*Warning, this blog post contains explicit language. I promise it’s for good reason.
I love skiing at the Northwood Ski trails (Golf Course trails) in Rhinelander, WI. It’s where I spent most of my time learning how to cross country ski so I know every twist and turn of the trail by heart–so much so that I don’t have to deal with wearing my glasses while I ski.
One of the more challenging trails there is Chutes and Ladders, like the board game in real life. I used to just call this trail “the one with the big hill”. I dreaded the climb to the top of the ladder, but even more so I dreaded going down the chute-the big hill.
I used to be terrified of this hill–or going fast at all.
I think I used to be afraid of falling—afraid of failing—because part of me thought that once I started falling I might never stop. I let the fear of tumbling out of control, control how I moved down the trail and through the world.
There are a lot of speakers/lecturers preaching to my generation that it’s okay to fail. I have always struggled to agree with these speakers. I understand the importance of not being afraid to make mistakes but I am so averse to the word “failure”.
“Fail fast and fail often”, they say. I’ve always had trouble accepting this mission. I strive for perfection. With a varying scale of intensity, we’ve been taught our whole lives to be perfect. Come out on top-win the game, score highest on the test, be the very best. Be the very best compared to others. Not be the best version of yourself.
Maybe that’s part of the reason so many people feel the need to address failure as more than the act of failing. They want to address it as a natural part of life. They want to change how we move through the world when faced with the potential of failure.
It’s okay to strive for perfection but it’s a continuous journey and not a definite point in time that you are striving for. Maybe the messages of failure are saying the same thing. Just because you fail doesn’t mean that you aren’t on the right path. It doesn’t mean that the world will come crashing down. You just need to keep striving to be the best version of yourself and sometimes that means accepting and learning from mistakes and failure.
At some point along my way, I stopped striving for someone else’s version of perfection.
In high school I wrote a definition essay on the word “success”. And then, I was graded by someone else’s definition of success. That was it. This was the first turning point that pushed me to start vocalizing how I felt about perfection, failure, and how we choose to move through the world. It was a step towards finding my way in the world.
The second turning point happened at an event I helped organize at Northern Michigan University with Jeffrey Tambor. (The Mayor in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), Maura in the Amazon series Transparent, and a kick-ass advocate)
Jeffrey’s talk was extremely interactive and I was lucky enough to be one of the volunteers to participate in an activity. We were told that we were going to be asked to read a poem in front of the crowd and later informed by Jeffrey that he was going to pick on us.
Little did I know that what he was trying to teach us was what I was about to do.
He gave me and the other volunteer so many directions while reading to try to get me to read with different expressions. I was told to act the angriest person in my house, tone it down a notch, and add in a few drinks. I contemplated this for a brief second, honed in on my brother’s “the-Packer’s-are-losing-by-one-touch-down-anger”, toned it down one notch, and pretended what I might be like after a few drinks and then I shrugged my shoulders and went for it.
Jeffrey called this an “Ah, fuck it” moment.
I’ve also heard this moment called an OCM (Over the Cliff Moment) before but no matter what you call it the concept remains the same. It’s that moment in time where you decide that no matter what obstacles are in front of you; no matter what anyone else may think you go for it.
Put your whole self into the belief that whatever you aim to achieve you are going to make it happen–one way or another. Take the leap. Or as Jeffrey would say, fuck it.