Amy of A Commonplace Life is my newest crush from the blogosphere. I'm not sure if she would take this as a compliment, but I've often felt that she writes in the same way I photograph. Her posts feel like she took my images and put them into words. Or perhaps I've taken her words and put them into images. Whichever direction the energy flows, I find her to be a creative sister and inspiration. She is a person I can't wait to get to know better and her answer to the magic question will tell you why.
What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
The question assumes one is afraid of failing, which I’m not. I fail all the time. Failure is a familiar and (almost) comfortable place where I’ve spent more time than I care to admit. Please believe me when I say that I don’t intend this to be self-deprecating. I can do self-deprecation and this is not it.
Among the list of my grander failures I count: multiple attempts to earn my bachelor’s degree; one marriage; two career choices; financial decisions that are too numerous to list and some unfortunate pet adoptions.
Being forced to examine this list, what jumps out at me is the common denominator. Impulsive behavior. Making choices without enough information. Jumping in without heart. Poor judgment.
Here’s the thing I find most surprising when listing my failures—I’m not sure there is one thing on the list I would change.
Admittedly, finishing school would undoubtedly provide me a sense of accomplishment that still evades me. But would I understand my failings as well as I do? Would I have any sense of my true calling? (I’m still hoping to find this.) I have to believe these things matter. I teach my children about strengths and weaknesses. About humility and hard work. I’m well aware of what I need to work on.
Absolutely, making different financial choices would have made things easier. But I choose not to regret them. Maybe only because regret, like envy, causes me pain that I cannot tolerate.
And the marriage. How could I regret that with all that I’ve gained? My son. My beautiful, fragile, talented, brilliant difficult boy. And the relationship with his father. I learned how to forgive. How to move on and let go. Nothing has ever taught me more about how imperfect I am.
There are changes I would make if I could.
One major one being: I wouldn’t live where I live. I don’t care much for it here. But it’s not out of fear that I don’t leave. Its just circumstance. Still, I don’t think the question was designed to elicit confessions of dreams-deferred because of reality. I interpret the idea to be “what are you not even trying to do because you are afraid”? And to that I ask myself what may, for me, be a more relevant question:
What would you do if you knew you might succeed?
Ah. Now I’m thinking. Regretting. Wishing. A nerve has been touched. The answer jumps quickly to the front.
I would go back to school. I would study everything. I would figure out what rings my bell and jump in headfirst.
If you’re still reading, you know that I’ve already attempted to finish school and I count not finishing among my list of failures. Not making sense yet? Stay with me here. Could I have failed at this because I was afraid of succeeding? The simple answer is youbetcha. I am afraid of what might change if I figure it out. I’m afraid of not being the person I have worked so hard to understand and having to start again. Of not loving what I love now or needing what I need. I have reconciled this inability of mine. It’s part of my persona. I just didn’t finish college. People are always surprised. But you’re so smart they say. Perhaps. But I was unable to focus or study. And now that I believe I could find the support to do it, now that I understand why I couldn’t do it before, now that I think I might actually be able to do it, I’m too scared to try.