My essays try to capture either a particular moment in my life or somethin more abstract I have been thinking about for a long time. Many more essays than you can see below are available only in german, yet.
The Good In Failure
Failure. Failure is part of life, right? We don’t really have to be ashamed of it and yet we are. Failing implies trying. Why should we be ashamed of trying? As much as I don’t understand this, I too am ashamed of failing. This story is supposed to show you that failing isn’t too bad after all.
The story consists of two parts. Both are vital to understanding where I want to go with this. The first part is about my broken phone, while in the second part I will tell you about all of my failures at home and throughout the world.
Let’s start with my phone. Just a few days ago, I was walking down the street, enjoying some great music (I was listening to „Wonderful“ by Everclear, I believe) when – all of a sudden – the music stopped. Confused, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and looked at it. It had turned off.
‚Dammit!’ I whispered and stopped at a street light while turning my phone back on. I love walking. Firstly, because it is healthy and (most of the time) solitary. Secondly, because you can put on some good music and just drift off into wild fantasies, imagining images beyond imagination. When the music is gone, though, walking is only half as fun.
Luckily my phone turned back on. However, before I could make walking entirely fun again, the phone broke back down. I tried turning it on one more time and when it wouldn’t, I just put it back in my pocket and enjoyed the sound of the squirrels burying treats in front yards along the pavement, instead.
Unfortunately, at home it turned out that my phone wouldn’t turn back on ever again. That was pretty bad. Going to the US had strained my finances quite severely, so I couldn’t really afford new stuff. Markedly disappointed in Samsung, I sat down on the couch with an abundant sigh. In addition to my monetary shortage I was quite shy on time as well. Uni ate up my time as if it was a hobbit and time just a very enticing second breakfast.
During that thought I took off my shoes and realised I hadn’t taken off my entire shoe but just a sole. The rest of it stuck to my foot, thus offering a grotesquely artistic image. Great! First my phone, now my shoes... Was anything else about to break today as well? The answer was Yes. My computer did. A piece of plastic broke off the charging slot, making charging nearly impossible. At that point I had stopped adding up the expenses that were about to drill a massive whole into my savings. Now I was just focussed on making sure to get a new phone as quickly as possible. I had a spare pair of shoes and still half a battery of computer life left, but my phone was my only means of communication. My only connection to my friends and family.
So I took the bus to Costco, discovered that they didn’t sell any unlocked phones and proceeded to Best Buy. Unfortunately, there was no bus route connecting Costco and Best Buy, so I had to walk the 3,5 miles there. Half way there, the very low average of four hours of nightly sleep for the past couple of weeks hit me. Exhausted, tired and in a mood I can only describe as a woman’s mendacious „There’s nothing wrong, I’m ok“, I arrived at Best Buy. They didn’t have any decent unlocked phones either. How I mustered the energy to walk all the way back home, I cannot recall. But what I can tell you is that when I arrived and slammed the door behind me, I would have been furious about having wasted this much time and energy on nothing, if I hadn’t been so unbelievably tired. The day was a complete failure.
We’re going to get back to this story later on. Let’s now move to the second part:
So this part is about my failures. My big failures and my small failures. My important and less important failures. My hurtful and mild failures. Instead of listing them – I fail with a mind-blowing regularity, making even recalling all of them impossible – I will tell you about my experience of what failing means and why it isn’t all that bad.
So after I had quit my first job in New Zealand and was travelling south to eventually cross over to the southern island after seeing everything worth seeing on the northern island, I failed a couple of times.
First of all, I failed at calculating how much money I actually had. Then I failed at estimating how much money I would need to travel down to the South Island and finally I failed at making wise decisions, which could have saved me a lot of the money I didn’t have. The details of this horrible story aren’t relevant to my point (even though I wouldn’t mind sharing them over a cup of coffee) but fact is, when I arrived in the south island’s first larger city I didn’t have any money left. I didn’t have a job either; or a room; or food. All I had was my car – which I had fitted with a mattress – and $5. I spend the $5 on printing as many copies of my CV as possible. I started walking around town handing out my CV to everyone. After countless rejections, I was finally granted an interview in a book store. Luckily, I ended up getting the job. By the first day of work I had already slept in my car for several nights and since I didn’t have shower gel and couldn’t afford to buy any, I had cleaned myself with toothpaste (yeah... toothpaste) for the time being. When I told one of my new co-workers about my situation, she immediately send me out to her in-laws’ farm to have a chat with her husband’s dad. When I did, he offered to host me for free... and I gratefully accepted.
And that is the story of how I met the Newton family. Anyone who I told about my New Zealand travels knows, that I developed a strong bond with them while living on their farm for 3 month. They treated me like a son and made me feel like I had a home away from home. And I still feel that way. Parts of the family even visited me in Germany during their Europe travels.
This story is perfect for pointing out how failure can be a good thing. Had I not failed so thoroughly, had I not been forced to look for work in Nelson, had I not complained to my co-worker about having failed so badly, I probably never would have met this amazing family who I won’t forget for the rest of my life.
Failures shape our lives. They are hard to endure, embarrassing to tell and difficult to overcome. But there is something good in every failure. Whether it is a motivation to act a certain way, or the opportunity to experience something totally different from what you actually intended. Or if it’s just life’s lesson of how to deal with three of your every-day gadgets breaking at the same time. Failures make you stronger. Failures teach you how to deal with life and that’s why I almost prefer failing to succeeding. I know this might sound a little bit over the top, but just try to recall the funniest, most memorable stories you tell your friends, your family, your children or your grandchildren. They almost usually involve failure of some sort. That’s because failure might be hard in the moment, but in retrospect it is the funniest comedian, the best storyteller and the most valuable teacher. I wouldn’t want to trade in failure for anything.
What is home? To let the Cinematic Ochestra phrase it: “Home is a place where you don’t feel lost.” So why leave home? Why expose yourself to the lostness?
In my eyes, the lostness is somehow calming. It’s fulfilling. Whoever is lost is compelled to find himself again. I get the feeling that I need that sometimes. Similar to people who try to schematise their life through the idea of continuous shifting in prosperity and dolorousness, I have to lose and find myself.
To lie in bed at night, knowing that every person you know, you like, you love is thousands of miles away may seem like a nightmare to some but to me it’s a feeling I wouldn’t want to miss for the world. Sentimental music and the dim lights of a far away city on the dark horizon of the night add to that feeling. To have nobody, sometimes is more satisfying to me than to have somebody.
When I return home, my travels usually appear quite austere. They make me appreciate what I have at home. But one question will always remain: What would I miss more; Having a home or having no home?