I am currently experiencing a failure on a great magnitude.
Recently, I quit my job; packed up what belongings I didn’t sell and moved to NYC.
Of course, you’re thinking, that’s what everyone does. It’s almost a right of passage for any creative, really. But it isn’t going so well. And the swell of panic that starts in my gut and violently brews until I feel like I’m going to vomit out my internal organs, is never really far away.
It’s there when I walk through Central Park and try to pay attention to the beautiful Fall death of the leaves, and feel the crisp air pinking my nose and cheeks. It’s there when I walk around The Met admiring the architecture almost more than anything actually residing in the building. It’s there when I traipse through Strand Books, getting lost in the stacks. And it’s there when I realize I know one person in the city – a handful in the entire country – and that I’ve never been more alone in my life.
You see, I didn’t get a job as easily as I thought I would and being a freelance writer is, unsurprisingly, difficult. There’ve been unexpected housing issues, financing issues (of course) and difficulty making friends and building a social network. Without a nine to five, as an adult it’s hard to make friends completely from scratch. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard enough that when everything else is going wrong it feels impossible.
And so, my family want me to move back home to Australia. Where I am safe, employable, and warm. And where I have a large social network of people who know me, love me and value being near me.
It’s tempting. To pack it all in and go home with a shrug, oh well, I guess I can try again later. But the thing is, I know I won’t try again later.
If I don’t try right now, I’ll hate myself. So I try. Really, really hard. Every single day. I apply for jobs. I get paid peanuts on freelancing websites. I get outside and let the cold air cause me enough physical discomfort for me to forget my emotional and mental discomfort for a moment. I tell my friends I’m having a great time and I update my social media. Oh god, the social media.
“I’m so jealous of your NYC life!”
“You look like you’re having an amazing time!”
“You’re going to be brilliant.”
No one really posts on social media when their life is going to shit. At least not honestly. So I post photos of the Upper East Side, the park, The Met. I avoid having actual conversations with my friends back home because I don’t know if I can keep up the charade of being fine for that long.
But here’s the thing; I will be fine. Because it’s ok to fail. Because my mum says that the only way you can fail is if you don’t try, and that comforts me. Because everyone has it hard when they move to New York, that’s basically written into the blueprint of the city.
You will struggle.
It will be hard.
Everyone will experience a difficult time, or more than one, in their lives and everyone will fail.
I’m not even sure I am failing at the moment — I’m still here, I’m still trying — but it feels like I’m failing. And no one is immune to that feeling.
Knowing that makes it all a bit better.
I’m not really alone, I will make friends, I will find work. How do I know? Because I’ve done all of this before, at least once. And so have you. We’ve all been in a position we thought was impossible to navigate, felt like we were backed into a corner with no options but to fail. But tomorrow is going to happen anyway, the sun will come up and the people who feel like they’ve got it under control will go about their days just the same as the people who feel like they’re drowning.
And so it sounds like motivational drivel, or empty promises for a better tomorrow. But it’s not. It’s one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, very deliberately until you realise you’ve been doing it automatically and maybe things aren’t as difficult as they used to be.
And there’s something freeing in failing. Once you’ve done it, it’s never as bad as you thought it would be.
Our minds can think up the most awful, cruel and wicked things (just ask Stephen King), and tell us that all of our worst fears are gong to come true. And even if they do, once it’s happened it’s over. And you’re freed of the expectations of others, the pressure to succeed. You’re freed of the terror of failing because you’ve already experienced it and it. Wasn’t. That. Bad.
If the thing that you build up in your head to be the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to you actually happens to you, then anything that comes after that is cake. It’s a walk in the park admiring the changing leaves and feeling the cold air on your face. It’s being wise enough to know that failing happens, and failing is ok, and failing builds strength and determination and character.
So the next time you feel like you might fail, you’re practiced at it. You’ve experienced it and it’s only made you battle hardened, ready for the next challenge. It’s made you a seasoned warrior who will know that no matter what scenario you’ve built up in your head, it’s never as bad as all that. You will fail again, and it will be ok, you will be fine.