Fear of Failure (Or a Series of Half-Baked Metaphors)

Fear of failure is that nagging sensation in the back of your brain. It sneaks into your throat like bile during a particularly gross bout of heart burn. You fend it off with momentary successes and accomplishments, but it always comes back, hungrier and stronger.

As a 28 (going on 29) year old creative type, my career path for much of my twenties was disjointed. Instead of building a skyscraper of experience, I built a strip mall. The ever present desire to further myself as an actor and writer caused my professional regular people resume to leave much to be desired. After working every survival job available to a struggling actor in their twenties (except bartending. Why never bartending? I’d be so good!), I stumbled into a career in women’s fashion. My last two jobs — minus a brief west coast stint in between — were a natural progression. I went from packing boxes in a fashion warehouse to working in customer experience for another fashion startup. I started to finally feel compelled to move forward in my professional career, to take on more responsibility in the same place rather than flounder until I found something new that stuck.

When you begin wanting something so bad — a part in a film or a promotion — the pangs of rejection hurt that much more. In some ways it’s much easier just to lazily glide through life, wanting smaller goals, achieving them more quickly. That fear has caused me to refrain from trying too hard in the past. Recently, however, I put my all into a promotion and didn’t get it. Cue the nagging sensation and bile in throat.

I have started to believe — almost sincerely — that sometimes it’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Maybe these crumbs are smaller and less delicious, but maybe not getting the whole cookie now means I’ll get a ginormous cookie cake later. It’s hard to feel that way all the time, but it’s the only way not to succumb to the quicksand of perceived failure.

I don’t have the slightest idea what my life will look like in a year. Will I be promoted within my department (!), transitioned into a more creative role (!!), or will my web series finally get distributed and allow me to be an actual, honest to god actor (!!!)? I’m open to all three outcomes, and each present their own unique upsides and downsides.

I used to be obsessed with this notebook I bought that had this cheesy quote on the cover: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.” Every milestone I achieve feels like a tiny puzzle piece in the 1000 piece puzzle that is the creation of my life. Maybe it’s difficult to get the full picture day to day, but I hope against hope that one day it’ll become clear.

I oftentimes feel way too old to be in such a nascent stage in my professional (and acting, for that matter) career, but more optimistic people than myself like to say no one’s journey is the same. Sometimes it’s imperative to mind control murder the devil on your shoulder and trust things are as they should be. And when that doesn’t work, at least there’s wine.

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