The Many Flavours of failure

It’s like the ice cream flavour you hate but end up eating when you don’t have any other option. You know you don’t like the flavour, and it will not sit well, but you keep licking anyway. That failure flavour is ‘self-inflicted and deliberate’.  Yesterday, I pitched a little fit at the world around me and as a symbol of my childish rage, I lashed out. How did I lash out? Why, by failing on purpose, of course. I decided to not write the chapter I had due yesterday, just to spite myself. It’s the way I like to punish the world, by making it watch me kick the crap out of myself.  Did I feel better? No. I have lost the taste for controlled failure.

Sure, sabotaging yourself is appealing. It means your failures never really bother you that much, because you sank your own boat on purpose. There’s no ego loss from a failure like that.

Contrast it with failing after putting forth a real, honest effort. This is something I have historically avoided, but as a part of slowly becoming an actual adult, I have embraced the concept of trying hard and accepting honest failure. I discovered today that I don’t like the taste of that either.

This failure was an emotionally complicated one.  Max was dead-set against going to preschool today, or even leaving the house for that matter, so I was faced with the unpleasant task of dragging him against his wishes to school. To set the emotional stage for this drama, keep in mind that we have just emerged from a 3 day stretch of snow days, where his mom has been home, and things have been topsy-turvy and without any pattern. The day after a weekend is traditionally me and the boy’s stay-at-home day, where he cocoons and gets his bearings. This is what he wanted to do today, so the idea of going off to school and being a brave independent boy was very upsetting to him. I soldiered on through the 20 minutes of near hysterical crying while we got ready, promising him rewards and fun after school. Even the prospect of seeing his best friend at school didn’t help at all.

On the drive over, he calmed down and burst back into tears at least three times, and after one last attempt at convincing him to play and have fun in the classroom, I gave up. It broke my heart to push him to that point, but I kept telling myself that it’s a normal parent thing to do. I had set an unrealistic goal for myself and him, and when I hit resistance, I kept trying instead of folding right away. I should be proud of being gently persistent, and stopping when it was appropriate, but I hate the feeling of coming up short after trying my best. Yet another emotional situation that I have to learn to handle, how to cope with a hard-earned defeat. Oh well. The postscript to the story is that the little dude calmed down and had a great day after the school attempt. That’s good enough for now. We’ll tackle next week’s schooling later.

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One thought on “The Many Flavours of failure

  1. I found this one particularly interesting to read. I hadn’t thought to compare purposefully quitting in the same light as trying hard, but not succeeding. “Honest failure” – that makes me think.

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