I have felt like a failure many times in my life. The most recent time was the day after my 40th birthday. I woke up, went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror and thought, here I am at 40 years of age, married, but no children, I don’t own a house and I have not reached the heights of a successful entrepreneur, nor a high-level executive. I really didn’t like turning 40, because it bothered me that I did not reach certain goals in life.
The first time I ever felt like a failure I was 16 and I just got kicked out of high school. Yup, I got kicked out and if you knew the reason, you wouldn’t believe it. Well if you must know, my ex-boyfriend started dating a good friend of mine at the time and between that and some really rude remarks he said about an acquaintance that just died in a car crash, I decided to call on this gang of guys to come to my school and beat him up. Seriously. Thankfully my ex wasn’t around, but these guys decided to tag the whole school with a bunch of graffiti and I got blamed for everything. Next day I was expelled.
When I arrived home after getting an earful from my parents, I went up to my room and cried. I was not sure what was going to happen with the rest of my life at that point. My parents were ready to send me to boarding school in London. Some how they ended up finding this amazing private school that focused on a Liberal Arts education, in downtown Toronto. I fell completely in love with that school and after three years of working my butt off, I graduated at the top 15th percentile in the province of Ontario and was even awarded a scholarship to one of the universities I applied at. Graduation day was a day I will never forget.
The second time I ever felt like a failure was after my first year of university. I decided I wanted to go to Concordia University in Montreal. I felt it was time to move out and become a more responsible and self-sufficient adult. A handful of my friends that graduated at the same time as me were all going to Montreal, so I would not be alone and we were all going to experience this fantastic city together.
Well, my first year was a disaster. I did not like my major and was struggling like crazy. I was more interested in making money at my part-time job and going out almost every night. At the end of the year when most students are getting a letter about having a great year and how the school is looking forward to having them the next year, I got the letter that said I didn’t pass my first year and had a year suspension. I must have read that letter a dozen times. I really should not have been in shock, because during the year I felt if I did the bare minimum that maybe I would have a chance. Yeah right. The stress and anxiety of preparing to make the call to my parents was one of the worst feelings I had ever experienced. When I finally got them on the phone and told them the news, it didn’t take longer than a couple of minutes when they said that I should just pack up and come home. Well I didn’t.
Instead I told them that this was the last year they would have to take care of me financially. I cut myself off from them, found a full-time job, worked incredibly hard for a year, wrote a killer essay and within a couple of weeks I received a letter from the university inviting me back. I remember arriving my first day back at Concordia, I sat at the very front of the class with the biggest smile on my face, it felt really good.
And there are so many other times…
Like when one of my exes beat me up in front of all my roommates (which I wrote about in this article). I had a fat lip and a bloody nose and was wandering the streets of Montreal at two in the morning. Definitely one of the low points in my life. However, it led my back to Toronto where again I worked my butt off for a year and then eventually saved up enough money to move to New York, which had always been a dream of mine.
Or when I got the eviction notice after moving several times in New York (which I wrote about in this article). I stared at that eviction notice for a long time thinking that maybe it was time to move back to Toronto. I some how fought with all my heart and soul and was able to stay in that apartment until our lease was up and a month later I met my future husband.
How about the time when I lost my job in September of 2008 (which was a tough time for everyone and the U.S. as a whole). I knew it was going to be incredibly difficult to find a job at that time, so I decided to file for unemployment. At the same time, I was just becoming involved with a women’s organization. I poured my heart and soul into the organization producing some of the most successful events in Los Angeles for the next year.
Last, but certainly not least, I have definitely felt like a failure a few times during my eight year battle trying to get pregnant. I decided to finally write about my story and you cannot imagine how many women from around the world who have reached out to me sharing their story and thanking me for sharing mine. And not to mention when CNN got in touch to interview me for this story, I felt very accomplished at that moment.
I have so many stories of failure in my life. Going back to my 40th birthday and having that moment of not feeling like I accomplished enough in my life, I was really very sad. I have always admired both people I know and some that you read about, where they did everything right. They went to school, studied hard, graduated at the top of their class, worked their way up professionally and now have a “corner” office with the title of VP or CEO or they have their own successful company. They are married with children, own a house and life just seems to be perfect.
However, I have finally come to the conclusion that one path is not always the way. For some it is, for others it may be multiple paths and experiences that will lead them to accomplishing the goals that feel right for them.
What I have accomplished are some things that for others they would never take a risk to do.
When I moved to New York in December of 1999, I had $1000 USD, two duffel bags, no job, no prospects and was crashing on the sofa at my friends apartment. Not many people would do that and looking back at it, it was a huge accomplishment, because I ended up living there for three years, building upon my career and met my husband.
When my husband and I moved to Brazil, we had two suitcases each, our dog, and some money we had saved up. We didn’t know a soul, we weren’t expecting to stay longer than a year, but we stayed for four, where my husband built up his company, which was eventually acquired by the largest e-commerce company in Brazil.
Over the last several years I have seen many friends marry and divorce and I’m still with my husband. Together for fourteen years, married for nine. In this day and age where people are divorcing left, right and center, I have had a wonderful relationship. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride, but it’s still a huge accomplishment and it makes me feel proud.
We live in a world where we are told that if we don’t go to Harvard or Standford that we’re failures. If we don’t start a business which is successful by the time we’re thirty, we’ve failed. If we don’t reach a high-level executive position by the time we’re thirty, we’ve failed. If we don’t marry, have two children, own a house by the time we’re at least thirty-five, we’ve failed. The list goes on and on.
What defines my life and someone else’s life is very different. I have accomplished things that many of my friends have not and they’ve accomplished things that I have not. It doesn’t make either one of us failures, rather it makes us unique individuals.
I am proud of many aspects of my life. Am I still working towards some goals, you better believe it. If I don’t accomplish them until I’m 50 or 60, so be it.
If you have followed many different paths in your life which seems to have gone against society, know that’s ok. Life is full of many successes and failures, the most important things to remember are to never stop trying, never compare yourself to others and never lose sight of your goals.