Free to Fail

Failure has many roles. Personally, I subscribe to the idea that failures are learning opportunities.

One such “opportunity” that occurred during my formative years has been passing through my mind recently. I went to a Catholic grade school, which meant many things. One of those things was that we went to mass…a lot. That also meant we were required to participate in mass…a lot.

That’s how I found myself, on one otherwise ordinary weekday, standing in front of the entire student body, improvising scripture.

It was my turn to do one of the readings at mass. I was an introvert. I didn’t like to be the center of attention. I knew this. Still, I had prepared and was ready. I thought.

I stepped up, found my reading in the massive missal, bravely looked into the eyes of the congregation, brought my eyes back down to the missal, and immediately lost my spot.

What followed was a paced panic attack and a journey through parts of my reading (I think) and some improvisation based on what I could remember from rehearsing. I may have thrown in a bit of a psalm too.

Long story short, never has the response of “thanks be to God,” felt more appropriate than after that meandering disaster. Believe it or not, the lesson that’s stuck with me came after.

As I made my way back to my seat, I expected looks of pity, ridicule, judgement. Instead, what I saw ranged from congratulations to indifference. Needless to say, I was a bit perplexed. Upon further investigation, I discovered something—no one had noticed.

This realization was simultaneously a relief and a knock to my ego. How dare they not notice my spectacular failure.

All these years later I can see what I gained from this moment. Failure is often scary because of our fear of judgment. Removing that fear is liberating.

To put it another way, sometimes failure is freedom.

Be Kind. Be Brave. Stay Awkward.

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