Angel Powell
June 01, 2016 11:42 am

They say that life is neither black nor white, but various shades of grey. However, all my life I’ve thought that to be incredibly false. Due to the physical challenges my life presents (I have cerebral palsy), I have no time for the in-between. From an early age, I automatically applied that thinking to everything in life. It wasn’t until I became an adult that it was pointed out to me that not all situations fit the “black or white” frame; specifically, failure. Up until then, I defined my worth (of lack of it) by every single failure, like a blemish that couldn’t be photoshopped away. I held myself to a higher standard and stressed out over things that were completely uncalled for.

Taking this new lesson into account, I decided to do something that for me was considered radical; I decided to try to accept and embrace my failures. It didn’t stop me from being upset when I failed, but I did stop treating it like the end of the world. In spring of 2014, when I received my final grades for that semester of college, it was a big deal because it was the first semester of school I’d completed while being properly treated for Major Depressive Disorder. I was super excited to see my grades; I badly wanted a 3.0, but when I instead received a 2.72., I was crushed. However, I only felt this way for a second because I knew I had something to shoot for next semester — I saw my GPA as a blessing and a second chance. By the end of the following fall semester, I got that 3.0.

As great as that seemed, I still had one slight issue with failure: I equated things out of my control as a form of failure as well — a plain act of the universe felt like the indictment on who I was a person. I felt like I had failed at being good enough for good things to happen to me. Being physically disabled means that I depend on a mobility aid (a powerchair) and because nothing about technology is perfect, my chair has mechanical issues occasionally which can render it inoperable. Every time that happens, I think I’ve failed to be proactive at making sure my chair is properly functioning, when I should instead realize technology is unpredictable. It isn’t about me failing to be good enough — that’s not a thing. Stuff just happens sometimes. Acknowledging that helped me to embrace the circumstances of barely being able to leave the house because it gave me time to figure out my goals and start to act on them. It taught me that there was nothing wrong with having to be reactive as opposed to proactive.

My current relationship to failure is one of balance. I don’t that failure and I will never encounter each other again, rather I take it as it comes because when it’s over I’ve learned another life lesson. If I succeeded constantly, I’d learn nothing. A friend often tells me “Angel, CEOs don’t start as CEOs,” and she’s right; when you’re putting in the hard work to become something, you are going to fail. I am certainly not the sum of my failures, but I do welcome them because if I’m still learning. I’m still growing.