How I’m Teaching Myself to Stop Being Scared of Failure
Archana Madhavan

“Failure at Life and Afterwards”

Imagine you’re dead and at whatever version of the “pearly gates” or “judgment” you believe in. Over forty years of failure with a few successes are on a list about your life. Would you get through to the good side or be sent to the flames?

Those are some specific ideologies, but there’s usually some form of judgment at the end of our lives regardless of your belief system unless you’re a complete atheist that believes bodies are instantly worm food and there’s no future soul. For me, it’s about that soul and I have no idea what comes after each life. I have a lot of ideas about what I want it to be.

After essentially a lifetime of failure at relationships, marriages, family responsibilities, and career, I feel like my lack of Master’s Degree is made up in a Doctorate of Disappointment. I suspect that when my time comes (which I confess I’ve tried to speed along a couple of times), there would be some spirit in long flowing black robes and tendrils of grey hair down to their waist. Basically, my idea of a heavenly host is an all-gender witch whose appearance always changes.

I think I’d be sent to some kind of purgatory where I have to make up for a lot of crap that I got wrong. It would not be like the beautiful island on LOST. It would more likely be a soulless assignment working in retail or still being a temp like in DEAD LIKE ME (brilliant show, by the way). Part of the job of advancing my soul would be helping those still living to avoid making mistakes like mine.

I hope I don’t fail at this imaginary job.

“Hey, the printer is jammed again!” I heard shouted through the wall behind me.

I ignore it. It’s not my print job. I’m not part of that department. I sit up front at the reception counter and get people logged in so they walk around the building with an escort. It’s boring. It’s easy. But with newly acquired Dead Girl powers, I get supernatural information about their lives.

“Can you go fix the printer?” Someone comes up to my desk and asks with some reasonable amounts of frustration and courtesy.

“I’m not IT. Call IT.”

[FAILURE] My spiritual boss would point out that my job is to help people.

“The last receptionist used to take care of it.”

“Fine.” I say it in a huff and rip the paper out, but some is stuck in the printer. “Did they send her to printer repair school? I don’t know how to take this apart.”

[FAILURE] Losing one’s temper and being a bitch is frowned up in the afterlife. My spiritual boss pops back into somewhat tangible form when I’m back at my desk and reminds me again why I’m there: To help people.

I call IT for the employee and have a help ticket submitted so that someone with better skills at printer repair can come unjam it.

This imaginary scenario probably sounds hyperbolic especially considering that one should not be failing at the afterlife. But I was really a receptionist and did really lose my cool at people who I felt should be skilled enough to solve their little problems. I did help… if I liked the person or if they could fire me. I did not universally help so eagerly.

Thinking forty-plus years of lifetime failure would make an extensive list for whoever judges me at the end, scares the crap out of me if I don’t improve once it’s over. Experiencing so much failure throughout my life has me exhausted, quite bitter, and hopeless. I read the self help books. I listen to the podcasts. I watch TED Talks for gods’ sake. I have this desire to magically “be better at life,” but it’s not working just yet.

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