Last night, I was driving south on Highway 99, taking the girls to their dad’s. As we went through Kingsburg, passing the Denny’s restaurant, I said to my 16-year-old, “I used to work there.”
“That actual one?”
“Yes, it was a good store,” I replied, thinking back to my first “career” after high school — restaurant management. “I had been an assistant manager at other locations too, and that was the only one where I ever had an interest in becoming the general manager of the restaurant.”
“But I didn’t get the job. So I decided I didn’t want to play anymore. That was when got out of management and became a waitress instead, changed my major and started studying journalism.”
“So you turned an epic failure into a success?” she observed.
Yes, actually. By turning away from a path that had been easy to fall into but which I never found very rewarding, I failed my way into my true calling — journalism and writing. I shudder to think how different my life might have been if I had “succeeded” at that juncture.
No one wants their children to fail. If anything, we want to protect them from those hurts. But we can’t forget that we learn some of our most important lessons, make the hardest choices and ultimately grow as people when we allow ourselves to fail and then analyze what went wrong.
A Facebook friend inspired my blog entry this morning when he posted a link to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s 2008 commencement address to Harvard grads. She spoke of the failures in her life — as an impoverished, divorced single mother — before she became the most successful author of all time:
“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential,” J.K. Rowling said. “I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.
“Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
I’ve failed a lot in my life, through my actions or sometimes my inactions. Hell, I’m still failing. But I think as I continue to grow and learn, I’ve also done a few things right.
~ Originally published on the now-defunct “The Moms’ House” blog.