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What do you do when your dreams die?
How failure taught me valuable life lessons, and maybe they can help you too.
Failure is not an option, except when it is. Two failures in my life have taught me more in life than all of my accomplishments ever have. So hop in this virtual car, and I’ll take you down memory lane across 2 of my biggest failures and what they taught me.
I failed at college twice. Yes, you read that right: twice.
When I first started college, I had big dreams of becoming a computer programmer and making video games eventually. Guess what? Computer Programming concentrations require math: a lot of it. Guest what Rob’s not good at… You are so very clever. Yes, I was not built for it.1 I just couldn’t get along with math, and after my first full year of college, I realized this was not going to end well. So, I made a change.
What I learned
In that first year of college, I found that I loved making films with my buddy, Andrew. I had a penchant for writing and editing, and eventually this would become my career. I changed my major to film/tv, and I never looked back. Now thinking about it, I’ve spent 17 years of my job life utilizing the skills I jumpstarted because I decided to change my mind.
I don’t know how I feel about this failure. To this day, dropping out of college doesn’t feel like a failure, but I think most would see it that way. So I count it as a failure. I think this failure was a confluence of a lot of different life events that all met together like a powder keg. My grandfather - the last of my grandparents - passed away the spring before my junior year of college. It threw me for a loop, but in slow motion. My junior year of college found me struggling with mental health issues, eventually being diagnosed with moderate depression.2 I slept a lot, missed classes, and - eventually - I had to tell my parents what was going on.
Not only was I burnt out with the school, but of the hypocrisy I had been feeling with the Church3 for some time, and my school was making the imperfections in my worldview apparent. I couldn’t do it anymore. All of these toxic, volatile variables were mixed and combusted together, and it really destroyed my world for several years.
What I learned
I learned that the world I had constructed for myself had to be deconstructed for my life to remain intact. I couldn’t keep going the way I was, or I would never become the adult I needed to be. I was able to appreciate the friendships and skills I developed in college, and carry those forward, but I didn’t need to keep the myopic, destructive feelings I had been carrying with me for a long time. I also needed to adjust the expectations for myself. Things weren’t always going to be easy for me, like they were in my younger years. I had to learn to work smarter and harder to build a life I could be proud of.4
I also learned that I could take my faith as truly my own. It wasn’t my parents’. It wasn’t my friends’. It wasn’t my school’s. It was mine, and the only one I had to honor through it was God and myself. No one else was truly keeping score, and - if they were - that was on them, not me.
Taking the L
Failing has the ability to teach us something about ourselves, our lives, and our world. What we do with that lesson is up to us. I know for me, I took those lessons I learned and let them mold me into who I am today. I learned that taking an L is not just taking a loss, it’s taking a lesson. I don’t have to wallow in self-pity. I can grow from it. There are times when tears feel like the rain your plant needs to grow. I love just stacking metaphors, one on top of the other, until I can’t remember how I got where I am. This is a long paragraph that really just sums up that I pulled three things from these failures:
I’m not good at math.
Just kidding, I learned that I wasn’t going to be good at everything I tried, and some things were not going to be ‘my thing’.
There comes a time when the healthy thing to do is to leave. For the sake of your mental health, you may have to cut bait and take a lesson.
Know WHY you think the way you do. Not someone else’s WHY, You’re Why.
as the kids say. Or do they? I don’t know anymore.
big C church.
you can DM me if you don’t have my #