A second-person answer to a first-person question.
This is a follow up to the post You Failed, an experiment of mine in prose poetry after a personal failure.
It dives into the follow-on emotions, that which came after the failure. Particularly the thoughts and feelings which brought me out of the negative emotional stew.
I hope you can find some catharsis or inspiration in it.
You’re a failure.
The past is over-determined: it already happened.
The future is under-determined: it can be anything.
The present is determined exactly right: by what you choose to do right now.
You already know all the rhetoric, the clichés.
You know that success is the result of failing one less time than you try.
You know that Edison didn’t fail, just found a lot of ways to make non-functioning light bulbs. Not that he’s a role model.
You know that everyone who ever made it has failed, and often.
You know these to be true.
It doesn’t help.
The problem isn’t that you don’t know how to handle failure. It isn’t that you can’t see the bigger picture; you know that if your life was a movie, this would be the second-act slump before the third-act success.
The problem is that you’re a failure, and no amount of trite sayings, other people’s suffering, or meta-knowledge about story structure is going to change that fact.
You still have your whole life ahead of you - or at least whatever fraction of it you have left.
The past is a part of you, now.
But does it have to define you?
If you aren’t defined by who you were, then what does define you?
Resilience is the tendency to get back up after falling down.
Sometimes you wish you weren’t so fucking resilient.
After all, you can only get knocked down if you’re standing up.
You could live on the ground, you think.
It seems easy.
Just stop getting back up.
Stop trying. Stop opening yourself up to pain and disappointment.
They say you miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.
Missing is the act of trying and failing.
Never trying means you’re not even in the game, sure, but there are plenty of people in the stadium. Plenty of people who are just fine cheering on others.
You have a choice to make.
Stay down, or get back up and try again.
Because you have no illusions that the most recent failure is the last one you’ll experience.
The world is not that kind of place.
With a level long enough and a fulcrum on which to rest it, Archimedes could move the world.
What kind of fulcrum, you wonder, could withstand the weight of the world?
Your burdens are not quite that heavy, even if they feel like it sometimes.
But you are not that kind of fulcrum, either.
And even if you were - where would you rest?
There are days when getting out of bed is a victory.
It shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t even be noticeable, a few seconds’ worth of effort to start the day.
How can you accomplish anything with a day you can barely start?
What is the point of all this navel-gazing? Are you actually getting anything out of your self-reflection?
That’s the thing about looking in a mirror: it only shows you what you’re willing to see.
This is not the end of your story.
This is not the end of you.
You will not allow it.
All of the shit that piles up, day after day, an infinite and endless parade of failures and fuckups and distractions and duties - it all seeks to submerge you in misery and mediocrity.
This is the truth of your life: you will exhume yourself as many times as you are buried.
You exist at the foot of a mountain.
Every day you begin to climb.
You sweat. You struggle.
You pull yourself up, arm over arm.
Every day, you wake up to find yourself at the beginning of a new slope.
Every day, you continue upwards.
Always starting over. Always beginning again.
Sisyphus had it easy.
All your failures, all the times you’ve flailed and fallen and felt like nothing would ever be okay again-
This is not the sum of you.
You are better than your worst moments.
What, then, is the sum of you?
Said Oscar Wilde: Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
We are all four-dimensional beings, human-shaped timelines that stretch from birth to death.
You are your past, but you are also your future.
That is the sum of you: all the things you’ve yet to do.