Photo credit: Gabby Wolf

This is an art piece created by senior Gabby Wolf, which exemplifies the consequence of failure, an eternal moment of beauty. This piece depicts Maya Angelou, writer and activist, and reads, “Nothing will work unless you do.”

By Marissa Gendy, Columnist

The piece of hair that falls on my face when I put my hair up, the increased heartbeat I feel when smiling at myself in the mirror or the moment I realized I read the wrong pages for homework, are the small beauties I fail to acknowledge. The small beauties that help make life worth living. 

Our ability to be mindful of these small beauties revolves around our willingness to be present, despite our dependency on distraction. Feelings of failure, unworthiness and lack of commonality are a list of distractions that keep us from moving forward. Different from awareness, mindfulness acts as a tool of acceptance. The first step towards a positive relationship with these small beauties is failure itself.

As any senior applying to college can tell you, we ruminate on failure as if it is our purpose. We forget that we can’t change the past and that the future is constantly shifting. The only real thing we have is this moment, right here, right now. There is beauty in this thought, that in order to be present in this moment, we must look beyond failure. We must see that failure was the first step in achieving this moment. Learning to find bliss in distress and uncertainty is one of the hardest tasks we have been set as humans. But once we become mindful of the struggle — mindful of the uncertainty, mindful of the fight — we become one step closer to appreciation.

During my last couple of years in high school, I learned the role that fear of failure has in my education: a barrier. A blockade that made attending school, getting my work done on time and even fully paying attention in class, difficult. The thought of failure terrified my soul. Leaving me uneasy at the possibility that I wasn’t living up to the expectations of my parents, my teachers, my friends and most importantly myself. Tests became my source of anxiety and studying became the treatment.

I told myself that if I studied harder, asked for more help, read more, learned more, I would be cured. I would be cleansed of fear. It wasn’t until I realized that studying harder, essentially burning myself out would make the fear of failure the pinnacle of my success.

I can now proudly say that failure is the pinnacle of my success.

But not in the way you may think. I watched as others moved through life differently, taking failure as a gift. Recognizing that failure begets moments. Moments in time where the most useful thing is mindfulness. Where we have been given the opportunity to settle our minds and take one long, deep breath. Realizing that we are allowed to set the specification for our journey towards success to include these moments.

I don’t fear failure anymore, I thrive on it.

I found the bliss in the uncertainty and distress because I know now that with that comes the moment I have been waiting for. The moment to take that long, deep breath.

The strongest thought that can occupy our minds is that failure and imperfection are our birthrights as humans. Getting it right all the time and being perfect means we lose our inheritance as a species. Striving for perfection does not lead to the loss of our birthright but losing sight of the normality of imperfection does.

Imperfection gives us the opportunity to learn, and, at the end of the day, that is all that is ever asked of us.