Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Want to Leave My Comfort Zone, But It's So Comfy!

Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.
-Charlie Chaplin

Success is going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.
-Winston Churchill

In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.
-Bill Cosby

Andy and I have been talking recently about what is holding us back. We are two young, intelligent, (graduate level) college-educated people. On paper, we look pretty good, but somehow, that hasn't yet translated into real life the way we'd like (i.e., instead of being up-and-comers in our careers, we're working multiple part-time jobs for little pay). Why?

We've come to the conclusion that we have one big handicap that is keeping us from being successful:

We are terrified of failure.

People who are terrified of failure don't attempt difficult things, because the more difficult the task, the greater the likelihood that they will fail. People afraid to fail will take what comes to them because it's there, and a bird in the hand is always worth two in the bush. So take the safe road, right?

Unfortunately, I don't think real success comes without the risk of failure--and probably, most successful people will tell you that they have failed, often and hard. Think of your favorite writer / actor / singer / composer / athlete / entrepreneur / musician / artist / whatever . . . was everything they ever put their name to an undisputed success? I think I've been under the (mistaken) impression that failure is the worst thing that could happen to me. Now that I'm thinking about it, though, that's so wrong and so limiting.

Athletes, for example, experience failure on a very regular basis, at both personal and team levels. Even the very best athletes miss free throws, lose tennis matches, don't stick the landing, double the triple lutz, and watch championships slip through their fingers. It happens, and it's disappointing, but if you're not failing, then you're not stretching yourself enough. (After all, who dreams of being the best pitcher in the minor league?)

How do you really know your potential if you don't find your breaking point? If you only attempt things you're already sure you can do, where is the growth? When you're doing strength training, you have to break the muscles down before you can build them up. That doesn't happen until your last rep, when you're at the point that it's difficult, and you don't feel like you can possibly do another. Growth comes from struggle. Success comes from struggle.

This is all very cliché, very trite. We've all seen these aphorisms posted on the walls of 7th grade classrooms and school libraries. Why is it so hard to believe and act upon? Are Andy and I the only people who haven't figured this out yet? I mean really, even babies learning to walk do so by falling--over and over again.

There's an old (Chinese? Japanese? Buddhist?) proverb: "Fall six times, and get up seven."

So, maybe falling isn't as bad as I'm afraid it is.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Big Announcement

Well, folks, it has finally happened!

Oh, wait. Wrong picture. (But you should check out these other great cakewrecks.)

Sorry, folks, that's not the announcement I'm making--at least not today.


I am officially moving on.

Yesterday morning, I accepted an offer to teach Early Childhood Education (under the age of 5) through AmeriCorps and the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council in a community of refugees and immigrants just outside of Pittsburgh. Despite the fact that I don't start until September 6, I promptly put in my notice at my current place of work.

Hooray for steady income! And even though it's a "modest living stipend," it's significantly more than what I'm making right now. And while I'll be working more hours, I will have a blessed, regular schedule. This means that instead of having seven possible work days in a week (and sometimes working all seven of them with no day off), I will have five like a normal person! Weekends off (I haven't been to a full 3-hour church block since May--you mean I can go now)?! Holidays too?!?!! What an amazing stroke of luck.

Not to mention that it's in a field of interest for me, instead of . . . well, a field of disinterest. Maybe I haven't told most of you this, but I'm looking to transition into teaching as a career. I've been taking my Praxis exams, applying for work-study fellowships (I've got an interview with one later this month!!!!), and exploring my options of ways to reach my ultimate goal. I feel more optimistic right now than I remember feeling in a long time.

Life is good. I am excited to have something in my life again that I can pour myself into. I've spent the past few months coming home from work just trying to forget about my day, and I'm looking forward to a change.

Thoughts? Advice? Anyone?