Monday, July 5, 2010

Benefit of Failure

“My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet.” ~Mahatma Gandhi quotes

Yesterday I had the good fortune of finding the JK Rowling's speech to Harvard graduates.  (JK Rowling: The fringe benefits of failure Video on  In her warm, funny speech she looked back at the time in her life where she was having her biggest failures.  The times when she learned, was humbled and kept writing kept going for her goals. 

I have always loved her story.  I connected to it because it reminds in a way the same as what I have lived.  As a college graduate I taught for three years in a school in a tough neighborhood. I wanted to help everyone.  I volunteered for every position there was. I was at the school for meetings or events for hours each week on top of my regular schedule.  It was the perfect storm for burn out. 

Convinced that the college diploma was a magic piece of paper to get me any job I desired I quit, left teaching.  In six months I struggled daily to find a job.  It seems even with a degree people still wanted experience.  August came, as the families buzzed around the school supply aisle I wept.  Yearning for the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, and the sight of sparkly group of new students.  Knowing I had let that all go broke my heart. 

After some failed attempts to work in the mortgage industry I knew I had to scramble to get back into education.  It pulled at me everyday.  In September it is difficult to find any teaching job much less one as a history teacher- those are typically saved for the coaches.  I lucked out and got a long term substitute teaching job.  Meanwhile, I was homeless living on a sofa.  The mortgage company job had fallen through and  the finance company was trying to repossess my car.  I was just trying to find something to bring in money.  Minimum wage jobs said I was over qualified others said I didn't have enough skills.

Through luck I found a long term substituting job in the district I had just left.  The meager salary did not cover everything.  By night I would do inventories for ten dollars an hour then sleep a few hours and teach.  On weekends I was a house/pet/kid sitter when I was not working as a cleaning lady.  I continued this for several months.  It looked like it was going to work.  I got a little apartment, the scary neighbors were just a side benefit. (They provided fodder for stories that I had yet to write.)  Opened a checking account and could afford food every now and then.  It looked like I was clawing my way out of the bad times.

Working late one night at the school I came out of the school and could not find my car.  I knew immediately, repossession.  They had found me.  Tough to work several jobs in Texas with no car.  I was crushed.  I called the company, they told me I had 30 days before my car would be put up for auction or I could pay them $1,500.  Felt like they were asking for a million.  I was going to have to do something I had been able to avoid till then, begging.  Contacting all my family my stomach was turning with defeat I asked for money.  I got it after letting go of my pride and admitting I needed help they were there.  The Queen of Independence learned a tough lesson. There are people all around you that want to be there for you you just have to reach out.  

This Cinderella story didn't end with a White Knight and a big castle at least not yet.  Instead I learned.  I can live off very little.  Rice isn't that bad, even if you have to eat it everyday for months.  There are some jobs where you become invisible in our society.  Stripped of all the stuff, I write.  I write for escape.  In my writing I am free,  I do not suffer, fear, or regret.  My successes as a person is not measured by what I have it is by measured by what I have overcome. 

I hope you never have to overcome the levels of poverty I have.  I do hope that you fail.  It is how you find out who you are and what you have when everything else it gone.  It is not something to fear.  It is something to learn from to become better inspite of.  Is this the last of my failures?  Most likely, this is just the beginning.  I know there are many lessons for me still to learn and I embrace them.       



  1. Have you seen the movie "The Ultimate Gift" some of what you have written reminded me so much of the lines from James Garner in that movie. It just goes to show what I say all the time. Just because you work with, teach with, or pray with someone it does not mean that you know their personal struggles. Too often those who have been insulated from the struggles of real challenge make assumptions in logic that just do not hold out for the rest of us.

  2. LeeChel, I haven't seen that. I will have to put it in the queue for netflix. I could not agree more nor could I have worded it better.