The title makes this post sound negative and sinister – Much like the concept of failure itself, I promise it’s not.
I am such a control freak, I will happily admit that these days. This also comes with a quality in myself I don’t love – I hate the thought of failing anything. In some ways that has stood me in good stead because it means I have always worked hard at any task or challenge given to me. However, I have also previously hidden my failures. I shouldn’t be ashamed of when things have gone wrong or for the way I am as a person. Bottom line, everyone fails.
Over lockdown, I started listening to a podcast by Elizabeth Day called ‘How To Fail’. Each episode, she speaks to a guest and they discuss a few of their failures. Beyond that they don’t just speak about what it was they failed at, but why that failure was important, what they learnt and why they now think of it as an important experience and why you shouldn’t be scared of it. They discuss anything from heartbreaks, illness, the inability to have a family to things like being messy or failing to put your phone down.
I have spent the past couple of months cherry-picking my way through the episodes of different celebrities that she has been lucky enough to interview. Recently, her new book ‘Failosophy’ was released. So I took the time to read that but also finally listened to the episode at the end of series 1, where Elizabeth Day turns the tables on herself to speak about her own failures.
In a world of social media and influencers, everything looks so perfect from the outside looking in. I can identify with that sometimes by my own Instagram feed full of beautiful ocean blues, fantastic meals and mountain views. Of course, I am here to speak about travel and experiencing life, people follow me for that content. But being authentic is something I always strive to be and I haven’t always been that confident person chatting away on my insta stories.
So today, i’m going to reflect on the areas that I have failed in, the lighthearted and heavyhearted.
My own failures
To put myself first
I am such a yes person, I annoy myself. I will always nominate myself to help people and would happily wait for others to want to do something. Over the years it has made me cynical and realise I need to put myself first because let’s face it if no one else is going to, you need to do it yourself.
I have spent so much time putting others before myself I have missed out on a lot. I have realised that being a little bit selfish is healthy. Being selfish is looked at as being so negative, but I think if you balance that with selfless-ness, you are going to be a much happier version of yourself. I have failed to put myself first so many times, and I’ll continue to do it probably for the rest of my life as it’s just the way I am engineered, but, I end up exhausted and unwell from the lack of rest and self-care that I am giving myself.
I’ve spoken before about travelling and how people were so flakey when it came to going abroad. I one day realised that if I was constantly waiting for other people, I was never going to go. So now I travel solo. I wanted a blog and an Instagram that follows my interest but worried about what people would think, so I put myself first and here I am today babbling to you all. The one I get stick for constantly is my degree. Having to study is the one consistent thing I do for myself where I need to separate myself from the world. It means sometimes weekends where I am not available and not at people’s beck and call. Unfortunately, because of the way I am, people aren’t used to me saying no, and just do not like that I put my degree first at times. I have nearly given in so many times to do stuff and please the people around me but I am sticking to my guns.
To cook without creating an absolute state
The messiest cooks are the best cooks. I make such a state. This a much more light-hearted failure – I physically have the inability to cook in the kitchen without shit going EVERYWHERE. I try so hard to tidy up as I go along. I am often off to a strong start, keeping the bin open and wiping things as I go, but 10 minutes in there’s tomato on the walls, cheese on the floor and every pot and pan has been used.
The number of times that there have been people around my house for food, that I am cooking them, and they moan about the state I make while cooking. Like, do you want to be fed amazing food or not? This is something that I’m ok with, as much as other people whine about it as though they are perfect human beings that never make a mess. I have tried to change it, but I just can’t. It’s the way I am and my cooking tastes too fucking good to care too much. This failure is here to stay.
To become a nurse
This is one that I am still rather sore about and is the biggest one. I love my job now and don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change it for the world. However, for as long as I can remember, I was going to be a nurse. Everything I did in my life for most of my academic years was to point me towards that career. I knew what I wanted, how to get there and I was going to have it. In primary school, on career days I always dressed up as a nurse (apart from the one time I was a fairy but fairys fly and I don’t like heights so my career goal switcheroo’ed) and every qualification I took was to get me there. I hadn’t so much as thought about another option on “what to do when I grew up” in case it hadn’t worked out, and I wish I had because the feeling of failure down so many avenues gave me a knock of reality I wasn’t mentally prepared for.
When I was 18 I started studying a degree in Nursing and was lucky enough to get a placement on a ward in my local area that was renowned for being extremely challenging and would look great on my CV. The people I was caring for were primarily elderly with severe health issues, but also poor mental health, for example, a terminally ill patient with dementia or schizophrenia.
So for a little bit of background, I went to the doctor when I was 13/14 because my back was in such bad pain following lifting a stool up onto the desk at the end of a science lesson but they said I had only pulled something which is fair enough. Over the years I had this on and off and just assumed I was going to be one of those people with a bad back at a young age. When I started doing placements and getting more and more involved in the work, it meant I was having to do a lot more manual handling and lifting and the pain got worse in my upper back, normally, wear and tear pain sits in your lower back. Due to working for the NHS, I spoke to occupational health and they referred me for an appointment.
Eventually, it turns out that something had caused the T2 to collapse on top of the T3 in my spine. They compared them to cardboard boxes on top of one another, except the top box was full of heavy books and had damaged the box underneath. Following further investigation, they discovered I had probably had juvenile arthritis as a teenager, so decided to run more tests and looked at my body as a whole. I later got the rare diagnosis at 18 years old of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
A lot started to make sense. The pain in my knee when it rained, how I can have a simple cough and cold that lasts twice as long as everyone else. Due to the condition of my spine, the doctors were really honest with me. I could continue nursing, but I risked ending up in a wheelchair at 40 years old, that I would make the condition of my back worse, faster by continuing the work I was doing and the lifestyle I was living. So I gave it all up overnight.
I really struggled with that. I had no other career plan, no other life ambition. I just wanted to be a nurse. I wanted a family one day and to live life so I knew that it wasn’t viable to carry on, I was so scared of what this could mean for me. I have told so many people that I left because it was my parent’s dream, not mine. But that’s not true. I was so ashamed, embarrassed. It was my parent’s dream too, my dad specifically was gutted, he had been rooting for me from the get-go. I felt I failed him at times more than I failed myself.
I know I couldn’t plan for things to end up this way but I still felt like a failure for a very long time. I had banged on for years that I was going to be a nurse, I was going to do my bit. Yet I didn’t, I couldn’t. However, It opened up my eyes to all the options out there to me, maybe I wasn’t supposed to be a nurse, maybe this is the plan of the universe. Without the rug being pulled beneath me, I wouldn’t have met the people so close to me today. I wouldn’t have worked with and met my best friend, I wouldn’t have gone back to university to get a different degree and met another of my best friends.
I’ve come to terms with this failure, kinda, but I’m pretty happy with the outcome.