Allowing myself to fail

I failed the first experiment. I remember the moment right before submitting it, desperately crying in a hotel lobby in Tulsa, OK. I knew I could have wrote so much better than that, but I was stuck. The things I wanted to write about didn’t want to be written, and I couldn’t stand the feeling of having failed at writing. I could fail at (almost) everything, but not writing. I was mad at myself for choosing the wrong topic, but maybe there was something deeper behind my disappointment.

Maybe for the time I had so much freedom to write that I got lost. Not having a rubric and a structure to follow seem great initially, but it can be challenging if you don’t know what to do with all that freedom or how to give a structure to all your ideas.

Maybe it was my perfectionism trying to take control of my feelings again. I’ve always been the student with straight A’s, so failing has never been an option. In my other classes, I usually get good grades on my papers because I genuinely care about writing and I follow the rubric. But in that moment, I knew how to talk myself out of perfectionism: even though I fail at something, it doesn’t mean I am a failure.

If there’s something I learned by failing the first experiment is that I need to allow myself to fail. When you’re trying to do something new, it is ok to fail and make mistakes. There’s a common saying in Italy, “nessuno nasce imparato” or “nobody is born learned” (it probably doesn’t make any sense to you, but I think it can be translated in English as “nobody is born knowing it all”). We’re not born knowing how to do things, and often we learn more by making mistakes than by doing everything right.

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