by Leah Clouse
I failed at something big once. It was awful.
Recently I’ve decided to purge my life of every reminder of that thing I was once so proud of. Clearly, the wound is still a bit tender even two years later. I know I’m onto something when I try to write about it as vaguely as possible. “I’m making it relatable.” I say to myself. “You’re hiding from yourself.” Says an inaudible voice somewhere inside.
Let’s try again. I promised Paul I’d work as hard on these last two posts as I expect him to on his. There are a myriad of excuses (some even valid!) as to why I just don’t have time to write this week. It doesn’t come as easily for me. I just finished counseling, I need a break from hard emotional work. We’re moving THIS weekend! A bee just landed on me! My foot itches. It’s hot out. The air vent is making me chilly. On and on.
I’m a good hider when the seeker is me.
Three years ago I started baking professionally. Suddenly and fantastically the orders started tumbling in and I loved every single second of it. It was hard, delicious and rewarding. It also fed my abnormally sized ego quite well.
I quit my comfortable well-paying office job to pursue the bakery full-time and admittedly didn’t have a great business plan. Apparently dreams and hopes and whole wheat flour aren’t all it takes to lift a business off the ground. This is all the stuff everyone already knows. This is the stuff I tell.
Here’s the stuff I don’t. The parts even I hide from.
I got overwhelmed. Depressed. Paralyzed by fear. When our finances took a hit and every bill was late I lost my confidence. I quit long before I ever quit. I didn’t respond to inquiries for new orders. I cancelled my regular orders. I couldn’t handle it. I became a self-fulfilling prophecy that cried herself to sleep at night and succeeded in my worst fears of failure seemingly intentionally. I didn’t know how to stop. I avoided calls from my baking/business mentor until they stopped coming. I allowed my ego to destroy me. Even today, I don’t recognize that girl. My behavior as the bakery was floundering still shocks even me.
But Somehow, I got through it. I found my first nannying job and things got better for me emotionally. I found a new purpose in being a great care-giver for some amazing kids and subsequently would learn more from them than they ever learned from me.
My shame over the bakery kept me lying about its progress for another year; even taking selective orders to keep the facade. Shame is like that, it makes us pretend to be ok and hide from ourselves while the wounds fester beneath week-old bandages. But here’s what I’ve learned since then: No one can shame us but ourselves. The more willing we are to own our pain the more likely we are to get the help we need. There are valuable lessons in failure. It was, during that time in my life, the thing I feared most. Come to find out, it was the very thing I was learning to do. I failed. It was awful, but I survived. I’m more aware of myself, my limits and my fears because of it.
Also, I’m no less valuable because of it. I think I need to say that out loud often and loudly. I am no less valuable having failed than succeeded. Nor are you.