Graphic by Chelsea Cleary

Graphic by Chelsea Cleary

By Meredith Schellin, Executive Editor

Failure. I used to get physically ill thinking about that word. My former perfectionist self could barely stand the thought of making any type of mistake— of disappointing anyone, letting someone down, getting a bad grade or not performing my best in extra-curriculars I was involved in. This idea of being perfect trapped me in this perpetual fear cycle that I could not get out of until I finally gave myself the permission to fail.

Approximately three years ago I was a wide-eyed, eager freshman standing on the steps of Hughes with the rest of my classmates donning my Unshakable t-shirt, standing far too close to people I did not know, and desperately trying to peek out over the top of people’s heads to be seen as I smiled awkwardly for our class picture.

That freshman version of me had a plan. I had set goals, with a timeline and a grand vision for how my life was going to perfectly fall into place because I knew exactly what I wanted out of life. Nothing and no one could change my goals and aspirations. Veering from the plan would result in failure and that certainly was not an option.

Three years later I can tell you I have failed. I have failed at my plan, my goals are not what they once were and my life certainly does not fit on that timeline anymore. I can also tell you that is OK.

I changed my major. I quit extra-curriculars and clubs I was involved in. I had a breakup and even ended friendships a time or two. In many ways these constitute failures. These were relationships I was unable to salvage, tasks I was unable to complete and jobs I was unable to handle. But here is the thing—I know I am not the only one who has failed, nor am I the only one who has feared failure.

As a culture we have decided to glorify this idea of perfectionism. We want our lives perfectly placed together on some sort of five-year, easy twenty-step program. We do not take in to account the fact that people change, that we change and that sometimes we have to let our plans fail in order to live a life that is  best for us in the end.

Because we forget that life actually happens and we strive for this unattainable perfectionism we have created this place in which we do not allow for ourselves to make mistakes, to change our minds or to grow. We have decided we must have our lives together constantly and we cannot and will not fail.

In order to come to terms with the fact that my life was not going to be what I had planned, I had to learn that failure is inevitable. That my goals and dreams were going to fail as I changed and became a different person. I had to learn that failure happens when we are honest with ourselves and that failure also happens when we decide to actually start living life instead of being caught in the fear of making mistakes instead of being brave enough to take a chance and allow ourselves to move outside the boundaries we have previously dictated our lives fall into.

Not only do we need to embrace the reality of failure, but once this failure has occurred we must stop and pause and ask ourselves if this failure was an actual failure at all or rather your life taking a different direction.

If you have never feared failure and you have never had this innate desire to have your life planned out in some sort of capacity—you are my hero. But maybe you are like how I used to be and you cringe at the thought of failure. I encourage you to explore other avenues that life may have to offer you and to realize that you do not have to have it all together.