The Failure Talk

Here I sit in London, on the very bottom bunk in a little hostel bedroom above a pub where last night they cleared out their taps, and we generously assisted them by drinking the free beer. Our journey has finally started—though really, it started a year ago, when we started tending the seeds of our idea for a traveling puppet show.

I cannot honestly say that I was prepared for where those seeds have taken us. I meant to be blogging more; I had all these (obviously profound) insights about the process up until now, about learning to communicate with my husband, and to respect each others’ creative visions, and to balance leading and following, and to problem-solve on the fly, and to embrace failure, and all of life’s secrets that of course I am privy to… But then doing the thing completely took over, and I had to learn those lessons again and again. That learning curve was no joke, folks. It had been a really long time—since I was a kid, probably—since I’d been so constantly bombarded by the feeling of having absolutely no idea what I was doing. That feeling of being new at something, and therefore being bad at it. Like, actively bad. Terrible, even. Suddenly it was like I was 7 years old again and not getting a concept in math class, as the unexpected just continued to happen (as the unexpected does).

We had some 11th hour surprise challenges. A lucky “big 3” major challenges. Our lights weren’t strong enough to stand up to daylight (I mean, I GUESS the sun is powerful for good reason, but…). So, we buckled down to make extra black fabric set coverings (to give our light a little leg up), and we bought new lights, and we even made a new backup see-through “shadow” puppet screen, for the worst case scenario. Then our speaker wasn’t quite powerful enough to do justice to our (truly amazing, thank you Rachel!) music. So we searched for new speakers as well. Then we had a windy day that blew the set over and punctured a hole in our good screen. We again put our noses to the grindstone to create a new one….all in the final week leading up to moving out of our apartment, getting rid of our belongings, leaving Philly, and then leaving the USA.

All this left precious little time for rehearsal, let alone showing off the “obviously profound” insights that I gotta admit, I may have lost sight of as I tried not to panic or devolve into a crying puddle on the floor. But here we are, arrived safe and sound with our show and ourselves relatively intact, (though of course, still and always flying by the seat of our pants).

The funny thing is, I think the moment that got us here (as opposed to trapped in crying floor puddle mode) was the moment that we had “The Failure Talk”.

I was in floor puddle mode. I was overwhelmed by how much was left to do, and how behind I felt like we were. But far worse than the stress was the guilt. I was getting ready to go on this grand adventure! A honeymoon with my husband, filled with backpacking and hiking, seeing new places, meeting new people, and a fulfilling creative endeavor to boot! Friends and family have gone above and beyond to support us in this! But was I excited, thrilled for my trip, beside myself with joy? No. I was crying. Sobbing. Terrified. How self-absorbed and ungrateful is that? Stupid.

“It isn’t stupid though.” That’s what Aaron said to me. “I feel that way too. What we’re really scared of is that we’ll let people down. But here’s the thing: they’re already proud of us. If we fail, if the show and our plans all fall apart, our reputations will take a blow, sure. But it won’t be the end of everything.”

And it was true. Suddenly the thought of just throwing the show out the window no longer felt like a desperate, tempting, only-escape; it was hilarious instead. Still a little tempting, maybe. Because in a way, failure would almost be a relief. But even if we fail, we can always pick up the pieces. And no matter what, it won’t have been a waste of time. Already we’ve learned so much we didn’t know before. I know myself better. And learning how to fail is worth a lot too.

Acknowledging out loud that failure was even a possibility was a HUGE weight off my shoulders. I didn’t have to be hounded by the secret fear and shame of it. We could look it in the face instead, and say, “Okay, Failure. You might happen. That’s cool. I’m gonna do this thing anyway, and be just as glad about it, just as committed to it, even if leads me right into your arms.” Suddenly my motivation for continuing to work on the show and plan the trip was no longer about running from the negative and scary possibilities. I could be motivated by passion and excitement again. All because Failure and I made friends.

So we packed up the U-haul, got a very fitting parting gift of a $75 ticket from the Philadelphia Parking Authority, stayed with my parents for a weekend, and now we are adrift on the wind, ready to greet any and all new friends that may come.

Thusly, the honeymoon begins! Over-Ambitious? Crazy? Naive? Perhaps. Doing it anyway? Absolutely.

1 thought on “The Failure Talk

  1. Rob &Tina Roberge June 26, 2019 — 10:17 pm

    Love your honesty and passion! We are so so proud of the both of you for following your dreams! You will make memories that will last a lifetime and we are excited to hear all about them!! Love you both!!


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