“Had I Really Succeeded in Anything Else”

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
– JK Rowling

I saw a clip of JK Rowling giving a commencement speech to Harvard students the other day and this quote jumped out at me.

I looked up the full text of the speech and copied this part down in a bunch of different places, and I’ve been reading it over and over again, getting slightly obsessed.

I know this isn’t my rock bottom.

At least, it’s not as bad as that time that I actually think was my rock bottom, years ago when I started crying one day and just couldn’t stop, so my mom made me go to the hospital and I did a lot of work on myself after that.

Years go by, and I think the DBT lessons and wisdom from group therapy shares eventually slip slowly away just like all those things I learned in high school that seemed so important at the time.

Like the names for different kind of rocks and the eras of history, and what order they came in, and what strange creatures lived in each period.

I lost with those important things, the lists I wrote down of the reasons I had to keep living.

It seems I’ve forgotten all of those “personal care” activities and “mindfulness” practices that I am supposed to pay attention to and appreciate, like the smell of a nice candle or the warmth of a hoodie fresh out of the dryer.

I’m not at rock bottom (again) because see?

I’m reminding myself to make more lists. Lists of things to be thankful for, lists of things that make me happy, lists of things to do so that I can cross them off and feel more accomplished, because of course, “be more accomplished” is on one of my lists, somewhere.

Nevertheless, I need to rebuild my life, and this time I don’t want to wait until I actually get to rock bottom to do it.


Professionally, and financially, I have utterly failed as an adult.

I put a lot of stress on myself to care about those things but then feel like an asshole for doing so, because I don’t actually care that I am a failure in those two arenas of adult life, because they’re two I don’t particularly care much about.

Other people do, though. A lot.

I live in the richest state in the supposedly richest country in world, though I can’t help but point out I think we’re morally bankrupt which makes everything moot — and it’s pretty clear, you know, the class divide we have going on in this country and which side of it I am on.

I’m also, at this point, unemployable.

I’ve made an oath to myself to never again in life “eat shit from assholes” which other people refer to as “have a boss.”

I’ve tried various means of making money in 2017 and none have really stuck out or shined, and none of them have made any less horrified for the future.

Because, you know, having depression and anxiety on top of a poverty level income and homeschooling a special needs hormonal tween is just fine when we’re on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea.

This is fine.

This is also the other reason I’m unemployable:

I just don’t see the point of it all.

The world is shit.

We’re all going to die.

My child will be dependent on me for the rest of her life and her dad is just above the fold of more trouble than he’s worth.

No one loves me the way a human needs to be loved.

How the fuck do you think I’m going to make myself care about someone else’s problems, even for money?

People think I’m crazy, or worse, lazy.

I’ve never let anyone see how hard I work on the things that actually matter to me.

All I’ve ever wanted to do was make a living writing.

Nothing I’ve ever done professionally has gotten me closer to that.

I’ve failed at everything else.

So, what did JK do, remember?

I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. — JK Rowling

Well okay, JK.

There’s only one place I feel like I belong, too, and it’s right about here on a blank, white page.

Time to get to work.


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