Tag Archive | failure

My Tattoo

While tattoos today are more widely accepted than they used to be, I know that there are still some who find them tacky and pointless. My own parents believe that marking your body permanently in that way is ridiculous and stupid. For that reason, I’ve always fared on the side of caution and carefully placed my tattoos where they would remain out of sight. That way, there was never an argument or the inevitable eye rolling that would ultimately commence once my parents saw them. In fact, most people are shocked to discover that I have them at all. Apparently, I don’t look like the kind of person with tattoos.

I often laugh at this statement because, let’s face it, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

This past weekend I received some new ink. This one, however, is clearly visible. It was a deliberate and deeply personal choice to place it prominently on my forearm. It will not only be visible to others but, more importantly, it will also be visible to me.

ceaseless

It’s just one word – ceaseless. It’s a simple, innocuous word that rarely gets used in today’s conversations. Merriam-Webster defines it as “continuing without cease: seeming to never stop: continuous or constant”.

But it’s a word that has far greater meaning to me than just its definition.

It all began some months back when 2 of my daughters decided that it would be fun to come up with song titles that best described each other. They laughed and had fun with it, coming up with silly songs that emphasized personality traits, humorous shortcomings and unrequited loves. But when my youngest asked her older sister what song best represented “mom”, her answer was “Keep On Keeping On”.

I had never heard the song before and wondered what it was, so I pulled it up on YouTube and watched the video. By the end of the song, I was in tears and instantly became reflective of my past.

My kids’ childhoods were never easy. I married young and had 2 young daughters within the first 5 years. Then, 2 years later, I found myself a single mother who quickly had to figure out how to survive. I worked full-time during the week as a clerk and junior buyer at a large corporation. My weekends were spent waiting on tables, slinging alcoholic beverages in a sports bar. And throughout all of that, I was attending school at night to earn my Bachelor’s degree. Sleep was a luxury I couldn’t afford. Money was tight, and there were times when my kids ate and I didn’t. Yet, somehow I managed to pay my bills, keep a roof over our heads, and food in their bellies.

Before long, I met a guy, fell in love, and became engaged. I began working at a new company. Later, we bought a small townhouse, just big enough for the 4 of us. But within a year, we welcomed daughter number 3 and the house became a little smaller. Not long after that, my husband joined the US Army Reserves and left for basic training.

Over time, the house grew smaller as the kids grew bigger. We knew we needed to sell it and find a larger home. Eventually, we found a large rental house to move into. Instead of selling our home, we made plans to rent it out to a woman I used to work with who had gone through some tough times. But after only a few months in, she and her kids packed up in the middle of the night and left us with both a mortgage payment and rent. We had to let our townhouse go and we thought the worst of it was over.

But it wasn’t.

And then I lost my job. Long story short, this began a spiral of ups and downs that, at times, I didn’t think I could recover from. We had a car repossessed, were close to living out of our van – twice. And there were a few Christmases that nearly didn’t happen.

We eventually dug our way out, but I always worried about the impact that all of it had on my girls throughout the years. Would they see me as a failure? Would they look back at their lives and wish that things had been better? Would they resent me for not being able to give them everything they wanted growing up?

The 3 best things that ever happened to me.

The 3 best things that ever happened to me.

Fast forward to today. My middle daughter believes that the song “Keep On Keeping On” is indicative of who I am as a person. It speaks of having dreams, believing in yourself, working hard even if you keep losing, and one day realizing that all that hard work has paid off. In other words, it isn’t about how many times you get knocked down – it’s how often you bravely claw your way back up.

So, while I worried about leaving a legacy of failure behind for my children, without even realizing it I was leaving a legacy of perseverance instead. My apparent tenacity and courage, my ability to get back up whenever I was down, is what resonated with my daughters. I was leading by example.

So, as a constant (and permanent) reminder to never give up – no matter what – I had the word “ceaseless” tattooed on my forearm. It will serve as a reminder to lead by example and show my daughters how to face fear and defeat it head on.

Children learn not only from your successes but also from your failures. Never be afraid to fail.

Children learn not only from your successes but also from your failures. Never be afraid to fail.

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A Letter to an 18-Year-Old Me

Dear BJ,

The age of 18 is going to be a rough time for you. Life for any teenager can be hard, but only I can understand how out-of-place you feel in a world that sees you as someone that you’re not. People laugh at your pain and the constant cloud over your head. Unable to express how you truly feel to anyone, you are trapped inside your own mind while the real you is desperately trying to figure out how to exist in this crazy world.

18 years old. It's a big world out there.

18 years old. It’s a big world out there.

I promise you…one day you will find that place.

But until you do, you will fail many times in life. Against your better judgement, you will make countless mistakes and hurt people you love. But don’t let that define who you are. When someone pushes you down, get back up. When you feel self-doubt taking over your thoughts, push them away. When people around you tell you that you’re a failure, smile and walk away. But most of all, be confident in yourself and the abilities that God gave you. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.

People will try take advantage of your trusting nature and your desperate need to belong. It will send you down the wrong path more than once. And yet, you will turn yourself around and start over, because that’s what you do. You are an expert at starting over. It’s all right to feel bad, to cry and even be angry, but whatever you do…don’t blame others for your failure or the predicament you find yourself in. Take responsibility and own your mistakes. People will respect you for it.

You are much smarter than you think. Stop sabotaging yourself at every turn. Be of aware whom you share your aspirations with since most people don’t believe in dreams. And more times than not, you will find yourself being talked out of everything you want in life by people who claim to love you. Turn those people loose. Stop letting others dictate what you believe you can accomplish in life.

Later in life, people you love will hurt you deeply, but that is no excuse to push absolutely everyone away for fear of getting hurt. Life is lonely without good friends.

BJ...college bound.

BJ…college bound.

Follow your gut. If it feels wrong, don’t do it. If you’re not sure, don’t say it. If they seem fake, they are. A woman’s intuition is rarely wrong, and yours in particular is always spot on. Trust yourself.

Dream. Never stop dreaming. Dream bigger than you can imagine.

You know that desire you have to discover your ultimate purpose in life? You will find that purpose one day. You will become a mother, and it will be the most important task you ever take on in life. And as a mom, you will make mistakes…but your children will learn from you and those mistakes. They will go on to make you proud and will accomplish amazing things. One will influence and affect the lives of special children who will rely on her for her softness and kind heart. Another will one day influence the world with her words and her creativity and will carve out a niche of her own. And yet another will show the world what hard work and determination can do while making everyone around her smile. They will be your legacy, and they will always, always make you proud.

Your 3 biggest achievements back in 2007.

Your 3 biggest achievements back in 2007.

But you have another purpose in this world as well. One day, life is going to kick you when you’re down. And just when you feel you’ll never get up again, you will find a way to climb out of that hole and discover a new lease on life. It will once again give you a reason to dream. Even when doubt sets in and you feel that what you’ve done is rubbish, push through and continue to believe in yourself. When people around you laugh and talk about it behind your back, walk away with your head held high. It’s those same people who try to discourage your dreams that are bitter about failing at their own.

Despite a life full of ups and downs, one day you will succeed. And in that moment, you will look at yourself in the mirror and declare that you have finally figured out who you are. But if I tell you who that is now, you will never get to experience the adventure that is about to be your life..the good and the bad. Because in the end, it’s the combination of joy and angst that ultimately makes you the person you will be become.

So, I leave you with this one piece of advice. Open your eyes wide, spread your wings and fly. You are a shooting star. Allow yourself to believe in your dreams. You won’t be disappointed.

Love,

You