Failure by Comparison

GoRuck373When someone says failure it conjures up all sorts of negative connotations. Perhaps you didn’t get the job you applied for, you got a divorce, you didn’t meet the time you set for yourself for that last race you entered. In other words, you failed. And I get it. In that moment, failing sucks. Who wants to abandon their dreams, fall short of their goals, fail? As I get older, I can honestly say I do. It is only when we fail that we reassess and only then that we find out how strong we are.

I have failed at a lot. This used to be really hard for me to admit, especially out loud. I grew up in a house where if you weren’t going to be the best at something, why bother? When I entered my first marathon my grandma asked me if I thought I would win. When I told her no she responded, “Why are you running then?”. Believe me, this is no way to live. I have learned so much more from my failures and shortcomings than I ever have from my victories. It has taken me years to push away the fear of failure and embrace the uncertainty that comes with new experiences.


Some of my biggest failures are due to comparing myself to others. This started at an early age and my comparisons were focused on my older sister, Monica. Let me clarify now that Monica and my parents didn’t encourage this competition I had set up, it was all my own neuroses. I was two years behind Monica in school and she was a tough act to follow. She was president of the National Honor Society, salutatorian, captain of the soccer team, dated a cute guy, and was all around loved by everyone. She didn’t do any of these things to try to make me look bad. She did these things because she was good at them and that was her personality. I am the one who would constantly make comparisons. With this self-imposed set up for disappointment, I concluded I would never be as good as Monica at anything and said fuck it. Yes, even back then I had a potty mouth. This worked until about half way through my junior year when I realized “oh shit, if I want to get into college, I better get my ass in gear”. That was the first step I took on my journey of realizing that I’m not living for someone else, I am living for myself. It was a tiny baby step that would have to be reinforced countless times in the future.

As most American females do, I also compared myself to any and every other female I encountered. Whether it was in real life or people I saw through the media, comparisons were made. Again, my first comparisons came with my sister. We are the same height and I weigh roughly 25 pounds more than she does. Who cares about this? Absolutely nobody! But I didn’t get that until about a decade ago. The one time I starved myself and got down close to her weight people asked me and my family members if I was sick with some terminal disease. Healthy, huh? I also compared myself to celebrities, friends, strangers in the gym. The self criticism and negative talk were hard to control. For me the comparisons diminished (honestly they still occasionally pop into my head when I’m having insecure moments) when I started pushing myself in physical challenges and seeing what my body is capable of. I will never be a size 2, or even a 6, and that is okay. These thick quads of mine have carried me through 10 marathons, 2 trail ultra marathons, triathlons, and a GoRuck Challenge. Do I wish my boobs were a little perkier? Hell yeah, I do. But you know what? They’re 37 year old boobs and are pretty fabulous.


If I went by societal standards, one of my biggest failures would probably be my divorce. I think it’s ironic that I see that marriage, divorce, and the aftermath as one of my biggest successes. Shit, I got a gay guy to propose to me and we kept each other pretty stinking happy for over 8 years. That’s got to be worth something, right? Plus, the biggest part of that success is that I can honestly say that my wasband is still one of my best friends. We can count on each other for anything and know we’ll always be there for each other. As in all aspects of life, success and failure are all about perspective.


The only failures that we should truly regret are the ones we refuse to learn from. Didn’t get that dream job? Tweak your resume or volunteer some hours in that field. Missed your race time? Add some hill work or emphasize your recovery days. Got divorced or going through a break up? Honestly assess your contributions to the split and then realize that there is someone out there who will be a better match.


While I have come a long way and am no longer afraid to try new things, I still have a ways to go in learning to trust my gut and follow my instincts. My current job is great by society’s standards. It pays well, has benefits, and a retirement plan. But you know what? Society’s standards aren’t necessarily my standards. I don’t find my job challenging or fulfilling. It goes back to my last post of wanting to do more and be more. I am trying to be honest with myself and admit my passions. It’s scary because what I want to do is not going to necessarily provide me with a steady salary or benefits. It’s going to take me a while to go through training and determine if this is what I really want. I will take the time to make sure I will be ok financially the first couple years of this venture. But you know what I’m not going to do? I’m not going to let my fear of the unknown or the possibility of failure prevent me from following my dreams. As my wise friend Katie said, “I decided to jump in bed with my fear and go for what I want”. We only have one life, folks. Let’s live it to the fullest!