I’m a failure. I’ve failed.
I’m not even 24 and I’m not working consistent gigs, producing consistent work or writing convicting novels of truth. I’m not married (in the south I’d be nearing old maid status and be forced to learn to cook gourmet meals in Paris so I could return home to my parents and fatten them up with world renown cuisine in their old age, read them bedtime stories over their night caps, and tuck them in, finally crying myself to sleep.)
Only 23 and epic, epic failure is waiting for me in a UPS package on my front door step. Get away from me sad pity. I don’t want your presents.
OK, seriously – what a pity party. I am 23 and have nothing to be sad about. Yes, I’m 23. Yes, I’ve been out of school a few years. Yes, I’ve struggled. But have you ever met a 20-something who knows what they’ll be doing at the age of 50? If you have, you need to get far, far away from that person (freak alert!).
These 20-something “failures” are my 50-year-old successes. They’ll lead me to who I am come 50-something. 50-something Jana might not be acting or writing anymore, but I know these stage and blogging experiences – successes and failures alike – will lead me to that 50-something person. These struggles, uncertainties, and unknowns are teaching and refining me. They’re creating a character with a heart worth knowing in 30 years and they’re helping me trust all I don’t know – which is a lot – like physics and engineering and what happens tomorrow.
I’m getting at failure because you didn’t fail. You’re not a failure because “it” – your dream, your ambition – didn’t work and you had to do something else. That “something else” is leading you to a greater something – so it’s not failure, but success leading you to greater success.
Failure is to choose to give up, to stop trying, and to lose hope, coasting and staying in one place. I could tell myself I’m a failure for giving up my NYC lease this fall and staying in D.C. I could say I flunked out of New York living (much like the time I dropped out of senior calculus). But that city united me with my favorite co-writer, inspired me to write a play, gave me my first equity acting opportunity, instilled in me a city business savvy and implanted a back bone in my character. It broadened my tool belt. So while I can’t live there and do the work I want to do right now, I can take the new tools spilling out of my tool belt and storm the Baltimore/D.C. area with my city stealth experience. Success.
Didn’t make it in NYC (yet) = “failure,” which leads to DC + Baltimore + business know-how, which equals: major success. My failure is when I stop trying, stop developing my business network, stop auditioning, stop acting.
I didn’t fail. Please – darlings – stop calling yourself failures. My dad was going to be an astronaut at 23 – now he’s an anesthesiologist specializing in pain. Success. My mom was a nurse turned stellar stay-at-home mom turned back-to-school student. Success. My sister is a soccer player turned Air Force Cadet turned – ?! I can’t wait to see what’s next for her: Success. I’m so proud of them. (Side note: If you let what you do define you completely, you will always feel like a failure. If you surround yourself with good people – family or friends – who believe in you, it becomes about who you are and you’re reminded that you have every reason to keep going, to live. Success).
The failure is not trying. Losing hope. And punishing the world that seemingly punished you – shooting up a midnight showing of the latest film. He was 24. He had nothing to be sad about – his “fail” out of school was actually success that could have redirected him to greater success if he’d let it … but he didn’t see it that way. He stopped hoping. That’s real failure.
Don’t be discouraged. You’re breathing and pursuing your dreams. These trips and stumbles are your 50-something year old’s successes. You got this. And I’m really proud of you.
Jana (it rhymes with “banana” or “anna”) is an artist from Clarksville, Maryland. Growing up her parents always told her to “be whatever you want to be.” Seeing as she has come from three generations of doctors, she obviously became an artist. As an actor, she has performed internationally Off-Broadway, and locally to the Baltimore/DC area. Favorite roles include Juliet, Ariel, and Caliban. Jana is the Founder of Red Connect Online, a social media marketing company that creates customized advertising campaigns for small businesses. You can listen to her podcast, Confessions of a Closet Christian, on the E-Squared Media Network. You can also follow her on Twitter (@Jana_Stambaugh) and friend her on Facebook.