The Universe has a funny way of tricking us into thinking that we have our lives under control, and then one day, without any proper warning, pulls the rug out from under us.
That feeling of “Damn, life is good” contentment that we all spend tireless hours chasing seems to disappear as quickly as it arrived. It only takes one “we need to talk” text or appointment reminder from the Dentist to completely soil our fleeting moment of triumph.
So you’ve screwed up? Whether it’s for the first time or the eleven-billionth time, the feeling is quite the same. It’s that punch-in-the-gut “FML” sensation of discovering a typo in an important email, sleeping through your alarm or hitting a neighbor’s mailbox with your car.
Sometimes it only takes a few seconds to royally fuck up a part of your life that you spent days, months or even years cultivating.
In the sprawling White Mountains of California there is a tree called the “Great Basin bristlecone.” With it’s leafless, weathered and twisted limbs, the Great Basin bristlecone is a contraption straight out of a horror film or the Wicked Witch’s castle in The Wizard of Oz. Despite its looks, the Great Basin bristlecone has been named “the oldest tree in the world” at a mere 5,062 years old.
“5,000 years ago,” aka roughly 3300 BC, was a time known for Mesopotamian civilizations, “an eye for an eye” and any modern female’s comparison to the last time they shaved their legs. (“I haven’t shaved my legs in like 5,000 years. Holy sh*t.”)
All the while, the Great Basin bristlecone has been around to watch humankind royally screw things up (ie: two World Wars, the leaning Tower of Pisa, Steve Harvey at Miss Universe circa 2016 and Chipotle charging extra for guacamole…).
The Great Basin bristlecone has endured 5,062 years of growth, yet could be snubbed in just a few minutes with the right sawing equipment.
Putting it bluntly: It simply doesn’t matter how long a dream/project/relationship of yours has been around, or how many hours you’ve spent watering it. Similarly to the world’s oldest tree, it could potentially be eliminated without a second thought.
The earliest known time that I, myself, screwed up was back in the second grade.
In Elementary school your level of “coolness” was based on the number of neon pens in your pencil case or your position in the school lunch line.
One day, in my haste to ensure that I was the first in line, I’d chosen to ignore my screaming bladder. Within minutes, my body publicly betrayed me and my favorite pair of flare jeans with butterfly iron-on patches (my first ever D.I.Y. project, I will add) became soaked in the crotch. Embarrassed and convinced that my life was over, I proceeded to hide behind a potted plant until my Mother came to my rescue with a new (not nearly as cute) pair of jeans.
Although that was the first (and hopefully the last) time that I’ve ever peed myself in public, I experience the same sensation quite frequently.
Quite frankly, I’ve adopted “screwing up” as a normal part of my weekly routine. With each spilled coffee, parking ticket and overdue library book, the act of screwing up doesn’t really surprise me anymore.
Life could be going exceptionally well and I’ll have my head on a swivel, thinking, “Okay, Satan, when will you appear in my life today?”
You aren’t alone in thinking that the Universe is out to get you. We’ve all been there.
A lot of us— myself included— ruin the greatest parts of our lives by worrying about when the next shit storm will roll through. We overanalyze and try to perform damage-control before the damage has even been made.
This type of behavior, however, is like carrying around an umbrella on an impeccably sunny day— bulky and unnecessary. We can't keep living like this.
The truth that we've all heard but refuse to believe: screwing up is essential for growth.
J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel was rejected by 12 publishers.
Walt Disney was refused 302 times before he received proper financing to construct Disneyland.
Vincent Van Gogh only sold 1 painting in his lifetime out of the 800 pieces he created.
A lack of failure in your life is genuinely more concerning than excess of it. If your life lacks “screwing up,” it can be assumed that you don’t take nearly enough risks. You haven't done nearly enough living. After all, we aren’t around forever. You might as well learn to dance in the rain with the time that you’re allotted. Success is not a path for those who are afraid of failure. Beyond popular belief, it isn’t a path paved with gold.
It’s like rummaging in the bottom of your bag to locate your headphones— 9 times out of 10 they won’t be retrieved tangle-free.
A massive misconception about recovering from failure is the idea that we aren’t allowed to feel any degree of sadness. There are numerous quotes circulating the Internet that offer post-failure advice along the lines of “don’t cry, put on some lipstick and get over it.”
I agree that failure shouldn’t be dwelled upon, but I’m also an advocate of not suppressing emotion. Margaret Atwood said, “I’m not sure which is worse: intense feeling, or the absence of it.” I believe in the latter.
We aren’t robots. We’re wired to feel things— and many of these things we feel quite strongly.
When failure creeps into our lives, it is natural for us to react. Don’t you dare beat yourself up for feeling something.
So often we don’t allow ourselves time to cope with the failures in our lives. We sprint recklessly from one pitfall to the next because we haven’t allotted ourself enough time to process things.
When the Universe sticks its foot out to trip you, lay in the dirt for a moment to take in the view. Take a deep breath. Allow yourself to learn something from the set-back. Then, pick yourself up, shake the dust from your clothes and walk it off like a champ.
I don't own any of the images in this post.