Sweet Failure

Nanice Ellis

Sweet Failure

Just this morning, I was thrilled to find the only available parking spot in a 2 block radius in downtown Salt Lake City. I was even more thrilled when the meter refused my quarter and flashed the letters F.A.I.L. at me, indicating the meter was broken. I have to say, it was the first time in my life that I was happy to fail at something.

As I crossed the street in search of the building I was intending to visit, I started thinking about failure. I began to wonder if there were other times in my life when failure was also a good thing, but in the fiery blaze of my ego, I was too wounded to notice? As this question surfaced to the forefront of my mind, a series of memories began to surface that all competed for the "Best Failure" Award. I narrowed them down to the top five and lined them up in consecutive order:

1. Failed at Elementary School - Now how does someone fail at elementary school you might wonder?. It was the 1960's and I was a student at St. Kevin's Private School in Queens, New York. From day one it started off bad. Do you know what it is like to have a very Jewish last name and go to a very Catholic school where all the nuns act like Attila the Nun?

I was hit on the head so many times in first grade because I wrote "too big" that I started sleep walking every night. I wouldn't get back in my bed until my mother handed me a pencil and paper so that I could practice writing. The head bashing stopped after my mom confronted the Spinster Nun and threatened her.

Unfortunately, the next 4 years were not much better. As I got more and more stressed out, I failed more and more classes, until one day in fifth grade I had a huge nervous breakdown in English Class. My mom was called to the school to "deal with her problem child." However, once I whispered, "I don't ever want to come back here again" in my mom's attentive ear, we left St. Kevin's far behind.

If I hadn't failed at St. Kevin's, my mom would never have thought to put me in another school. Then I never would have discovered that the "stupid little kid" that was me, was actually brilliant and scored so well on aptitude tests that I was able to skip a grade. Ah, Sweet Failure!

2. Failed at getting into The Performing Arts High School in New York City - My childhood dream was of being a famous actress. I would have done anything to make that dream come true. The stars must have shined on me for a brief moment because somehow I managed to get an audition for admittance into the High School of Performing Arts in N.Y.C. I have to say, my audition was flawless and I was sure that I would be accepted. I waited all day for the call that would guarantee my acting career, but of course, it never came.

I sunk into a state of disappointment at my failure - a bleak state that plagued me for many years. This state was intensified when I discovered that if I had gone to the school, I would have likely been in the movie "Fame", which showcased virtually all the students who went to the school. For over a decade, I secretly played the "if only" game in my mind until many years later when I realized there was a deeper reason for why I was drawn to theater and acting. I realized I was really just preparing for my true life's purpose, which required the ability to "own the stage" and speak confidently from the heart. If I had been accepted into the school of Performing Arts, I probably would have gotten so caught up in the theater that I would have entirely missed my greater purpose and never would have discovered the reason I was born.

3. Failed at "Not getting pregnant" - As a teenage girl, what is the worst thing you can fail at? That's right - "not getting pregnant." In other words, I got PREGNANT! I can still hear my mother's voice, "whatever you do, don't get pregnant." Believing that I had failed her and my father, I was shocked when my growing secret was revealed and my mother was so genuinely loving and compassionate. My mom provided me with everything that I needed to raise my son as a single mom. The result of my "failure" is now 28 years old and a new father himself. I can't even imagine the joy and fulfillment I would have missed if I had succeeded at not getting pregnant. So glad I never listen to mom!

4. The Marriage - I'll let you in on a little secret if you promise not to tell anyone. Although I never talk about it, I was actually married twice. The first time was when I was 25. Peter and I had been dating for many years and he really wanted to get married. After my failed relocation to Los Angeles and a dismal and disappointed return to Long Island N.Y, I acquiesced and agreed to marry him.

We had a beautiful wedding. It was the kind you see in fairy tales. The only problem was I absolutely KNEW I was making a mistake! I literally dissociated during the huge church wedding and watched myself walk down the aisle and say, "I do," when really I should have said, "I don't under any circumstance" and run screaming out the double church doors. But instead, I witnessed myself going against my intuition and every logical bone in my body. Once the vows were done and over, I felt both regret and relief; at least I could stop asking myself if I should really "go through with it?" I had handed my fate away to this man whose wide-eyed Irish smile hid some very deep, dark secrets.

Once you know that you have made a mistake, there is a period of resignation where you think, "oh well, I just better make the best of this." The following day we hopped on a flight to Aruba where we planned to have a romantic "scuba diving" honeymoon. Before we got our fins on, we decided to rent mopeds and explore the island. As adventure seekers, we found the most remote part of the island possible and drove around for hours. Even in mid October it was very, very hot in Aruba and Peter took off his shirt and helmet in order to cool himself off. It was my turn to lead and I was going as fast as my little moped could go--so fast that when the goat jumped out in front of my moped and I slammed on the brakes, Peter didn't have anytime to react. He rammed the back of my bike at lightning speed and was instantly thrown through the air. I watched his limp and frightened body fly over me and my bike and violently hit the ground, head first, about 20 or more feet away. I dropped my bike and ran to him as if in slow motion. I felt complete terror as I became aware of the blood pouring out of his ears. I took off my cotton shirt and tried to stop the bleeding with it as I frantically cradled his seizing and unconscious body in my arms and prayed for help.

Peter survived the accident and the sub-human Aruba hospital, but when we returned home, his brain injury made it impossible for him to keep his deep, dark secrets any longer. All the lies he had told and cleverly protected in the past came tumbling down upon me. Within weeks I discovered that he had been physically abusing my 6 year old son prior to the marriage and he had threatened my son so that he would never tell me. Immediately upon learning this unforgivable news, I packed up my son, my suitcase, my now one-eyed cat, and I left the marriage for good. To this day, I thank God that this failed marriage saved my life and especially my son's life.

5. The Real Estate Disaster - And finally, when there was a small fortune to be made in real estate investing, I failed terribly! True, I was really good at negotiating "no down payment deals" and even bought a 12-plex in a prestigious area of Salt Lake City with no money down and received $18,000 back at closing. It should have been a gold mine deal, but 3 painstaking years later, all I had to show for it was anxiety, pre-mature aging and sleepless nights. However, I did learn to install toilets, to exterminate roaches, and to unsuccessfully pray to the Furnace God to get the klinker running so that my tenants would have hot water on a very cold Christmas morning. The 12-plex was certainly the biggest money and energy drain, but I had several more properties just like it!!!! It took many more years than it should have for me to realize that I was a failure at Real Estate Investing and for me to finally throw in the towel. Looking back I realize that there was a worse thing than failing at real estate and that was trying over and over again to succeed!!! But the biggest gift in that failure was that it once again steered me back on track. I wandered seamlessly back to my true life calling and am now very grateful that there is a Divine Force who knows me so much better than I could ever know myself. AMEN!

In hindsight I can say that, although Failure is often an invitation to try again, every once in a while, it knocks you down, takes your breath away, and gives you just the perfect opportunity to reconsider and navigate in a different, and hopefully better, direction. I'm wondering now, if I looked deep enough, would I discover that all my failures were really Secret Successes in Disguise? Just a thought.

In grace & gratitude, Nanice

About this article

published on Nanice.com by Nanice

Categorized as: Self-Empowerment OR Life Empowerment

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