Everything that my many failures taught me

Jennifer Sizeland

Jennifer Sizeland

Every month we invite our readers to pitch us articles on a theme revealed in our regular newsletter. Find out what our next theme is by subscribing to our newsletter below. This month’s theme was ‘failure’, Jen Sizeland shared some wise words on the restorative nature of crying in the toilets and seeing the funny side of failing…

Six years ago on an ill-advised journalism training course (I lasted six months in local news), a nun that I interviewed told me that depression was a part of life. I would extend her sentiment to failure also being a really pivotal part of life’s rich pattern and one that we like to pretend doesn’t exist.

The aforementioned training course came at a painful time for me, I felt I was too ‘old’ to be changing careers for the third time (I was still in my twenties) and I cried in the toilet for three hours after an actor pretending to be a difficult interviewee shouted at me. 

I didn’t embrace the ridiculousness of this Partridge-esque experience at the time, as I was in a bad place mentally, but there is so much comedy in failure, albeit slightly tragic in nature. Only six months in a career that I spent nine months training for at a cost of £3,500 seems like a failure (it took three years to pay off). However, it takes a lot to peer around that door and see if it’s for you. 

Many people don’t even get that far and I can personally attest as to why not as I have a portfolio of ‘toilet cries’ as varied and as long as my CV itself. I’ve learnt to always go in the second to last cubicle, the one at the end is too obvious and you’ll be found there.

Failure is as much about the time in your life as it is about the thing that you’re trying to achieve, as sometimes you’re just not there yet. The cultural obsession with achieving great success at a young age is as destructive as it is nonsensical. I’m in my mid-thirties now and I’m still experimenting, which I now hope to do for a long time yet!

These are the things that my failures have taught me:

1. My own resilience and ability to carry on.

Getting up after a fall isn’t easy, but the fact that we do it all the time in our competitive industries is pretty amazing if you ask me!

2. Failure can be quite funny.

Hey, it happened, mine it for all its worth!

3. Failure is an intrinsic part of creative life.

I’m sorry to say that creativity and failure are birds of a feather. 

4. Feeling bad about failure is inevitable.

It’s hard not to take rejection and failure personally, but it’s the carrying on that counts.

5. Giving yourself a hard time about failure is cruel and nobody deserves to feel bad about failure.

I’ve given myself such a hard time on numerous occasions, now I try not to let failure ruin my next idea!

Failure is everywhere so I’ve come to the conclusion that we can make life easier by accepting its omnipresence, no matter where we’re at in our journey. Failure shapes us to make our work the best that it can be and gives us something to strive for in our creative endeavours in every decade of our lives.

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