This I Believe

Lindsay - st. peters, Missouri
Entered on January 26, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: setbacks

I believe in failure. Why does Christopher slave over his Biology homework? Because he doesn’t want to fail the class. Why doesn’t Nick shoot the ball from the three-point line? Because he might miss. Why has Sarah become so studious that she would rather labor over schoolwork than see a movie with her friends? Because she doesn’t want to fail at getting into a good college. Why can’t Tom ask that girl on a date when he’s had a crush on her for months? Because she might say no, in which case, he has failed to earn her affection or time of day. Why does Matt put forth his best effort in college? Because he doesn’t want to fail to get a well-paying job that can support his wife and kids. Why doesn’t John pursue his dreams or go after that which truly interests him? Because that may be unrealistic, he may make a poor choice, he may have to start over, he may run into a few obstacles, he may never accomplish his dream, he may fail. I believe failure is an essential part of life, and risk is the only road to true happiness. We are never willing to be momentarily uncomfortable or unhappy. Comfort and happiness are our main objectives, and if we do not achieve these things, we have failed. I believe that in order to truly achieve these goals, we must fail.

I drove to McDonald’s and stared at the menu for a good five minutes trying to decide which value meal I should order. I had narrowed it down to three different choices, all of which were chicken sandwiches. They looked delicious, but I had never tasted any of them. After much contemplation, I decided on two cheeseburgers because that is what I always get. Why didn’t I order a chicken sandwich? Because I wasn’t sure I would like it. I wasn’t sure it would make me happy. I wanted to be safe. When the issue at hand is what I want to eat for lunch, the refusal to take risks is not such a problem. But in relation to the more important decisions in life, the fear of failure can leave one restless, discontent, and bland.

I never want to lead a bland life. For this reason, I am eager to fail. The problem is, parents do not like to see their kids fail, so kids grow up with a looming cloud over their head that floods their minds with thoughts that say, “Don’t try anything new, follow the system, go to high school, go to college, marry whoever you are dating at the end of college, never leave your comfort zone.” Then those kids grow up and perhaps they have never tasted failure in the sense of trying to blaze a new path and winding up at a dead end; however, they are far from happy. They are full of wonder at the way things might have been. Yet they turn around and grow up and have children and sit them down at an appropriate age and pull out a map and point out all of the safe routes in life and all the risky roads to avoid. So the cycle continues, and a society of “successful,” safe, and discontent people is born. Adventurous challenges are left untried. People continue to follow the same way of life, however contradictory it may be to their hearts’ desires. And the world as we know it continues to decay because no one ever dares to live outside the box.

Perhaps the most common area of life in which failure is so often feared and avoided is education. People believe education is the key to success. My mother has always stressed how important high school is. As does the rest of the adult world. There was only one teacher, a highly respected one at that, who was brave enough to admit to me that high school really doesn’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. His philosophy in a nutshell was, “Try. Don’t kill yourself. There’s more to life, and many times it is the worst students who end up on top.” My sister got straight A’s beginning in elementary school and ending her fourth year of college. She is one of the most unhappy people I know. Good grades in high school lead to admission into a good college, which is the key to success and happiness, right? Not so much. It was another teacher who stuck out from the crowd of people this time. The crowd encouraged me to agonize over finding the perfect college, figuring out how to get into it, and working my butt off in high school to get admitted into the best place. But there was one teacher who said “You know, it really doesn’t matter where you go to college. It doesn‘t even matter when. It‘s best to go somewhere you can afford, and do it when you‘re actually motivated.” Maybe it’s not all about academics after all. Maybe that is one more myth about the trail to success. People bank on academics because it’s a sure-fire way not to fail. I have come to the conclusion that I would rather end up as a homeless bum who sought to follow her dreams, and along the way had phenomenal experiences, met interesting people, learned valuable lessons, saw many places, did things I loved, participated in what I was created for, and enjoyed the ride, than a rich, successful, bored woman with a typical office job, three kids, and a frown on my face. But I guarantee the bum has risked much more, and tasted failure many more times than Little Miss Follow-the-Crowd-Because-it’s-Safe. I believe in failure. I believe in a happy life, one that’s worth living. And I believe the two go hand in hand.